Fuel TV may not fully morph into “The UFC Channel,” but it will give the extreme sports network a much needed shot in the arm to kick start an aggressive push into a higher-profile market.
“The theme has just moved from ‘Girls and Boys Come Out and Play’ to ‘Enter Sandman,’” quipped Fox Sports Media Chairman David Hill.
The UFC will be a cornerstone in Fox’s efforts to interject life in Fuel TV, which has struggled to build its audience. UFC programming, at a minimum, is slated to make up about 25-percent of the network’s programming when the UFC and Fox television partnership officially kicks off in January.
“We’re gonna have over north of 2,000 hours (of UFC programming),” said George Greenberg, Fuel TV’s general manager. “We’ll have at least 100 hours of live programming, and it sounds like Dana is gonna heap a lot more on. We get all the shoulder programming, whether it’s Primetime, Countdown, UFC Replay, Unleashed, Best of annual specials, Ultimate Insider, fighter profiles; we have access to the Pride library.”
The live programming will include preliminary bouts that are currently shown on the UFC’s Facebook page, as well as many UFC Fight Night events and international events that were formerly broadcast on Spike TV or Versus.
“There is gonna be a ton of live fight programming on Fuel,” stated White.
As much as the Fox deal marks a milestone in the UFC’s history – giving it the sports broadcasting platform that company president Dana White and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta have long coveted – it also gives Fox the building blocks it needs in the extreme sports category to raise Fuel’s profile.
“To have 25-percent of our programming devoted to the UFC, we can now cherry pick the premier action sports stuff,” said Greenberg. “You’re gonna see live surfing that you haven’t seen before on this network, key snowboarding events, but we’ll just be more selective with the addition of the UFC.”
“It’s a coming out party for the UFC on Fox and it’s a coming out party for Fuel doing the UFC as well,” added Fox Sports co-president Eric Shanks. “It’s a way to raise awareness for Fuel.”
So while Fuel TV won’t be rebranded as UFC TV or the like, it may soon feel like to MMA fans.