The Ultimate Fighting Championship mixed martial arts outfit has reached a distribution deal with Fox Sports that would put live events on the Fox broadcasting network, according to sources familiar with the situation.
The multi-year deal, worth approximately $90 million annually, would have Fox broadcasting airing as many as four UFC-based events per year, giving the MMA organization its first major broadcast television outlet.
An official announcement could come later this week. According to sources a press conference will be held in Los Angeles on Thursday.
The deal was first reported by Sports Business Daily
Also as part of the agreement, UFC content on Comcast's national cable sports network Versus, which will become the NBC Sports Network on Jan. 2, and male-targeted basic service Spike TV -- including that network's UFC Unleashed highlight show and The Ultimate Fighter reality series -- would migrate to Fox Network's FX and Fuel, according to sources. UFC's content deals with both Versus and Spike expire at the end of 2011.
Spike in September will launch the 14th season of The Ultimate Fighter, through which amateur MMA fighters compete for a grand prize of a UFC contract. The 13th season of The Ultimate Fighter drew 1.6 million viewers - the second-lowest in franchise history.
A UFC official would not comment on the matter; neither would Spike executives. Fox Sports and Versus executives could not be reached for comment by presstime.
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.
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