In what would represent a major push into the mainstream for the UFC, Fox has agreed to a deal that will see the broadcast channel air as many as four MMA events per year, according to several sources. The multiyear deal would mark the first time the UFC will have consistent airtime on a broadcast network.
Fox execs refused to comment on the deal, but sources with knowledge of the negotiations said bidding had gone as high as $90M per year. The Fox deal is believed to be for seven or eight years. As part of the deal, most of the weekly programming that UFC has on Versus and Spike TV will move to FX starting in January. That includes several fight cards, plus shows like the reality series “The Ultimate Fighter.”
Fox-owned Fuel also will wind up with some UFC content. But rumors that Fox will rebrand Fuel as a UFC channel are not true, sources said. Fox was attracted to UFC programming, which has produced some of the highest viewership figures — and most attractive demos — on Versus and Spike TV…Both the Versus and Spike TV deals with UFC expire at the end of the year.
The report went on to say that the UFC had previously been negotiating with Comcast/NBC for a broadcast deal that would have placed UFC events on NBC and Versus and transformed G4 into the UFC’s official cable channel, but those talks recently broke down.
Also, negotiations with Spike TV are officially kaput. Spike ultimately walked away amid concerns that ratings for its UFC programming were on the decline. (“Shows like ‘Unleashed,’ ‘Knockouts’ and ‘Countdown’ averaged 1 million viewers in ’05. This year, they are averaging 492,000.”) Still, Spike holds the rights to UFC library programming through 2012, and may continue to air content like their “UFC Unleashed” fight-compilation show.
The deal with Fox would be a great leap forward for the UFC, whose two-pronged cable deal with Spike and Versus wasn’t really benefiting any of the parties involved. Plus, The Ultimate Fighter as a lead-in to Rescue Me just sounds badass. We’ll update you when we know more…