MMA Payout Year in Review: No. 3 – UFC signs media rights deal with ESPN

December 30, 2018

The UFC will move to ESPN starting in 2019 as it signed a deal with the network this past May.  This also brought the end of the 7-year deal with Fox as its first network media rights deal.

ESPN paid $1.5 billion for the next five years starting in 2019 for its television and digital rights.  The UFC had been touting it was looking for $450M per year for 10 years.  The deal includes airing on ESPN and its new digital media platform, ESPN+.  The new deal with ESPN will carry 10-15 UFC events exclusively on ESPN+.

The first fight on ESPN will take place on January 19th at Brooklyn’s Barclay Center.

Via our original post on the story in May:

Per the press release supporting this announcement Dana White stated, “I couldn’t be more excited to partner with The Walt Disney Company and ESPN on an agreement that will continue to grow our sport. UFC has always done deals with the right partners at the right time and this one is no exception. We will now have the ability to deliver fights to our young fan base wherever they are and whenever they want it. This deal is a home run for ESPN and UFC.”

The press release also states:

“With more than 280 million fans around the world, UFC boasts the youngest fan base among major professional sports organizations in the US with a median age of 40 and an audience comprising 40% millennials.”

The lineup of UFC content available to ESPN+ subscribers will include:

  • Exclusive, all new-seasons of “Dana White’s Contender Series” beginning in June 2019
  • A new original, all-access series produced by IMG Original Content
  • Exclusive pre- and post-event shows for all 15 “UFC on ESPN+ Fight Nights”
  • Non-exclusive access to UFC’s full archive of programming, including historic events, classic bouts, and original programming
  • Additional UFC-branded content, including “UFC Countdown” shows, press conferences, weigh-ins, and pre-and post-shows

It was just announced that Dana White’s Contender Series will have a second season starting this June.  The announcement today confirms a third season starting next June.

Payout Perspective:

UFC Fight Pass will remain a standalone digital platform despite event airing on ESPN+.  On Saturday, it announced more content including additional fight promotions across the world as well as Roy Jones, Jr. promoted boxing.  Prior to the deal, assessing whether the UFC could attain a media rights deal to their liking despite a dip in its ratings and industry observers concerned that the product had been “watered-down,” the UFC ended up with a great deal.  While its not the amount of money it had wanted, it is now a part of the biggest sports network in North America.  This should help with other areas of its business including licensing and sponsorships (which appears to be picking up).

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