Beginning in January 2019, ESPN will become the new home for Ultimate Fighting Championship content. And there will be plenty of it.
The deal was confirmed today by both ESPN and the UFC to be of the five-year variety to the tune of $1.5 billion dollars and will include non exclusive rights to the promotions full fight library. UFC Fight Pass will still celebrate their full fight library as well along with live streams of non UFC combat sporting events as they have in the past.
In addition to the 15 events that were already announced to air on ESPN+, 5 more shows have been confirmed for the OTT service along with 10 being slated to air on ESPN’s family of television networks. The promotion will also continue to offer 12 PPV’s a year with ESPN carrying preliminary bouts for each event. That adds to 42 events in all beginning in 2019 when UFC’s FOX deal expires and their ESPN deal begins. By comparison, they have run 40 events on average over the past 5 completed years.
— Dana White (@danawhite) May 23, 2018
Here is the press release on the new agreement via ESPN:
UFC, the world’s premier mixed martial arts organization, and The Walt Disney Company’s new Direct-To-Consumer and International segment along with ESPN, today announced the full scope of the historic multi-year agreement that makes ESPN-branded media platforms the exclusive digital and television home of the UFC in the United States, further expanding streaming rights to UFC on ESPN+ and building upon the agreement revealed earlier this month.
Starting in January 2019, ESPN+ and ESPN become the exclusive digital and linear distributors in the United States for UFC, showcasing 42 live events, 30 of which will feature a full card of 12 UFC bouts. ESPN linear networks will broadcast 10 exclusive events as well as all UFC pay-per-view preliminary fights, while ESPN+, the recently-launched multi-sport, direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service, will offer 20 exclusive events and all preliminary fights for “UFC on ESPN Fight Night” programs. Events broadcast on ESPN will be branded “UFC on ESPN Fight Night,” while events streamed live on ESPN+ will carry the “UFC on ESPN+ Fight Night” moniker. With this agreement, the only destination where fans can watch all UFC programming is the ESPN app, and in the future, the full breadth of content will be available on ESPN+.
Jimmy Pitaro, ESPN President and Co-Chairman, Disney Media Networks said, “ESPN’s unparalleled multimedia platform is the perfect home for the UFC and will deliver tremendous value to both parties. UFC fans are passionate and loyal and we plan to bring the full power of ESPN’s live coverage, powerful storytelling and unmatched distribution to serve them in an unprecedented fashion. We can’t wait to get started.”
Added Kevin Mayer, Chairman, Direct-To-Consumer and International, The Walt Disney Company, “The expansion of our relationship with UFC is an exciting development for fight fans. Delivering 20 exclusive UFC fight nights per year and a host of original content to UFC’s young, passionate and tech-savvy fan base, makes ESPN+ the clear new digital home for UFC and further establishes our new service as the leading platform for direct-to-consumer sports streaming.”
Dana White, President, UFC said, “Every year for the last 18 years, we have taken this sport and brand to another level. We find innovative ways to promote our athletes and build stars. Today is another monumental day for UFC, our athletes, and our fans. We are now part of the ESPN family, recognized around the world as the pinnacle in sports broadcasting. I am very excited for this next chapter for UFC.” With more than 280 million fans around the world, UFC boasts the youngest fan base among major professional sports organizations in the US with a median age of 40 and an audience comprising 40% millennials.
ESPN+ is available for fans to subscribe to for $4.99 a month or $49.99 a year. Dana White’s Contender Series will move from Fight Pass to ESPN+ beginning next summer. The streaming service will also provide access to countdown shows, press conferences, weigh-ins and everything else that you used to see on FS1 during the FOX deal with the addition of a new all-access series that will be produced by IMG.
UFC President Dana White had the following to say about the new deal via ESPN’s Brett Okamoto:
Per Dana White, UFC will maintain control of its production of live events on ESPN. “The fans are happy with the way our show is presented, and the networks are too, which is why we get these deals done. Our production is incredible, we do an amazing job and we’ll continue to.”
— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) May 23, 2018
Dana White, when asked how this ESPN deal will benefit UFC fighters: “ESPN has shown its commitment to not only UFC, but MMA. The amount of promotion our athletes are going to get now, and what ESPN is doing with this new platform, it’s going to be very big for the fighters.”
— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) May 23, 2018
We’ll have plenty more info on this new historic deal and how it’s changed the landscape for combat sports in the coming weeks and months leading all the way up to the UFC’s debut on ESPN early next year.