The exclusive negotiating period between the UFC and FOX Sports for a new TV deal has ended, opening the door for new owners WME-IMG to shop the promotion around to other broadcasters.
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
The seven year deal has seen the UFC expand the amount of events per year on free television from 7 in 2010 to 25 in 2017. That surge in events hasn't correlated to an increase in ratings or new viewers. If anything, the move from Spike to FOX networks marked the end of an era for many fans of the UFC, kicked off in 2006 by the lightning in a bottle fight between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar on the season finale of The Ultimate Fighter 1.
The FOX deal was reported to pay out $90 million a year for exclusive broadcast rights to UFC broadcasts. WME-IMG is looking to land the UFC on multiple networks now in the same way the NFL and NBA operate, and are hoping to pull in upwards of $450 million a year from those deals. Potential broadcast partners include traditional premium cable networks like Showtime and internet platforms like Netflix and Twitter.
As a fan, my main hope is for a deal with networks that aren't on the upper tiers of expensive cable packages ... although in a pinch, I'll be satisfied if the channels are offered by my cable company at all. With the amount of money the UFC is looking to bring in, it doesn't look like they plan on turning down the volume of events being produced. Quite the opposite: we could be looking at an increase in the amount of events being offered.
With over 600 fighters on the roster already struggling to gain recognition on the conveyor belt of Fight Night events being rolled out, I'm not sure if more events would be good for the sport. But with yearly pay-per-view revenue continuing to rise off the backs of their superstars and the company selling last year for over $4 billion, it's hard to argue convincingly that the UFC is doing it all wrong.
One thing is for sure: the new TV deals WME-IMG negotiates are going to set the stage for the years to come in the sport. Given their extensive background in the industry as one of the biggest talent agencies in Hollywood, they're certainly positioned to get things right.