The long-rumored distribution deal between Home Box Office and Ultimate Fighting Championship has been KO’d.
The premium service said it will not air live UFC combat sports eventson its network in the near future, ending more than a year of negotiations.
“After lots of discussion it became apparent that the business model doesn’t make sense for either one of us. So we agreed to go our separate ways,” said HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg in a statement. “You never know what the future holds. We have enormous respect and admiration for the executives we dealt with at the UFC. We wish them well.”
HBO has been in talks with UFC about carrying live UFC events on the 28-million subscriber pay service, but sources close to both sides said the discussions had heated up over the past two months. In fact, UFC President Dana White was quoted in the Miami Herald this past August guaranteeing a HBO/UFC deal by the end of 2007, saying that it would “definitely be in place for a winter fight.”
Representatives for the UFC could not be reached for comment at press time.
The HBO/UFC breakdown could bode well for Spike TV, which is hoping to extend its deal with the UFC — which includes the popular reality series The Ultimate Fighter — before it expires sometime next year.
The network’s Sept. 8 airing of the UFC 75 event featuring UFC light-heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson drew 4.7 million viewers, the most watched UFC event ever in North America and the most-watched non-World Wrestling Entertainment show in Spike's history, according to the network.
Spike officials said the network is “optimistic” it can reach an accord with the combat sports outfit.
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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.