Next year is going to be an interesting time for the UFC.
They are seeking a new television deal. Although PPV (pay-per-view) is a top income for the promotion, the increase in TV rights for all sports is what every league is gunning for and the UFC is no different.
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. Just a few months ago, FOX’s exclusive window to negotiate a renewal ended.
The plan that WME-IMG has for the new TV rights deal is to get a major price bump. Since the exclusive window with Fox ended, WME-IMG has been shopping the promotion around to other broadcasters.
The promotion has been under a broadcasting deal with Fox since 2011 in the United States. That financial number has apparently increased over time to around $120 million-a-year, with a planned increase to $160 million in this last year of the deal.
It’s been reported that the promotion is seeking $450 million-a-year in broadcast rights revenue now that their exclusive negotiating period with FOX has ended. As a result of such an increase of money, it sounds like there aren’t many buyers.
Turner Sports has shown the most interest in a UFC deal. The UFC has also had talks with Amazon as well as other digital providers. As of this writing, it appears that the UFC will not be able to get close to their asking price with just one broadcast partner. Thus, they may make their fans find their content over a variety of platforms come 2019.
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.
This leads us to where the UFC should broadcast their programs. At the end of the day, it’s an easy situation to handle. FOX Sports is the right partner for the UFC. The chances of the UFC getting their asking price is not guaranteed and doesn’t appear to be happening. Thus, FOX Sports is the right network to partner for the promotion. FOX Sports 1 & 2 distribute the UFC’s content right now. The majority of their scheduling program is the UFC. With ESPN making massive cutbacks, a traditional TV network signing the UFC other than FOX is not likely.
FOX believed in the UFC when they left Spike several years ago and with Spike having their own MMA promotion, Bellator MMA, keep things the same and build onwards with FOX. If they did go with a streaming service as Amazon, there may be a drop off with their viewership.