If you question the UFC’s media deal with ESPN, you might as well pack up your toys and go home. At least, that’s the way UFC president Dana White sees it.
The UFC has made its television home on Fox for the past several years, but recently announced a move to the biggest player in the sports media realm, ESPN. The UFC will finish out 2018 with Fox, but moves to ESPN in January 2019.
Initially, a $150 million deal was announced to put several UFC events on the new ESPN+ digital subscription platform. Shortly after Fox announced a billion-dollar deal to become the home of WWE’s weekly Smackdown series, however, the UFC went all-in with ESPN, announcing a $300 million deal that encompasses not only ESPN+, but also ESPN’s linear television networks.
“That’s what the idiots are always going to do, ‘Is it good; is it bad?’ Our last deal was $116 million a year, this one is $300 million,” White told MMAJunkie following the UFC Liverpool ceremonial weigh-in on Saturday. “If you can’t figure out that that’s good, get outta here. I’ve been in Maine blowing my brains out, celebrating; that’s how good it is.”
The UFC’s deal with ESPN encompasses 30 live Fight Night events that will be split amongst the ESPN linear networks on television and ESPN+. The plan is for 20 events to be streamed in their entirety on ESPN+ and 10 main cards to air on ESPN’s linear networks. ESPN will also televise 12 pay-per-view preliminary fight cards and there is much more ancillary coverage that will air either on the networks or ESPN+.
“That’s exactly right, 42 shows (30 on ESPN and 12 on pay-per-view), and I have the ability to make some original content for those guys too,” White continued. “It’s gonna be awesome. ESPN wouldn’t cover us. Now, we’re on ESPN. So, anybody who doesn’t think this is a win, shut up. Stop covering the sport if you don’t think this is a win.”
At the end of the day, the UFC’s deal with ESPN bolster’s the company’s bottom line, and that is how most companies score the game: Are we making money?
The UFC, in its deal with ESPN, is making money… more than twice the money it did with Fox.