The UFC may have reportedly found a new television home for its hours of programming. A report in Sports Business Daily suggests that the UFC and Fox have come together on a deal which would place the UFC on Fox for eight years.
The news certainly substantiates rumours of a UFC and Fox deal that appeared previously on the Underground MMA forum. The deal will reportedly put $90 million a year in the UFC’s pockets for the next seven-eight years. In exchange, the UFC will offer programming on Fox’s FX and Fuel cable channels.
Nobody in the UFC has confirmed this report as of press time. Keep in mind that this isn’t the first report of a new television deal for the UFC. An earlier report strongly suggested that a deal to purchase the G4 channel and turn it into an all-UFC networkwas close to being finalised. Other reports suggested that the UFC and NBC were close to securing a deal. Those reports were obviously discredited so at this point, nothing can be reported as fact until someone in the Zuffa, LLC organisation goes on record to confirm it.
A report in the USA Today indicate that Spike TV decided to pass on a new deal after several programs peaked in the ratings. According to the report, it was the shoulder programming that caused concern for Spike TV. UFC programs like Unleashed and Countdown are averaging 492,000, less than half of where they were in 2005.
The UFC would air up to four live specials per year as part of the new deal with Fox. One of the criticisms within Spike that I have read in several places is that Spike was unhappy with the lack of star power on live specials. In UFC’s defence, they did have Tito Ortiz scheduled for a recent special until Ortiz canceled due to injury. It will be interesting to see if the UFC steps up the star power on Fox with early specials.
The big winner here could be Bellator. Currently airing on MTV 2, there have been reports for months of negotiations between Spike TV and Bellator. It is expected that Bellator would move over to Spike once the UFC and Spike finish all of their commitments. The move could mark the first time that the UFC has serious competition in the marketplace. It could also potentially open up a much needed avenue of negotiation leverage for MMA fighters. With Zuffa owning Strikeforce, fighters have lost practically all leverage for negotiating with the UFC due to the current landscape. That could change and we may see some bidding wars in 2012 between both companies for big stars.
The UFC is coming off of its worst rated The Ultimate Fighter in show history, a UFC 131 pay per view which reportedly did 300,000 buys, and dropping Fight Night ratings. Will this improve, sustain, or decline moving over to a less recognisable network like FX?
At the end of the day this could be considered a win for the UFC. Dave Meltzer reports that FX has nearly double the average rating of progamming on Spike TV. I do question whether they have enough strong programming to give the UFC good lead-ins prior to broadcasts. It hardly compares to the potential of an NBC Sports deal or the status of having your own network.
Yet you can’t complain about $90 million a year over 8-9 years.
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