UFC, ESPN Partner for Five-Year, $1.5 Billion Rights Deal
The world’s leading mixed martial arts promotion has found a new home on television thanks to “The Worldwide Leader in Sports.” The UFC will be heading to ESPN come 2019.
A report from ESPN released today revealed that the media giant has paid $1.58 billion for the UFC’s “entire rights package.” The news comes shortly after the two organizations announced that the UFC would be a part of the new ESPN+ streaming platform.
Thirty UFC Fight Night events will be aired per year with 10 airing on television and 20 through ESPN+. Each event will feature 12 bouts. An ESPN Media Zone report indicates that the UFC is still going to have 12 pay-per-view events a year as well. The fight promotion will remain with Fox Sports through 2018 before bringing the relationship to an end after roughly seven years.
As was included in the announcement of the initial ESPN+ announcement, the deal includes:
Future seasons of Dana White’s Contender Series beginning in June 2019
A new all-access program
Pre- and post-event shows for all 30 non-PPV events
Non-exclusive access to UFC’s full archive of programming, including previous events and original programming
UFC Countdown shows, press conferences, weigh-ins, and pre-and post-shows
No recent comment has yet been made concerning this partnership and the future of the UFC reality show The Ultimate Fighter. The show is in the midst of airing its 27th season with at least a 28th on the way. UFC President Dana White told MMAJunkie last year that the show, “can go on forever” and “is always going to be relevant.” The TUF 27 finale takes place on July 6 during UFC’s annual International Fight Week. TUF 28 will air on Fox Sports 1 in August.
ESPN+, priced at $4.99 ($49.99 year,) is currently only available in the U.S. UFC Fight Pass will remain available. Fans with the ESPN app may choose to purchase a Fight Pass subscription or PPV event at a separate cost.
White said in the above Media Zone release, “Every year for the last 18 years, we have taken this sport and brand to another level. We find innovative ways to promote our athletes and build stars. Today is another monumental day for UFC, our athletes, and our fans. We are now part of the ESPN family, recognized around the world as the pinnacle in sports broadcasting. I am very excited for this next chapter for UFC.”
Fox Sports meanwhile is already transitioning.
ESPN’s Darren Rovell reported that Fox Sports had agreed in principle to air WWE’s Smackdown Live. Per Rovell by way of The Hollywood Reporter, the deal is also five years in length and is valued at more than $1 billion. The future of WWE’s flagship program Raw is to be determined.