Starting in 2019, ESPN will be your home for all things UFC, according to a new report in Variety.
The UFC is leaving it’s current home, and first major network deal, after seven years. According to a report in Variety, the promotion has signed an exclusive broadcast deal with sports giant ESPN. That consolidates the bulk of the UFC’s programming outside of PPV events in the years to come, as the promotion previously announced a multi-year deal featuring 15 events to be streaming on ESPN+, the network’s online streaming service.
The broadcast deal, lasting five years, adds an additional 15 events for ESPN, to be broadcast across its linear networks. The UFC has yet to officially announce the partnership, but in signing with the network, have moved their content to the world leader in sports programming. ESPN has deals in place with every major sporting property save the NHL.
The move comes as FOX, the UFC’s current home, circles a TV deal with the WWE. The UFC debuted on FOX in 2011, jumping from Spike TV to the broadcast network in a move that at the time was heralded as a major coup for the MMA promotion. And while the deal certainly gave the UFC added exposure, ratings have been in decline the past several years, with stars like Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor nowhere to be found. The highest rated UFC on FOX show remains its debut on the network, which featured Junior dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez. The broadcast peaked at nearly 9 million viewers.
Though terms of the new deal have yet to be released, it appears that, with the prior streaming deal included, the UFC will pull in roughly $300 million per year from ESPN. While that’s an impressive increase from its current deal with FOX, it’s considerably less than the reported $450 million annually parent company WME-IMG was seeking.