So it appears that the UFC and Fox television deal is now official. For those unaware, Fox will air the UFC over its networks for the next 8-9 years. It sounds like a win-win for everyone but this blogger has a lot of questions.
The quick and dirty of the deal as reported by Sports Business Daily is that the UFC will jump from Spike TV to Fox for the next 8-9 years. The UFC will be paid $90 million a year in rights fees. In exchange, Fox will air up to four live UFC events a year on the big network. In addition, UFC programming such as The Ultimate Fighter, Fight Night, and other specials will air on FX and the Fuel channel.
Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend the big press gala to ask questions to Zuffa and Fox head honchos. So I am going to do the next best thing and post them here. Here are 10 Questions About The Fox & UFC deal that I would ask if I could get my lazy behind to the press conference.
The obvious answer would be Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg, but let’s not jump to conclusions. Fox is responsible for staffing the broadcast booths on MLB and NFL games. Does anyone really expect the UFC to get more leeway in this regard than the NFL? If the UFC doesn’t hire the announcers, what will be the criteria for hiring announcers? Will the UFC have any say? This is a very important question and one I’d expect answered pretty fast.
2 – Is $90 million over 8-9 years guaranteed? The UFC is hot right now and Fox is aggressive but what happens if this whole things blows up in a few years? This is television and nothing in television can be guaranteed. Expecting the entire landscape to remain the same for 8-9 years is fairly unrealistic when it comes to television. Will Fox be locked into the deal if the UFC isn’t this hot in 5 years?
3 – Who will produce live events? Like the announcers, the UFC prefers to control all aspects of event production. But for $90 million a year, I have to think that Fox would prefer to have the final say in production. Again, it is Fox not MLB or the NFL producing their respective sporting broadcasts. Will Fox run the show? How different will the shows appear on television? Will they understand the finer aspects of the events considering that to the masses, MMA as an entity is still in its infancy? The UFC could look a heck of a lot different for better or worse if Fox takes over production duties on live broadcasts.
4 – Will marquee fighters fight on Fox UFC specials? This is a very important question. If Fox expects to make a big splash with the UFC on the Fox network, will they settle for a Chris Lytle vs. Dan Hardy main-event? The UFC make their money on pay per views, so how in the world will they come to terms with sacrificing a Brock Lesnar fight on Fox as opposed to cashing in on pay per view? Fox is used to bringing sports fans the best whether it is Cliff Lee pitching or Peyton Manning throwing. What kind of star value are they expecting and what kind of star power will they get on those live specials?
5 – Has the UFC peaked? I love the UFC but let’s call a spade a spade here. The ratings were way down for The Ultimate Fighter and this summer’s pay per view numbers have not been good. On top of that you recently had a UFC 133 live event with the lowest advance of any big show since 2007. What happens if the UFC has peaked? Will a ratings disaster or an early termination of the deal altogether set the sport back another decade?
6 – What will the barometer be for The Ultimate Fighter? If you ask me, the show has peaked. There aren’t that many unsigned gems out there anymore trying out for the UFC via television show. Most of those guys are fighting in either Bellator, BAMMA, or touring the country picking spot independent events. The ratings for last season were a big disappointment and that was with Brock Lesnar on a network branded for guys. If TUF delivers those ratings on FX, this relationship could sour fast. Will TUF be given a fair amount of time to catch on with a new demographic and build on the network or will FX scrutinize it the same as any other new show on the network?
7 – What about Strikeforce? Showtime is still a player and Showtime still has Strikeforce under contract for a couple of more years. Will the UFC air Strikeforce tapes on Fuel or FX? What happens if someone gets hot in Strikeforce and the UFC is struggling on Fox? What kind of priority will Strikeforce be with Zuffa in the coming year?
8 – Will there be cross promotion? This could be a great deal for the UFC if they get the right amount of cross promotion. I don’t see why they wouldn’t other than petty wars in the executive Fox boardrooms? The NFL and the UFC are a natural pair. But what about the rest of Fox? Are we going to start seeing UFC fighters on American Idol? Will Rashad Evans be styling on the dance floor on So You Think You Can Dance? Will Rich Franklin join a panel on Hannity to discuss education? What is the commitment and how far will it go on both sides?
10 – What happens in four years when all of the UFC superstars are retired? A troubling side to the growth of the UFC has been in its inability to create new stars. Jon Jones is a born star and here to stay for many years, but who else? Brock Lesnar is a big question mark with his health and age. Anderson Silva is winding down. Georges St-Pierre is good for another four years, but is he really going to hang around that much longer past his prime? What will the UFC look like on Fox in 2017 with only a handful of draws? What is the commitment from both Fox and the UFC to work now on creating stars for later?
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