UFC in Discussions to Purchase Controlling Interest in G4 Network from Comcast

June 8, 2011
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Several reports have surfaced stating that UFC officials are in talks with Comcast to purchase a controlling interest in the G4 network.

The UFC has long flirted with the idea of starting their own network, but it appears they may be on the cusp of buying one instead.

Reports began surfacing on Wednesday that UFC officials were in talks with Comcast to purchase the G4 network.

Comcast took over NBC Universal in early 2011 with a buyout from GE for $13.8 billion. Since that time, different NBC affiliates have undergone changes under the new ownership and this would be the first major sale since they took over.

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, later confirmed by the New York Times, the UFC is in talks to take over the struggling network, which is currently available in approximately 60 million homes.

The New York Times later reported that UFC officials were seeking to purchase 60 percent or more in a controlling interest of the G4 network.

The UFC has confirmed that they were in talks to secure a new TV deal because their current contract with Spike TV runs out at the end of 2011. While UFC president Dana White recently stated that they’ve had a great relationship with Spike over the years, the organization was open to exploring all options.

“Negotiations are negotiations, doesn’t matter who you’re talking to. I have a lot of respect and a lot of good relationships over at Spike TV, and we’ve been with them for a long time. They built us; we built them. We’ll see how the whole thing goes,” White said in May just after UFC 130 ended.

The negotiations between the UFC and Spike TV have been ongoing for quite a while, but according to sources money is at the heart of the matter as to why the two are not coming together on a new deal. The New York Times additionally reported that the UFC was seeking a $325 million a year fee for the network to continue broadcasting its programming.

Reports are that Comcast officials and UFC officials were meeting on Wednesday to discuss a possible deal.

G4 as a network has taken several hits over the past few years with dwindling numbers in the ratings, although they primarily serve the powerful 18-34-year-old male advertising demographic. The network lost a deal with DirecTV, which struck another blow to their viewership, but the UFC and Zuffa have had a longstanding relationship with DirecTV that could mend some fences if deal gets done.

A 2008 report by Variety stated that G4 was struggling in television ratings, but their cross format with content on the internet and podcasts gained much better numbers.

The UFC has long discussed moving content more and more to the internet and areas like mobile devices, and the G4 network along with its viewing base appears to be the most tech savvy crowd in the television world.

G4 as a network has also embraced mixed martial arts over the years, running several segments on the sport on the popular “Attack of the Show” program, as well as running a feature called “MMA Chokehold” where hosts and fighters break down the biggest bouts and make fight picks.

The network mostly boasts rehashed programming, but with original shows like “Attack of the Show” and the video game focused “X-Play,” G4 does play perfectly into the UFC’s brand of demographics and programming.

G4 host Blair Butler, who has done several segments with MMAWeekly.com over the years, has stated that there is a symmetry between what the network does and the sport of MMA. They have long embraced the sport, and with the UFC in charge and with shows like “The Ultimate Fighter,” as well as UFC live events on the network, that would only grow.

While no deal is done, the UFC being in talks to purchase the network could all but seal the deal that they will not be back on Spike TV beyond 2011. Although in the ever volatile world of television, anything can change the channel.

Damon Martin is the lead staff writer and radio host for MMAWeekly.com.
@DamonMartin on Twitter or e-mail Damon a question or comment.

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  • youdosuck

    I had no clue G4 wasn’t on Directv. No point of watching when Olivia Munn left.

  • It was time for a change. The run on Spike has been a good one but it’s gotten old and a bit uninteresting. Hopefully there will be some motivated execs over at G4 who will look to spice up the UFC programming a bit.

    I’d like to see them bring back or create a new version of that “Inside The Octagon” show that Rogan did a couple years back. Make it a weekly show or something.

  • It would be good for the UFC obviously if they outright bought the channel, but I can’t help but feel this would be a step backwards for them. Surely Spike has a larger viewing base than G4.

  • rob da rippah

    Idk about this one. Uncanny390 is right, spike has a larger fan base. Also, a lot of people don’t have G4

  • Big potential for growth and greater product control are a couple of the advantages I see.