ESPN is stepping into the UFC arena, announcing Tuesday a multi-year deal to distribute live UFC cards on its ESPN+ subscription digital service.
The agreement – the first between the two companies – calls foe ESPN+ to distribute 15 live UFC events over the course of the deal beginning in 2019, according to representatives of both parties. The events will be branded UFC on ESPN+ Fight Night.
The deal is a major acquisition for the upstart ESPN+ service, which is looking to compete in a crowded sports direct-to-consumer marketplace that includes recent entries from CBS Sports and Turner Sports.
“UFC is a premiere sports property with legions of incredibly avid fans,” said ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro in a statement. "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.”
For UFC, the deal adds a new television partner as its current television deal with Fox Sports expires later this year. “I couldn't be more excited to partner with The Walt Disney Company and ESPN on an,l agreement that will continue to grow our sport,” UFC president Dana White said in a statement. "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.”
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R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.