Published August 16, 2011
UFC's deal with Fox marks the promotion's first consistent airtime on a broadcast net
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. UFC also has become more mainstream, with almost all states now sanctioning the sport, although New York remains a notable holdout. Both the Versus and Spike TV deals with UFC expire at the end of the year. UFC has long looked to get a broadcast TV deal for its content. Sources said UFC had been negotiating with Comcast/NBC for several months in a deal that would have included NBC and Versus and would have seen G4 rebranded as a UFC channel, but those talks recently broke down. The UFC's talks with Viacom-owned Spike ended before that. Sources said Spike ultimately passed over concern that its UFC shoulder programming stopped growing. Shows like "Unleashed," "Knockouts" and "Countdown" averaged 1 million viewers in '05. This year, they are averaging 492,000. Spike holds the rights to UFC library programming through '12, including old fights and shoulder programming such as "UFC Unleashed." UFC's Sunday night event in Milwaukee on Versus also drew 766,000 viewers from 9:00-11:09pm ET, marking the net's most-viewed program for the week ending August 14. That figure is up 3% from 744,000 viewers for the last UFC event on Versus on June 26.