SBD/November 4, 2011/Media

UFC's Seven-Year Deal With Fox Starts Nov. 12 With Fight In Anaheim

Cain Velasquez will fight Junior dos Santos in UFC's first event to air on Fox
UFC will take its "broadest step yet toward the mainstream" on Nov. 12 when the fight card held at the Honda Center in Anaheim is "broadcast live on Fox, the first event in a seven-year deal with the network," according to Jon Wertheim of SI. This marks a "significant milestone" for UFC as the Fox deal is the "biggest opportunity to move away from the PPV model and truly grow the audience, allay the skeptics and showcase fighters who are skilled athletes and, overwhelmingly, decent and upright citizens." The overnight ratings "will tell us plenty about the UFC's place in the current sports hierarchy" (SI, 11/7 issue). Fox Sports Media Group co-President & co-COO Eric Shanks said for the net's debut fight between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos, Fox needs "to remember to respect the audience by remembering that we're introducing this to America." USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes UFC itself "will do most of the introducing, since it maintains control of the fight coverage and will use announcers Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan." But Fox "will control the pre- and post-fight shows," where it will use Curt Menefee as host and former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar and UFC President Dana White as analysts. Prefight coverage of the event "will be on Fox's Fuel TV cable channel" (USA TODAY, 11/4).

CONVERTING VIEWERS TO FANS: USA TODAY's Sergio Non reports UFC parent company Zuffa will "start its biggest marketing effort yet next week when it arrives on the Fox network." Zuffa officials have said that the company "will be giving up a significant amount of revenue by putting a title fight on free TV, but all they hope to do is turn a small percentage of new viewers into pay-per-view adherents." Zuffa CEO Lorenzo Fertitta: "We look at Fox. They're, in our opinion, the No. 1 leader in sports. They broadcast the Super Bowl, Major League Baseball, World Series, serious NCAA football. I think the way that they produce those shows, they're a little bit edgier of a network. ... They just seem to be a little bit more attuned to males and young males, which obviously is our demographic." Fertitta continued, "Our model has been very successful for us, as far as putting our product on free TV to generate new fans, and that's the way we look at it. I'm not concerned about what our bottom line looks like in November; I'm concerned about what it looks like five years from now." He noted the idea behind the Nov. 12 broadcast is to "draw millions of more fans into the group." Fertitta: " If I can convert 100,000 of those millions that will be watching for the first time into customers for the next 20 years, then our investment on Fox has paid off" (USATODAY.com, 11/3).

SPIKED OFF: In Detroit, Matt Bishop reports Spike "didn't even bother to advertise this weekend's UFC 138, which airs on Spike on tape delay from Birmingham, England, during this week's edition of ‘The Ultimate Fighter.’” UFC also has “removed all mentions of Spike from its website.” There is “zero mention that this weekend's event, headlined by the first five-round non-title bout in company history between Chris Leben and Mark Munoz, will even air on Spike if you just went by the UFC's website.” The show “has been so poorly promoted by both sides, and largely overlooked and forgotten by fans, that it has the chance to become the least-watched live special ever put on by the UFC and Spike, especially considering it will go head-to-head with the LSU-Alabama football game and is starting at 8 p.m., an hour earlier than usual” (DETROIT NEWS, 11/4). The net did air a promo for the card Thursday night during its broadcast of "Impact Wrestling" (THE DAILY).

THE NEW HIRE: In Boston, Chad Finn notes Jon Anik was hired last week by UFC "as the voice and face of its Fuel TV and FX broadcasts." Anik, who had hosted ESPN's "MMA Live" studio show since '08, "will handle play-by-play of the networks' UFC fights while also hosting 'The Ultimate Fighter' reality show." Anik will call his first fight on Jan. 20. He said, "There’s some pressure. If Dana White doesn’t like how I sound calling his events, then they’re not going to keep me around. But when opportunities present themselves, you have to take them" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/4).
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