ESPN Wrestles UFC TV Package From Fox Sports

ESPN scored a major sports rights knockout by securing exclusive rights to live UFC mixed martial arts events currently held by Fox Sports.

The reported $300 million per-year deal provides ESPN with 42 live UFC events beginning in January 2019, with ESPN’s linear networks airing 10 exclusive events as well as all UFC pay-per-view preliminary fights, according to the network.

The deal is in addition to ESPN’s UFC deal with ESPN+ announced last month. The $4.99 per month direct-to-consumer service will offer 20 exclusive UFC events and all preliminary fights from the UFC on ESPN Fight Night shows.

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“ESPN’s unparalleled multimedia platform is the perfect home for the UFC and will deliver tremendous value to both parties," said Jimmy Pitaro, ESPN president and co-chairman, Disney Media Networks. "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.”

The deal officially ends Fox Sports’ unprecedented deal with the UFC, which brought the mixed martial arts franchise to basic and broadcast network for the first time. Live UFC programming on FS1 generated huge ratings for the national sports service over the life of the deal.

UFC president Dana White said in a statement: “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.” 

R. Thomas Umstead

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.