UFC Signs TV Deal With Fox

August 16, 2011

Last week, MMAPayout reported that FOX had emerged as the front-runner in landing a TV deal with the UFC, which was first rumored on ESPN’s MMA Rumor Insider account. Today, Sports Business Daily announced that UFC and FOX have agreed on a seven or eight year deal worth as much as $90 million per year, which also includes 4 events on FOX TV.

Business Sports Daily reports:

As part of the deal, most of the weekly programming that UFC has on Versus and Spike TV will move to FX starting in January. That includes several fight cards, plus shows like the reality series “The Ultimate Fighter.” Fox-owned Fuel also will wind up with some UFC content. But rumors that Fox will rebrand Fuel as a UFC channel are not true, sources said. Fox was attracted to UFC programming, which has produced some of the highest viewership figures ­– and most attractive demos –­ on Versus and Spike TV.


Payout Perspective:

Although this was reported by SBD today, no confirmation was given by the UFC.  Shortly after the story broke, Fox Sports announced that they will have “one of the biggest announcements in Fox Sports History” during their 1PM press conference scheduled for Thursday in Los Angeles with top executives David Hill, Randy Freer, Eric Shanks, and John Landgraf. Just a few hours later, Dana White announced on his Twitter account that he had arrived in Los Angeles with UFC LW Champ Frankie Edgar.

The deal consists of up to four events on Fox broadcast TV and shoulder programming on Fuel TV and FX.  It is speculated that most of the programming currently on Spike TV and Versus such as live MMA events and The Ultimate Fighter will be carried over to FX. Fuel TV is also said to be landing some UFC programming, though it will most likely be syndicated shows and specials.

SBD also goes on to report that “Spike ultimately passed over concern that its UFC shoulder programming stopped growing. Shows like “Unleashed,” “Knockouts” and “Countdown” averaged 1 million viewers in ’05” while averaging only 492,000 viewers this year.

Another key note in the report is that Spike will still hold rights to the UFC library programming through 2012, which makes for a non-fluid transition from Spike TV to the FOX properties.

Many questions remain unanswered at this moment, such as whether the UFC was able to retain production control and which branch the UFC would fall under.  If you recall, the UFC was in talks with several networks from 2007 until now, and production control was always an issue.  The Fox Entertainment division was willing to give up production control at the time but not the Fox Sports division. From what we know so far, it appears that the UFC will land in the Sports Division, so if there were able to retain full production control, it would be a huge victory for the UFC. The other issue reported back in 2007 was that Fox wanted to buy a stake in the UFC as part of the deal, something the UFC was not willing to do at the time.

In terms of ratings, they will have to produce.  A source close to the FX/Bellator negotiations informed MMAPayout that FX and Fox were looking for a promotion that had enough stars in their roster that it would move the needle for them, as well as bring in the coveted 18-34M demo.  Balancing the FX and FOX cards while still maintaining it’s primary focus as a PPV company will be interesting to watch in 2012. In terms of ratings, FOX last Saturday night drew a 1.2 rating in the 18-49 demo, for 3.63 million viewers, where the highest rated MMA show on network TV so far has been EliteXC’s Primetime event featuring Kimbo Slice vs James Thompson, which drew an average of 4.3 million viewers and peaked at 6.51 million.

The monumental move also creates a domino effect within the MMA landscape, where if UFC is not able to negotiate keeping one of their brands on Spike TV (PRIDE, WEC, Strikeforce), Bellator would surely be moved from MTV2 to Spike TV to offset the loss of the UFC.  At this time, it is believed that Showtime will not renew their contract with Strikeforce, which will be up in the first quarter of 2012, which could mean that the UFC could be shopping Strikeforce over to Spike to prevent a Bellator move and to maintain rights to some UFC properties.  Other promotions such as Proelite look to also capitalize on the move, as Versus (NBC Sports) and Showtime/CBS will be left without a major MMA promotion on the networks.

With the latest deal, the UFC jumps over the WWE in terms of TV rights fees by upgrading their current Spike TV deal worth an estimated $35 million-a-year to FOX’s $90 million-a-year. The UFC will now be making nearly three times as much as they are getting from their current Spike TV deal. More on the overall TV landscape among sport properties can be found here.


Current Sport TV Deals – Collegiate Sports, NHL, MLS, WWE, and UFC:

Pac-10: $250 million/Year (Fox/ESPN/ABC) … previously $60 million (Fox/ESPN/ABC)

Big Ten: $220 million/Year (ESPN/ABC)

SEC: $205 million/Year (ESPN/CBS)

NHL: $200 million/Year (NBC/Versus) … previously $77.5 million (Versus)

ACC: $155 million /Year (ESPN)

Big 12: $130 million/Year (Fox)

UFC: $90 million/Year [Meltzer] (Spike TV) … TV deals will be up after 2011 with Spike TV and Versus (4 events).

WWE: $70 million/Year (USA Network, 30-35 million/Year [Meltzer]) … With Syfy included, estimated at around $70+ million/Year.

MLS: $18.5 million / Year (ESPN2, $8.5 million/NBC Sports, $10 million[SBD]) … Asked for $20 million/Year (FSC)…. previously $3 million (FSC)


NOTE: National Sport TV Deals Per-Year: MLB: $702M, NASCAR: $575M, NBA: $930M, NHL: $200M, PGA: $492M, & NFL: $1.4 Billion.

21 Responses to “UFC Signs TV Deal With Fox”

  1. Jeff on August 16th, 2011 7:25 PM

    Would you care to explain where that $35 million number comes from when New York Times reported numbers much larger?


    “Spike’s $170 million-a-year deal* with UFC for the show, “The Ultimate Fighter,” and for live fights expires in six months. Negotiations between Spike and UFC for a new deal started almost one year ago, one of the people said, but broke down after UFC proposed a $325 million-a-year fee, a price that was far steeper than Spike was willing to pay.”

  2. Jose Mendoza on August 16th, 2011 8:18 PM


    After doing a bit of research and talking with my sources, I determined that those numbers are not accurate. Do you think Spike was paying UFC 170 million a year and now signed with Fox for 90 million a year, a decrease of 80 million? 🙂

    Perhaps they meant 170 million for the entire span of the deal, which would make sense, but no way they were getting that much a year.

  3. BrainSmasher on August 16th, 2011 11:50 PM

    After the first contract ran out with Spike the UFC resigned for like 3 years 100 million. 35 mill per year sound about right. With Ad revenue and 90 mill a year this will be huge for the UFC. Im not sure exactly what the UFC makes on commericals. But at one time they were getting 3500 per 30 second spot on spike. Not sure what they was later in the Spike run. But they should demand much higher ad fees with their 4 FOX events.

  4. Diego on August 17th, 2011 5:01 AM

    That’s a lot of money split one way.

  5. John S. on August 17th, 2011 7:00 AM


    there’s an update at the bottom of the story you linked to where not only does Snowden casts doubt on the accuracy of the numbers but it also informs the readers that the NY Times has pulled the figure from their story. Obviously the amount given by the NY Times was wrong.

  6. Machiel Van on August 17th, 2011 7:12 AM


    Isn’t the network the entity that receives all of the advertising revenue? I don’t think the UFC makes anything off of the advertisements, that’s how networks make all their money, which is why ratings are so important to them (that’s what they can show advertisers). Fox will pay the UFC $90 million per year because they can make much more than that off of advertisement slots during UFC programming.

  7. Jack Frost on August 17th, 2011 10:43 AM

    Very solid deal guys.

  8. Jose Mendoza on August 17th, 2011 11:31 AM

    This is pretty interesting…

    Just a few questions for everyone to think about for the next few months:

    – What do you guys think about all the work the UFC has done with Comcast/NBC/Versus in the past couple of years and how tight they have been with Spike for the past 7 or so years? Are those relationships done with now?

    – Does the UFC cut ties with Versus and Spike now, and if so, does Bellator move to Spike?

    – Does Versus stay in the MMA business and tries to get another MMA promotion?

    – When Showtime cut’s ties with Strikeforce, will they replace them with another promotion and stay in MMA business or do they focus more now on Boxing?

  9. Jack Frost on August 17th, 2011 12:26 PM

    Jose, I read somewhere that Strikeforce would stay alive and be moved to Spike to keep their relationship with Zuffa going. I kind of doubt that will happen though so most likely Strikeforce will be folded, Bellator will go to Spike and Pro Elite will go to Showtime. I guess Versus gets left out cause there’s nothing left for them.

  10. Mikey on August 17th, 2011 2:13 PM

    I’d love to see Strikeforce become the “UFC Strikeforce Series” and move to Spike TV or Versus.

    Strikeforce Series would be:

    -Exclusive home to women’s MMA
    -Hottest prospects in the sport
    -Guys that have lost their way in UFC and want to restart their career and eventually make it back to UFC
    -Legends division – Couture, Wandy, Liddell, Hughes, Trigg, Gracie, Severn

  11. Jose Mendoza on August 17th, 2011 2:46 PM


    Yes, the rumor is that they will try and shop Strikeforce to Spike and possibly NBC Sports, but mostly Spike to block Bellator.


    Yeah, something like that, but then the question becomes how happy will a net be with that and what type of ratings will it due. Definitely an interesting proposition though.

  12. Jose Mendoza on August 17th, 2011 2:47 PM

    Updated with Another Tidbit:

    National Sport TV Deals Per-Year: MLB: $702M, NASCAR: $575M, NBA: $930M, NHL: $200M, PGA: $492M, & NFL: $1.4 Billion #MMA #Perspective

  13. John S. on August 17th, 2011 3:44 PM

    I think this also confirms my suspicions as to why Zuffa outbid everyone for Strikeforce – to keep them from potentially benefiting from the UFC leaving Spike.

  14. Jose Mendoza on August 17th, 2011 5:24 PM


    They definitely would have had to fend off both Bellator and Strikeforce. Strikeforce was also the most suitable promotion to take on that big TV deal.

  15. BrainSmasher on August 17th, 2011 11:26 PM

    Very interesting questions Jose. Here is my thoughts on the UFC/Bellator/Spike. I would not be suprised to see the UFC almost welcome(Zuffa doesnt make it easy for anyone lol). these other Promotions. Before i think the UFC would use thier other promotions like Pride, WEC, SF to take up a network and likely lose money and spread resources thin just to slow down the comp. At the time there was still a chance to beat the UFC. Lock in a network deal and run the company properly. Zuffa did its best to prevent that. Now Zuffa has nothing to worry about. They have their network deal that ties them up for a decade. These promotions couldnt compete before. Now Zuffa has 3 times the money from TV, going to get even more viewers, going to raise PPV numbers. Now fighters will eventually see more too. Bellator even on Spike TV will have no chance and Zuffa could buy them or any fighter they ever get at anytime. If Zuffa uses SF to sign with Spike i think it would be to keep their relationship going and to return the favor to spike moreso than black Belltor. There is just to many networks out there for them to waste their time and they cant fill all the spots so why try?

  16. BrainSmasher on August 17th, 2011 11:29 PM

    Machiel Van

    I always assumed the UFC got a portion of that but i must have been mistaken. MMA weekly used to report on the ad cost. I assumed the UFC got that but maybe they reported it just to gauge the UFC’s value to Spike as Ad time went up.

  17. Peter Long on August 18th, 2011 6:25 AM

    Love Fuel TV and adding Zuffa to the line up and getting rid of the third rate MMA they have on now will be great. If Proelite returns to Shotime then I will be a very happy camper.

  18. Jose Mendoza on August 18th, 2011 8:12 AM

    Link to press conference here: http://www.FXNetworks.com/ and UFC.com.

  19. Michael on August 18th, 2011 9:50 AM

    Sweet! – I’m in Germany, and I don’t know what time 10 AM PT means, here its 19:49. Just clicked on ufc.com and it’s actually running 😀

  20. Michael on August 18th, 2011 10:00 AM

    Rogan’s suit was to wide and the arms of the jacket were too long^^

  21. Jack Frost on August 18th, 2011 1:52 PM

    They got a great deal.

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