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UFC expands TV reach to China and Mexico

The UFC has signed its first television distribution deals in China and Mexico, pushing its international distribution to 295 million households, an increase of roughly 40 percent over the last year.

In China, programming will be available to 80 million homes on Inner Mongolia Television, a conglomeration of terrestrial networks. UFC programming in Mexico will run on Televisa’s cable and satellite channel named Televisa Deportes Network, a new national sports network that launches next month in 6 million homes.

Each outlet will air a mix of live and taped UFC fights and programming under licensing deals similar to those signed in markets without mature pay-per-view outlets. The UFC hopes to launch in Mexico by offering its UFC 100 pay-per-view event on one of Televisa’s free-to-air networks.

“The pay-per-view in a lot of these markets is not developed enough to justify being on pay-per-view,” said Lorenzo Fertitta, UFC chairman and CEO. “The strategy now is more brand building. We’d rather go out and get a license fee and expose the product to as many people as we can and, over time as big fights come up, move to a pay-per-view platform.”

UFC officials said international television income has increased at a compounded annual rate of 58 percent from 2006 to 2008. Since January, the circuit also has added or expanded international TV deals in markets like Brazil, Germany, Portugal, Switzerland and Denmark to reach an additional 130 million households.

All international television negotiations are handled out of the UFC’s offices in London, spearheaded by Fertitta, who is based in Las Vegas. Fertitta moved from a leadership role at his family-owned Station Casinos in June 2008 to focus on the UFC’s international growth.

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