What’s the fastest way to recoup $4.2 billion? Try to quadruple your annual media rights when your current contract is up – at least, that’s the mentality of the UFC’s new owners.
In 2011, the UFC landed a watershed deal with FOX to broadcast live events and exclusive programming for seven years at a reported $115 million per annual. With the clock ticking on their current agreement, the UFC’s new ownership group, lead by WME-IMG, seems to believe it’s time for a hefty price increase.
According to Sports Business Daily, the UFC will be seeking $450 million per year for 10 years on their next broadcasting contract. Fox reportedly has an exclusive negotiating window to renew before the UFC hits the open market.
“The package the UFC will take to market will include the rights to four annual broadcast windows that Fox now holds, six annual cable events and weekly programming on Fox Sports 1, plus the UFC’s over-the-top Fight Pass service,” Sports Busniess Daily reported. “It is not expected to include the UFC’s lucrative pay-per-view business, which will likely be retained by WME-IMG. But some media executives believe any winning bidder will have more of a say in what matches will be part of the UFC’s pay-per-view events. Whether a network will share in some of the PPV revenue is a deal point that will be negotiated.”
Fox Sports 1 has become the unofficial home for UFC content. The sports channel, which was launched in 2013 to compete with ESPN, has struggled mightily to capture solid ratings. However, the UFC’s live shows and exclusive programming are consistently atop their leader board.
Speaking of ESPN, the self-proclaimed “worldwide leader in sports” is the obvious choice for the UFC, even if FOX presented them with the exact same offer. There’s no comparison to ESPN when it comes to 24/7 sports coverage, and the UFC is fully aware of this by constantly breaking news on ESPN instead of Fox Sports 1.
However, ESPN is owned by Disney so it might be tough to convince Mickey that the UFC’s violence is worth the pricey gamble.
Turner Sports and NBC Sports Group are also believed to be interested in the UFC to some degree.
This is by far the biggest deal the UFC’s new owners will make in the next decade. The biggest question is if they overvalued their media package, particularly since many of the cards the FOX and Fox Sports 1 cards the UFC hosts throughout each year are watered down.
Then again, who woulda thought the Fertitta brothers and UFC president Dana White (pictured) were gonna get WME-IMG to shell out $4.2 billion for something they paid $2 million for in 2001?
Let the games begin!