Top 10 of 2012: No. 7 the UFC-Fox relationship

December 28, 2012

MMA Payout’s No. 7 business story of 2012 is the first full year of the UFC-Fox relationship.  In late 2011, the UFC signed a 7 year deal with Fox leaving longtime network Spike TV.

While there was great anticipation for the UFC on Fox networks, the ratings have been less than anticipated.

Despite a huge rating for UFC on Fox 1, the next several UFC events on the big network failed to gain traction.  UFC on Fox 5 did rebound with stellar numbers with a 4.4 million viewer average and the main event spiking at 5.7 million viewers.  However, the numbers for UFC on Fox 2-4 showed a drop in viewership.  This could be due to lack of stars in its main event.  Certainly, UFC on Fox 5 was stacked with known fighters such (BJ Penn and Shogun Rua) and up an coming talent it could market for the future (Rory MacDonald, Alexander Gustaffson and Benson Henderson).

UFC on Fox 2 – 4.66M average, peak 6M

UFC on Fox 3 – 2.25M average, peak 2.9M

UFC on Fox 4 – 2.44M average, peak 3.3M

UFC on Fox 5 – 4.4M average, peak 5.7M

Fuel TV has been the benefactor of UFC programming as its audience has grown steadily since the UFC came on board with a UFC marathon last New Year’s Day.  The UFC has had live events on the networks as well as Prelims for FX and Fox events.  FX has had Prelims on its network prior to PPVs as well.

We have already chronicled the issues the TUF franchise has had in its transition to Fridays on FX.

Fox has worked in promoting the UFC with its other sports properties: NASCAR and the NFL.  Notably, Dana White played a homeless person in a skit on an NFL pregame show.  Also, Fox ran shoulder programming promoting the UFC’s network shows on NFL Sundays.

It will be interesting to see where the UFC-Fox partnership goes in 2013.  It appears that Fox will establish a new sports channel in which the Speed channel will be a part.  It’s likely that Fuel TV could be integrated into the new channel as well. This would definitely solidify the UFC-Fox relationship for years to come as the UFC would be a great source of content for the network.

One Response to “Top 10 of 2012: No. 7 the UFC-Fox relationship”

  1. codemaster on December 31st, 2012 12:07 PM

    The Fox relationship with the UFC is hugely beneficial to both sides.

    Fox normally has to bid for the rights to televise major sports such as NFL and MLB–but with the UFC, they have them locked down for another 5 or 6 years. I believe as time goes on, the amount Fox pays for rights to televise the UFC will seem like a sweet deal.

    Essentially, Fox has exclusive rights to an entire sport for the next 6 years. Now some may believe that Belletor is competition, but I don’t see Bjorn’s company even being in the ballpark competitively with the UFC for a long time–perhaps never.

    In fairness, this was the first year of the Fox-UFC deal, and understandably, there is a learning curve for both parties in order for them to maximize the popularity of their product and return on investment.

    The demographic for the UFC is mouth-watering to many adverstisers, and the Fox programming gurus understood this salient point from the beginning of the relationship. Fox has been working on ‘mainstreaming’ the UFC so that the concerns which advertisers have with the violent and bloody sport are assuaged.

    Some impatient commentators have become Cassandras of doom every time this relationship encounters a hiccup in its first year, but factually, the relationship is looking very good, and promising much better as time goes on.

    UFC on Fox 5 was an important event for the relationship. It brought in very respectable viewer and demographic numbers–and this on a Saturday night. Think about it–what other sport or any TV program pulls in big numbers on Saturday night? Conveniently, the UFC does not have to compete with many other sports or TV programs–it OWNS Saturday nights.

    UFC on Fox 5 seemed to be a sudden wake up call by the UFC–where they stacked a Fox event and made it PPV calibre. The event was hugely successful on just about every front. The gate was sold out in Seattle, and the fights were memorable and meaningful to both hardcord and casual fans.

    This sort of programming for ‘big’ Fox events will grow the sport viewership numbers and provide a platform for star-making. I know it is hard for the UFC to use match-ups which could be on a PPV main card, however, I believe putting on bigger and better Fox shows is an investment in the long-term growth of the sport.

    The end of the Fox-UFC deal will be an inflection point for the UFC. If the UFC can grow its viewership in the US each year, by the time the deal comes up for renegotiation–it may be economically feasible for most current PPV fights to be televised on free TV.

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