July 30, 2009

Today, ESPN announced that it has reached an agreement with the UFC to air PPV events – in addition to other programming – on its new ESPN UK channel. The coverage will also extend to Ireland.

MMA Weekly with the details:

ESPN, the leading sports network in the States, is set to launch in the U.K. and Ireland on Aug. 3…with the Ultimate Fighting Championship in tow.


The network issued the announcement Thursday, giving the UFC a new carrier in the U.K. and Ireland following the demise of its former partner Setanta Sports.


“ESPN’s aim is to serve UK and Ireland sports fans by bringing the very best of both domestic and international live sport to their living rooms. We are delighted to add UFC, TOP 14 ORANGE, the leading French Rugby Championship, the Australia Football League, EuroBasket and DTM to our growing portfolio of live sport,” said Jeroen Oerlemans, ESPN’s Vice President, TV Channels Europe, Middle East and Africa.


UFC U.K. Division President Marshall Zelaznik commented on the agreement, saying, ““We are ecstatic to announce that ESPN is the new home of the UFC in the UK and Ireland. ESPN is one of the most trusted and respected brands in all of sports broadcasting, and we are thrilled to be working with them as they launch their new channel in the UK and Ireland.”


The agreement begins with UFC 101 on Aug. 8 and encompasses all live UFC events including UFC Fight Night events, according to a report from Gareth Davies of the British newspaper “The Telegraph.”


Payout Opinion:

The UFC has succeeded in replacing Setanta as its television partner in the UK, but the agreement with ESPN UK is far from a slam dunk for the organization.

The good news is that ESPN UK will launch on both of the UK’s major television networks – Sky and Virgin Media – opening the channel to a potential subscriber base of over 20 million Britons. However, the bad news is that ESPN UK will, in many cases, be packaged as a premium subscription channel (not a base subscription channel). Sky customers will seemingly have to pay extra regardless of their channel package. While Virgin customers will have the channel included for free only with a subscription to the XL channel package. Any of the smaller Virgin TV packages will still require an extra sum per month to gain access to ESPN UK.

A quick peak at the ESPN UK TV line-up suggests the content rotation is heavily geared towards European football and that should undoubtedly draw some interest. Whether the UFC can capitalize on that interest and exposure remains to be seen – the football demographic isn’t the typical target cross-over demographic for MMA.

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