We all knew that this time would come and now it’s here.
The UFC is looking to get some huge money in TV rights for their programming when their contract with FOX Sports ends. When Zuffa sold the UFC to WME-IMG last year for $4 billion, one of the main talking points in the aftermath was what kind of money they could get when their seven-year contract with FOX Sports ends in 2018. Currently, FOX pays $90 million annually for the UFC’s content and had an exclusive window to negotiate a renewal. Now that window has ended.
The plan that WME-IMG has for the new TV rights deal is to get a major price bump with the UFC seeking $450 million per year for ten years for their TV rights. With their exclusive negotiating period over with FOX, WME-IMG can now shop the promotion around to other broadcasters.
The UFC handles production of its shows, including all of the costs of production, but the new deal may shift that burden onto the new partners, increasing profits for the UFC. It should be noted that in the past UFC President Dana White and Zuffa was very firm on their stance regarding controlling production.
If FOX loses the rights to the UFC, then it would lose one of the cornerstones of its programming and the best ratings earner for FS1. Other than UFC, NASCAR and college sports pull in the best ratings for the network.
The deal between the UFC and FOX has increased the amount of events per year on free television from 7 in 2010 to 25 in 2017. The belief was that more events meant more money, exposure, and higher ratings. However, that has not necessarily been the case. Many fans believe that from Spike to FOX networks marked the end of an era of the UFC.
WME-IMG is looking to land the UFC on multiple networks now in the same way the NFL and NBA operate. If they are able to pull it off, then they are hoping to pull in upwards of $450 million a year from those deals. ESPN, Turner Sports, and NBC Sports Group are all likely to throw their hats in the bidding ring. You also have to consider traditional premium cable networks like Showtime and internet platforms like Netflix and Twitter.
At the end of the day, the new TV deals that WME-IMG negotiates are going to set the stage for years to come in the sport. It’s going to be one of the biggest stories of 2018, to say the least.
The exclusive negotiating period between the UFC and FOX has ended. The UFC can now field offers from any and all bidders on TV rights.
— Damon Martin (@DamonMartin) October 3, 2017