Mixed martial arts fans might not know the name Kevin Kay but if you’ve ever watched the UFC or Bellator on Spike TV and Paramount Network, then you’ve definitely felt his influence.
Kay was a leading executive who championed bringing mixed martial arts to Spike TV when the UFC was shopping for a television partner more than a decade ago and he also helped fuel the relationship between Viacom and Bellator MMA.
Now after two decades with Viacom, Kay is being replaced by Comedy Central president Kent Alterman in a change of leadership at the Paramount Network.
The news was announced by Viacom CEO Bob Bakish on Thursday in a memo sent to employees.
“Kevin is a passionate storyteller whose legacy at Viacom spans more than two decades and seven networks, and I’m thankful to him and his team for their many contributions,” Bakish wrote in a memo obtained by the Hollywood Reporter. “At Nickelodeon, Kevin left his mark by overseeing a string of hits that included All That, Kenan & Kel and The Adventures of Pete & Pete – as well as developing and greenlighting SpongeBob SquarePants.
“And during his tenure at Spike, he oversaw the launch of fan-favorites like The Ultimate Fighter, Lip Sync Battle, Bar Rescue and Ink Master, as well as the expansion of Bellator.”
That last line is particularly important to mixed martial arts fans as Kay was largely instrumental in championing the UFC on Spike TV when the company was struggling financially with ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ as their last ditch effort to gain foothold with fans.
The gamble paid off and the UFC and Spike TV became partners for several years until the promotion left the network to ink a new seven-year deal with FOX.
Following the UFC’s departure, Kay helped spearhead Viacom’s purchase of Bellator MMA, which ended up on Spike TV as well.
Kay stuck around with Spike TV until the network was transformed into the new Paramount Network, which launched last year.
The programming needs at Paramount Network have changed dramatically since the switch from Spike TV. Lately, Paramount Network has been focused more on original programming like the breakout summer hit ‘Yellowstone’ starring Kevin Costner.
Bellator MMA has remained a stalwart on the new network even after inking a new nine-figure deal to stream events on the DAZN network online.
Kay’s exit may not ultimately signal the end of Bellator MMA on the Paramount Network, but he was absolutely a staunch supporter of the sport over the years.
With his departure, it will be interesting to see what the future of mixed martial arts programming on Paramount Network looks like with Alterman in charge.