ESPN Reports Fox As New Front-runner For UFC TV Deal

August 8, 2011

ESPN’s MMA Rumor Insider account reported on Friday that Fox was the new front-runner for the UFC TV deal, claiming that talks between the UFC and NBC/G4 may have broken down.

ESPN.com has learned that the UFC’s rumored 2012 broadcast deal with NBC and takeover of the company’s G4 network may not happen now, as the unconfirmed rumbling are that negotiations may have broken down. Several sources say Fox — including its FOX Network, FX, Fox Sports Net and Fuel properties — is the new front runner for a UFC distribution deal and that an agreement could be done by the end of the month.

 

Payout Perspective:

This latest rumor comes after the UFC officially announced it had signed a two year TV distribution agreement with Fox Sports Latin America last week.  If you recall, Bellator was in talks with Fox to get this TV deal package back in late 2010, before the budding promotion ended up signing with MTV2.  MMAPayout sources learned at that time that Fox was interested in featuring MMA but wanted to sign with a promotion that could move the needle since driving 18-34M ratings is a key part of the deal.  At the time, the UFC and Strikeforce were in heavy consideration while only preliminary talks took place with Bellator. The deal with Bellator was rumored to air Bellator events live on FX with tape-delayed broadcasts on sister stations FOX Sports Net and Fuel TV.

Similar to what we have heard before with NBC and G4, the ESPN points out that Fuel TV, which is currently Fox’s “action sports” network, would “likely be the hub for UFC content and could be renamed and rebranded as such”.

It’s no secret that Fuel TV has been stocking up on MMA programming as of late, signing MMA promotions Shark Fights and Hong Kong based Legend Fighting Championship along with developing original programming such as “Bruce Lee Lives!” and the Bas Rutten hosted “Punk Payback” show scheduled to debut in November.

Fuel TV started looking adding new MMA programming back in late 2010, claiming in several interviews that one of their goals in the upcoming few months was to expand the channel’s target demo from 12-to-24 to 12-35 males and increase their overall audience in 2011.

This latest news supports the claim that the UFC is in fact talking to everyone, a list that now includes their current broadcast partner Spike TV, NBC/Versus/G4, and Fox/FuelTV/FSN/FX. The UFC is looking to get a significant boost in TV right fees for 2012, a lucrative market currently paying top dollar for live sports programming.

8 Responses to “ESPN Reports Fox As New Front-runner For UFC TV Deal”

  1. mmaguru on August 8th, 2011 11:11 AM

    I just can’t see how the UFC can get a lucrative TV deal based on how business has been dropping from a TV rating, PPV buy rate and ticket sales perspective. Simply put, MMA growth period has plateaued.

    The fact that SPIKE is lukewarm to any deal with the UFC indicates a lot.

  2. TV Rumors: UFC To Fox? ProElite To Showtime/CBS? on August 8th, 2011 1:01 PM

    [...] suggesting that Fox is not the new frontrunner to land a major distribution deal with the UFC. Via MMA Payout: ESPN.com has learned that the UFC’s rumored 2012 broadcast deal with NBC and takeover of the [...]

  3. Jose Mendoza on August 8th, 2011 1:05 PM

    Well, Spike is still interested, but it’s just that the UFC want’s a bigger deal, more than Spike was looking to pay.

    The ratings have indeed drop, but a lot of that is fighter based. I’m sure that when the nets sign this deal, they expect the stars to be on the card, not the UFC on Versus or UFN quality cards. It will be interesting for sure.

  4. mmaguru on August 8th, 2011 5:20 PM

    Jose,

    My big concern with that model is that if you give away your big name stars for fights on network TV you risk a lot of downside.

    For one, most of the top fighters are lucky to see action 2 times a year due to training camps, injuries, title shot paths, etc. Why waste one of these fights for network TV? Are you going to do this on a regular basis or once or twice a year? We are already in a situation where Zuffa can’t get credible headliners for the majority of their PPV’s.

    Second, you risk giving away the big matches for free with little upside. Even at 300K buy rate, the UFC nets somewhere close to 9 million in PPV dollars. I don’t think any network will pay that much for a UFC event.

    Anyway, anything can happen. But I just don’t see the UFC going on any major network (Fox, NBC, CBS, etc). Possibly they reach a deal with a sports network for the ultimate fighter series and a few fight night events.

  5. Jose Mendoza on August 8th, 2011 5:59 PM

    mmaguru:

    BTW, Spike is said to be making a last second run as well, could be Spike AND another network. I guess the UFC is still trying to get as much as they can.

  6. Peter Long on August 8th, 2011 9:22 PM

    I was happy to see Fuel TV jump into MMA till I watched my first Shark Fights event . I heard they had dumped mad money to buy their way into the game with a few stacked cards in the early but the fights on Fuel TV are nothing more than burnt out fighters that have been fighting the lower level productions for years and are not able to make their mark in the sport.
    Not sure if Zuffa would use Fuel TV for Strike Force and TUF and The Best of UFC giving the fan a deeper insight to the sport and boosting PPV sales but that would make me happy.
    Shark Fights is a shallow production with no fighters, no good video and IMHO no future in MMA, FUEL please stick the Gaff if the Shark and get some real MMA on your channel.

  7. Jack Frost on August 9th, 2011 11:50 AM

    Jose,

    If they sign with FOX isn’t it more likely that they would move the rest of their programs (TUF, UFN, etc) over to FX rather than stay with Spike?

  8. Jose Mendoza on August 10th, 2011 9:34 PM

    Jack,

    That is the goal, but I wouldn’t count out some properties possibly staying at Versus or Spike even if they sign some other TV deals. It all comes down to maximizing their TV right fees and audience.

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