News: ESPN Lands Streaming Deal With UFC

UFC has entered into a new multi-year deal with ESPN, which will showcase the sport on ESPN's new direct-to-consumer subscription service. The deal begins in January 2019. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. Endeaver, the group that acquired the UFC in 2016, had been reportedly seeking a deal somewhere around several hundred million each year for broadcast and streaming rights. Fox's deal with UFC ends in December. Streaming rights are increasingly being treated by sports leagues and networks as key complements to broadcast deals, with value downstream as digital customers are acquired.

The deal will include 15 live UFC events that will stream exclusively on ESPN+, ESPN's new streaming service. The deal announcement also promised that the UFC will appear on “a variety of ESPN’s television, social and digital platforms,” in English and Spanish. Each event will be branded “UFC on ESPN+ Fight Night” and will deliver a full card of 12 UFC bouts.

The deal is gives ESPN a major asset for their $5-a-month subscription service, which currently features a selection of Major League Baseball and National Hockey League games, plus other sports. The UFC continues to be a major draw with young males.

Kevin Mayer, Chairman, Direct to Consumer and International, The Walt Disney Company said: “One of our goals for ESPN+ is to bring sports fans of all genres content they love and are passionate about, and this agreement with UFC is illustrative of exactly that. We look forward to providing UFC’s enthusiastic, growing fan base with a wide array of live events and building a lasting relationship with the industry leader in mixed martial arts.”

Jimmy Pitaro, ESPN President and Co-Chairman, Disney Media Networks said: “UFC is a premier global sports property with legions of incredibly avid fans. We are excited to be able to bring their world-class events and content to ESPN+ and the ESPN networks. This agreement shows the commitment we have to delivering fans the very best across our entire platform.”

Dana White, UFC President said: “I couldn’t be more excited to partner with The Walt Disney Company and ESPN on an agreement that will continue to grow our sport. UFC has always done deals with the right partners at the right time and this one is no exception. We will now have the ability to deliver fights to our young fan base wherever they are and whenever they want it. This deal is a home run for ESPN and UFC.”

In addition to live, exclusive events, the lineup of UFC content available to ESPN+ subscribers will include new seasons of Dana White’s Contender Series; a new original, all-access series produced by IMG Original Content; archive programming and UFC content like “countdown” shows, weigh-ins, etc.

ESPN will also bring fans a variety of UFC content across ESPN’s widely consumed linear and digital platforms, including an exclusive, 30-minute special on ESPN’s linear networks previewing upcoming bouts and breaking down match ups leading up to each UFC PPV; hundreds of hours of UFC library programming on linear networks; and re-airs of current UFC PPV events.

Fans will be able to purchase and watch UFC Fight Pass, the circuit’s own direct-to-consumer streaming offering and pay-per-view events via ESPN+ for a separate fee.