SBD/November 11, 2011/Media

UFC's Dana White Happy With Fox Promotion, Timeslot For Network Premiere

Fuel will devote about 25% of schedule in '12 to UFC, broadcasting over 2,000 hours
UFC President Dana White said that he “was happy with the time slot and promotion” of the organization’s debut on Fox, and noted that “complaints about only one fight airing on Saturday night should be muted by promise of the future exposure on multiple platforms,” according to Mike Chiappetta of MMA FIGHTING. Fox Sports and  UFC Wednesday revealed that Fuel “will broadcast over 2,000 hours of UFC programming in 2012, devoting about 25 percent of their entire schedule to all things octagon.” In addition, every UFC fight starting in January that takes place “anywhere around the world will be televised.” In the recent past, most undercard fights “have only been available online on Facebook.com.” The UFC “plans to broadcast most live preliminaries on Fuel before the main card begins on pay-per-view, Fox or FX, depending on the specific event.” Under the terms of their deal, Fox next year “will broadcast four events while FX will host six.” Fuel is currently available “in just over 32 million households, less than a third the number of households that can watch FX.” Fox Sports Media Group Chair David Hill said that while Fuel's target demographic “would change slightly with the explosion of UFC programming, it would maintain its current name” (MMAFIGHTING.com, 11/9). Hill said that he was “not worried about any sort of backlash from those who may see UFC as ‘too violent.’” Hill: "If you look at the popularity of the sport, and its dramatic growth not only here but around the world, I think it’s moved from a niche to a mainstream. I don’t expect any backlash at all.” BROADCASTING & CABLE’s Tim Baysinger noted Fox decided to air the pre- and post-fight coverage on Fuel instead of FX. Fox Media Group co-President & co-COO Eric Shank said it is “a way to raise awareness for Fuel” (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 11/9).

VIEWER BEWARE? DAILY VARIETY’s Maury Brown wrote if there are “still concerns about the violent nature of MMA coming to broadcast television, Fox and UFC played it down.” When asked if any parental discretion advisory warnings might be presented, Hill joked, "Yes. We'll tell viewers to not try this at home" (VARIETY.com, 11/10). USA TODAY’s Michael McCarthy notes the ratings for Saturday’s primetime telecast “should be a good indicator of the UFC’s potential as a big-league TV sport and how far mixed martial arts has come in supplanting boxing.” Hill said, “What boxing was to my generation, UFC is to my son’s. By the end of (Fox’s seven-year contract), UFC will be mainstream” (USA TODAY, 11/11). In L.A., Tim Hoffarth writes UFC’s recent track record “appears to give Fox a fighting chance for a lucrative partnership, but watch for the warning signs.” Hoffarth: “This could break badly for Fox. There are such things as bad money to be made. Or, in this case, blood money” (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 11/11).

GREAT EXPECTATIONS: Fox Sports Senior VP/Programming & Research Mike Mulvihill Thursday at SBJ/SBD's Sports Media & Technology conference said, “You’re going to see UFC right out of the gate do a number that is not just competitive with, but better than what you’ve seen from boxing on television over the last five or 10 years. ... Our expectation is that this will be the most-watched fight of any kind in more than five years. Obviously, the platform has a lot to do with that, but it’s the track record of the sport on cable that gives us the confidence to bring it to this bigger platform. I don’t know that we could have done more to promote UFC within the World Series and the NFL. We’re trying to send a message to people that we consider this a mainstream sport. Even if people don’t see it as a mainstream today, we want to use our partnerships with the biggest and most mainstream sports out there to try to establish UFC as something that’s going to be part of our catalogue for a long time to come. Whatever the audience level is, our expectation is that it’s going to be very, very young -- maybe the youngest sport on our air -- and we think there’s a lot of room to grow that demographic” (THE DAILY)

GOING MAINSTREAM
: YAHOO SPORTS’ Dan Wetzel wrote Saturday will be “a momentous occasion” and is the latest of White’s “coming-out parties” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/10). White said there are “millions of people out there that have never seen the UFC that will see it for the first time on Saturday night and I think that the timing is perfect. All the things that we’ve achieved over the last 10 years, it’s time for us to take this next step.” White: “Ten years ago you couldn’t buy this on pay-per-view … and our goal was to get it onto free TV.” White added, “We’ve seen the opportunity to go mainstream now. With this platform, what we do over the next two years, then we’ll be mainstream. We need a couple years on network television.” Meanwhile, White said, “It’s a Fox Sports production, but it’s a UFC event. … When you watch this show, you’re going to feel like you’re watching Fox Sports, but the minute that action starts it’s the UFC.” When asked if UFC is “taking a hit financially to do it on free TV,” White said, “We’re going to get smashed on Saturday. … We’re taking our heavyweight championship off of pay-per-view and putting it on free TV. That’s not a big moneymaker, but what we’re doing is we’re investing in the future of the sport which is something that boxing hasn’t done” (“Jim Rome Is Burning,” ESPN2, 11/10).

NO REGRETS HERE: MMA JUNKIE’s John Morgan noted as “one era begins with the Fox family of networks, another will slowly come to an end as UFC programming is eventually replaced with Bellator Fighting Championships events on Spike TV.” White said, "I'm not saying anything bad about Spike. The guys at Spike didn't make this decision. One of the geniuses further up let the biggest sports franchise in the last 50 years go. And now they're bitter at me about it? I didn't make that decision. They did.” He added, "I think the reality is they never saw this Fox thing coming. They didn't expect that. But I've got nothing bad to say about either (Bellator or Spike TV)" (MMAJUNKIWE.com, 11/9).
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