Say goodbye to FOX, say hello to ESPN.
After agreeing to purchase a slice of the UFC broadcasting pie last week, ESPN has come back to the table and said, “Screw it, we’ll take the whole shebang.”
If you’ll recall, the UFC’s monumental broadcasting deal with FOX – which saw multiple Fight Nights broadcast on FOX Sports 1 and the FOX network itself – ends this year. The UFC has been shopping their broadcasting package around, and though initially wanting only a chunk of events to put on their new digital platform, ESPN has decided they want it all.
Here’s the Sports Business Daily:
ESPN in a shocking turn of events will go all-in on the UFC, taking the entire package from Fox Sports, which has carried it since ’11. Sources said that ESPN outbid Fox Sports for the UFC rights, agreeing to pay a total of $1.5B over five years for the entire package — a figure that includes the previously announced $150M-per-year deal with ESPN+, sources said. For months, Fox Sports was considered a prohibitive front-runner to retain the rights. But ESPN, under the direction of new President Jimmy Pitaro, showed a newfound interest in the property. Pitaro showered praise on the MMA space at the Sports Business Summit in N.Y. on Monday, describing the UFC as an ascendant property and touting its young and diverse demos.
ESPN two weeks ago cut a five-year deal worth $150M annually for 15 UFC events that it will stream to its ESPN+ OTT service. Today, the two will announce another five-year deal for $150M per year for 27 more events, including 10 full events and 12 PPV prelims on linear. Five more events will go to ESPN+. UFC will keep the rights to 12 PPV events, the same number it carried this year. ESPN’s emergence as an interested bidder in the entire package comes as a surprise, especially given press reports from a month ago that mistakenly had ESPN and Fox Sports teaming up on a joint bid. NBC Sports and Turner Sports also kicked the tires on UFC, though neither showed as much interest as ESPN.
One and a half billion dollars… that’s a lot of cheddar.