It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the UFC would see the end of their 7-year deal with FOX as a major money making opportunity. The network, and its offshoots (alongside Fight Pass), has been the sole broadcaster of non-PPV events for the UFC since 2011 in the United States.
That has meant showing an average of around 20 events per year on various FOX channels, with a price tag that started in the neighborhood of $90 million-a-year. That number has apparently increased over time to around $120 million-a-year, with a planned increase to $160 million in this last year of the deal.
No matter how you slice it, however, that leaves the UFC looking for a substantial jump in revenue, as Sports Business Daily (SBD) reports the promotion is seeking $450 million-a-year in broadcast rights revenue now that their exclusive negotiating period with FOX has ended. And so far, with a price tag like that, it sounds like there aren’t many buyers.
Apparently FOX had looked to make a new deal with the UFC for somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 million-a-year, before the negotiating window ended. Since then, WME-IMG has reportedly met with multiple networks, to pitch their strength as a growing sports-entertainment property. SBD reports that Turner Sports has shown the most interest in a UFC deal, but a current lawsuit from the Justice Department over a potential merger between AT&T and Time Warner seems to be pouring cold water on their willingness to place a bid at the moment.
Additionally, the UFC has apparently met with Amazon among other digital providers, with some speculating that they may eventually pursue non-exclusive deals that would allow them to get closer to their revenue goal by offering different event packages on different platforms. Of course, there’s still months before the UFC’s broadcast deal officially ends in late 2018. Plenty of time to hammer out something new.
However, at least at the moment, it seems unlikely that the promotion will get close to their proposed asking price, especially not if they plan on only working with one broadcast partner. And that could mean that fans will be searching for their UFC content over a variety of platforms come 2019.
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