The UFC may have reportedly found a new television home for its hours of programming. A report in Sports Business Daily suggests that the UFC and Fox have come together on a deal which would place the UFC on Fox for eight years.
The news certainly substantiates rumors of a UFC and Fox deal that appeared previously on the Underground MMA forum. The deal will reportedly put $90 million a year in the UFC’s pockets for the next seven-eight years. In exchange, the UFC will offer programming on Fox’s FX and Fuel cable channels.
A report in the USA Today indicate that Spike TV decided to pass on a new deal after several programs peaked in the ratings. According to the report, it was the shoulder programming that caused concern for Spike TV. UFC programs like Unleashed and Countdown are averaging 492,000, less than half of where they were in 2005.
The UFC would air up to four live specials per year as part of the new deal with Fox. One of the criticisms within Spike that I have read in several places is that Spike was unhappy with the lack of star power on live specials. In UFC’s defense, they did have Tito Ortiz scheduled for a recent special until Ortiz canceled due to injury. It will be interesting to see if the UFC steps up the star power on Fox with early specials.
The big winner here could be Bellator. Currently airing on MTV 2, there have been reports for months of negotiations between Spike TV and Bellator. It is expected that Bellator would move over to Spike once the UFC and Spike finish all of their commitments. The move could mark the first time that the UFC has serious competition in the marketplace. It could also potentially open up a much needed avenue of negotiation leverage for MMA fighters. With Zuffa owning Strikeforce, fighters have lost practically all leverage for negotiating with the UFC due to the current landscape. That could change and we may see some bidding wars in 2012 between both companies for big stars.
At the end of the day this could be considered a win for the UFC. Dave Meltzer reports that FX has nearly double the average rating of progamming on Spike TV. I do question whether they have enough strong programming to give the UFC good lead-ins prior to broadcasts. It hardly compares to the potential of an NBC Sports deal or the status of having your own network.
Yet you can’t complain about $90 million a year over 8-9 years.
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