As expected, ESPN, the leading sports network in the U.S., will officially be partnering with the UFC to broadcast Octagon action in the U.K. and Ireland starting on August 3rd. They will immediately follow that up by airing UFC 101 live on August 8th.
Although no specifics regarding the partnership were disclosed, ESPN issued an announcement Thursday afternoon stating they would now be the UFC’s new carrier in the U.K. and Ireland, following the demise of its former partner Setanta Sports.
“ESPN’s aim is to serve UK and Ireland sports fans by bringing the very best of both domestic and international live sport to their living rooms. We are delighted to add UFC, TOP 14 ORANGE, the leading French Rugby Championship, the Australia Football League, EuroBasket and DTM to our growing portfolio of live sport,” said Jeroen Oerlemans, ESPN’s vice president, TV Channels Europe, Middle East and Africa.
UFC U.K. division president Marshall Zelaznik added, “We are ecstatic to announce that ESPN is the new home of the UFC in the UK and Ireland. ESPN is one of the most trusted and respected brands in all of sports broadcasting, and we are thrilled to be working with them as they launch their new channel in the UK and Ireland.”
The agreement may have ESPN airing all live UFC events, including UFC Fight Night shows, and UFC Unleashed every Thursday night. Also, it’s believed that ESPN will launch on the Sky and Virgin platforms for free for the first month, when both UFC 101 and UFC 102 will air.
According to Sky, ESPN will then be making it available via subscription to Sky Sports customers for £9 (roughly $15 U.S.)/month, and for £12 (roughly $20 U.S.)/month for viewers without Sky Sports.
The UFC and Setanta joined forces back in January 2008. The partnership helped propel the UFC overseas and into a variety European markets. It was rumored they were losing around $3Mill/month before they went belly-up.