The UFC’s new owners, WME-IMG, are hoping to generate triple the amount of cash per year than they do presently when the US broadcast rights are up for grabs in 2018.
A report from the Sports Business Journal estimates $450 million per year is what the new owners are aiming for, which if achieved, would be more than triple the $115 million a year they’re currently generating from their deal with Fox Sports.
While any new deal wouldn’t kick in until 2018, negotiations are reportedly due to begin next year, and the UFC hopes to lock in a multi-platform deal that will last a decade.
Why the promotion could potentially ask for such a massive hike in the new TV deal comes down to current consumer habits, where recording your favourite shows and skipping past the ad breaks is fast becoming the new norm. And complete abandonment of a satellite or cable service in favour of an over the top subscription model with networks like Netflix and Amazon Prime is on the rise.
Live sports are still a form of programming that for the most part consumers want to watch live and not after the event. With the NFL, NBA and NHL tied into deals that will not become available until the early 2020’s, the UFC is the first sports entity that will be up for grabs as we head into a new era of TV programming.
Following WME-IMG’s acquisition of the UFC for $4 billion in the summer, this will mark the first opportunity to strike a deal which could potentially wipe that investment figure clean off the slate.
Potential suitors for the UFC include ESPN, Turner Network, NBC Sports Group and, of course, current partners Fox Sports. Regardless of who obtains the rights one of the interesting notes from the SBJ article is the fact the UFC may be about to let go of it’s controls on production for events and it’s related costs under a new deal.
This would mean potential new TV partners will most likely have their unique fingerprint on how events look and feel, which has the potentially to offer a significant change. One of the criticisms of current UFC event programming is that it all looks the same.
Giving a ‘Fight Night’, ‘UFC Fight Pass’ and ‘Pay-Per-View’ events a distinctly different look aside from just graphics and music might just be what the doctor ordered for an annual schedule that will almost certainly still include 40+ events.