The end of the UFC’s current broadcasting deal with Fox is rapidly approaching. As the end of this partnership draws closer, the promotion is scrambling to hash out a new arrangement with respect to its broadcast rights.
According to a report from Variety this week, ESPN and Fox are in talks to share the UFC broadcasting rights.
Here are the pertinent details, per the Variety report:
Variety has learned that the two companies have recently proposed to split the UFC TV package in a move that would bring as many as 15 fight events to new subscription streaming service ESPN+.
According to sources with knowledge of the proposal, ESPN has signaled that it would be willing to pay $120-180 million per year to add the Endeavor-owned mixed martial arts league to its collection of live-event rights.
Fox, which currently pays $120 million per year UFC rights, would be willing see that number increase to a little more than $200 million. Fox’s current package includes four Saturday-night fights per year on Fox Broadcasting and a number of fight events on cabler Fox Sports 1 that has increased annually under its current agreement. A joint bid with ESPN would see Fox’s total number of events decline slightly.
As of now, neither FOX nor ESPN has commented on the deal. Even when pressed about the rumored deal at the Sports Business Journal World Conference of Sports, Fox Sports CEO Eric Shanks refused to comment.
— Joe Favorito (@joefav) April 17, 2018
“We love the UFC, but we aren’t going to comment on the rumors today,” Shanks said, per Joe Favorito on Twitter.
Rather unsurprisingly, Variety’s report seems to have created more questions than it answered. Many members of the MMA community have piped up on Twitter, wondering what this could mean for the way we consume the UFC in the future.
My initial reaction to the Variety report on the ESPN/FOX split on TV rights:
1. Lots of important details still missing. Exercise caution.
2. What does this mean for Fight Pass?
3. MMA fans have to buy another sub service?
4. What, exactly, is the value of airing on ESPN+?
— Luke Thomas (@lthomasnews) April 17, 2018
The only way this works – ESPN+ adding 15 live UFC events every year to a slightly reduced lineup on Fox networks – is if there are fewer pay-per-views. If not…well, I hope you like watered-down cards.
— Patrick Wyman (@Patrick_Wyman) April 17, 2018
My takeaway: Wait, am I going to have to sign up for another new streaming service when all this dust clears? https://t.co/seQKUGqJq6
— Ben Fowlkes (@benfowlkesMMA) April 17, 2018
Stay tuned for more updates on this situation as they emerge.
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 4/18/2018.