ESPN AND UFC MAKE A DEAL. “..gives the UFC a hedge against traditional broadcast television, which is being abandoned by younger viewers in droves..” By Todd Horwitz, Bubba Trading.

 

ESPN, UFC Reach Exclusive Deal

ESPN is taking another big swing at mixed martial arts. The Walt Disney Co. unit has struck a seven-year agreement with Ultimate Fighting Championship for the rights to sell and stream its pay-per-view bouts exclusively on the ESPN+ streaming service, starting in April.

ESPN has broadcast a handful of pay-per-view bouts before, but this represents the first time that the sports network has inked a multifight pay-per-view deal. It is looking to bulk up on programming for ESPN+ as part of Disney’s strategy to build its direct-to-consumer streaming businesses.

“ESPN’s unparalleled multimedia platform is the perfect home for the UFC and will deliver tremendous value to both parties,” ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro said in a statement. “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.”

ESPN+ also will stream preliminary coverage for UFC’s pay-per-view cards, which average about 12 per year. “Every year for the last 18 years, we have taken this sport and brand to another level,” UFC President Dana White said in a statement. “We find innovative ways to promote our athletes and build stars. Today is another monumental day for UFC, our athletes, and our fans.” The unexpected departure from Fox comes nearly two years after Endeavor purchased UFC, known as WME-IMG when it acquired the MMA promotion for $4 billion.

The pay-per-view deal gives the UFC an upfront rights fee for its biggest bouts, allowing the league to forgo the cost of marketing the fights, according to a person familiar with the matter. “You still have to put on must-see fights, but the model gives us a little more comfort in how we plan for the long-term,” said Mark Shapiro, president of Endeavor.

Having its pay-per-view events shown on a streaming service like ESPN+ gives the UFC a hedge against traditional broadcast television, which is being abandoned by younger viewers in droves, said Dana White, the president of UFC. “This cord-cutting thing is real, and it’s scary,” he said. “Streaming is the future.”

Todd “Bubba” Horwitz

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Todd Horwitz - Author of “Average Joe Options“. Todd began his trading career in 1980 at the CBOE. He was one of the original traders in the OEX & helped start the SPX. He is a member the CME where he trades S&P futures as well as foreign currencies & is a regular contributor to CNBC, Bloomberg, BNN, Fox & many other major news networks.