The Deal Is Work $1.5 Billion In Total Over Five Years
Goodbye FOX Sports. Hello ESPN.
The UFC and ESPN have officially announced a partnership that makes “The Worldwide Leader in Sports” the exclusive digital and television home of the UFC beginning January 1st, 2019.
Coming January 2019 pic.twitter.com/wH8vXhIAZG
— UFC (@ufc) May 23, 2018
UFC programming in the U.S. is officially making the move to “The Worldwide Leader in Sports” next year. The five-year deal is reportedly worth $750 million. That deal comes in addition to the recently announced partnership between the UFC and ESPN’s new streaming service, ESPN+, which is also worth a reportedly worth $750 million, bringing the total amount to $1.5 billion over the next five years.
“ESPN’s unparalleled multimedia platform is the perfect home for the UFC and will deliver tremendous value to both parties,” ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said. “UFC fans are passionate and loyal and we plan to bring the full power of ESPN’s live coverage, powerful storytelling and unmatched distribution to serve them in an unprecedented fashion. We can’t wait to get started.”
The UFC-ESPN broadcast deal includes 10 full UFC cards on primary ESPN channels (ESPN, ESPN 2), along with prelims for twelve UFC pay-per-few events. Another 20 fight cards will stream on ESPN+, which brings the total to 30 full events between ESPN’s broadcast and streaming outlets.
UFC programming such as Dana White’s Contender Series, a new all-access series, pre-and-post-fight shows and more are also included in the deal.
UFC President Dana White told ESPN.com’s Brett Okamoto that the UFC will continue to produce the live events.
“The fans are happy with the way our show is presented and the networks are too, which is why we get these deals done,” White said. “Our production is incredible. We do an amazing job and we’ll continue to.”
The UFC has been exclusive to FOX Sports for the past seven years at an average of $100 million per year. Since the deal began in August 2011, 119 UFC cards have aired under FOX, FS1, FS2, FX and the now-defunct FUEL TV.
Before the FOX deal, the UFC was with Spike, which is now Paramount, beginning with Season 1 of the UFC’s reality show “The Ultimate Fighter.” The UFC stayed with from from 2005 until the FOX deal in 2012.
The deal with ESPN is the biggest TV deal in the history of the MMA organization.
“Every year for the last 18 years, we have taken this sport and brand to another level,” White adds. “We find innovative to promote our athletes and build stars. Today is another monumental day for the UFC, our athletes and our fans. We are now part of the ESPN family, recognized around the world as the pinnacle in sports broadcasting. I am very excited for this next chapter in the UFC.”
White also told Okamoto “this is one of, if not the best days of my career.”
The exclusive signing with ESPN comes as a bit of a surprise. Many expected the UFC to sign with many different networks. There were reports of NBC and FOX Sports being interested in signing with the UFC, but it’s now clear the UFC will only be teaming up with ESPN.