11 for 11: No. 1 UFC-Fox television deal

December 31, 2011

The number one business story of the year was the UFC-Fox deal as mixed martial arts entered the mainstream with its 7 year, $90 million television rights deal.

The deal was an upgrade from its $35 million a year deal with Spike TV. The longtime relationship between the UFC-Spike relationship deteriorated this year with passive aggressive moves. Spike debuted UFC 132’s Countdown show during the middle of the day instead of its usual primetime placement. It also counterprogrammed UFC’s live Versus card in June with a marathon featuring main eventer (at the time) Nate Marquardt. And, of course, there is the issue of the UFC library rights.


Fox immediately marketed the UFC’s November 12th debut with promos during MLB and NFL games. It also ran its UFC Primetime show on an NFL Sunday to encouraging ratings.

The UFC on Fox Payout Perspective details the huge ratings Fox received for the 1 hour program which featured approximately 1 minute of actual fight action. It was the most watched UFC event ever.

FOX TV Rating Breakdown (Quarterly):

– UFC on FOX (9:00 pm-9:15 pm): 5.25 million viewers

-UFC on FOX (9:15 pm-9:30 pm): 5.48 million viewers

-UFC on FOX (9:30 pm-9:45 pm): 7.09 million viewers

-UFC on FOX (9:45 pm-10:00 pm): 4.88 million viewers

– Overall: Average of 5.7M viewers watched the fight live or via DVR playback within the same day. (Nielsen)

Via UFC press release:

The hour-long UFC on FOX premiere scored a 3.1/5 household rating/share, with 5.7 million viewers making it the most-watched UFC event ever and the most-watched professional fight of any kind on any network since 2003 when 7.0 million tuned in to watch Lewis-Klitschko on HBO.  Velasquez-dos Santo is also the highest-rated and most-watched professional fight of any kind on a broadcast network for OSCAR DE LA HOYA’S FIGHT NIGHT on FOX. (4.3/6, 5.9 million viewers) in 1998.

FOXSports.com, one of the world’s leading sports web sites with almost 30 million unique visitors monthly, also delivered substantial viewing for UFC-related video.  On Saturday, FOXSports.com tallied an impressive 257,000 total live streams for the nine undercard matches, while all UFC content during and around the event generated over 1 million streams.  Other than Super Bowl-related content, this was the biggest video event in FOXSports.com history.

The number of live streams on FOXSports.com is notable as its not usual that we see these numbers for the UFC Facebook streams. It shows the impressive numbers the UFC put up on multiple platforms.

In addition to Fox and online, Fuel TV and Fox Deportes had solid ratings for the UFC’s debut. Spike TV also put up huge numbers as it played past UFC fights of JDS and Cain opposite UFC on Fox.

We will see how the UFC-Fox relationship does in its first full year. UFC on Fox 2 is set for January 28th and Spike TV is set to counter as well. It will be interesting to see how the UFC will do on Fuel and FX. We’ve already seen a potential problem with Fuel TV as the UFC 141 Countdown show only garnered 15,000 viewers for its debut. Hopefully for Fuel TV, its January 1 UFC marathon will raise awareness that it is the new home for UFC programming.

2 Responses to “11 for 11: No. 1 UFC-Fox television deal”

  1. Jack Frost on December 31st, 2011 4:51 PM

    The Fox deal was the biggest MMA news of the year for sure.

  2. Assassin on January 1st, 2012 9:15 AM

    These were the top 11 business stories of 2011 in MMA

    1. Fox TV Deal
    2. Brazil – Globo TV deal and high fan interest
    3. Fighter Insurance
    4. John Jones and the new guard – the future of MMA (footnote: Lesnar retires)
    5. Zuffa purchases Strikeforce
    6. Canada – the new US and stadium shows
    7. MMA Websites sold to leading media companies
    8. Viacom purchase of Bellatore
    9. Social Media
    10. Japan returns (dream new year and UFC in 2012)
    11. Zuffa keeps SF alive, well in some fashion; health of 2nd tier promotions and HdNet

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