The UFC won’t likely finish a deal for the remainder of their television rights until later this year but now the promotion has revealed what’s exactly on the table.
Last week, the UFC announced that they had signed a five year deal to put 15 exclusive events on ESPN+ — a new $4.99 per month streaming service that launched earlier this year — with a price tag reportedly at $150 million per year.
That figure already trumps what the UFC is currently getting from FOX for their entire slate of events. Thanks to the deal with ESPN+, the UFC now has some breathing room for negotiations on the remainder of their television rights package.
But what exactly is leftover?
Well according to UFC chief operating officer Lawrence Epstein via Bloomberg that includes 12 pay-per-view events, 12 pay-per-view event preliminary fight cards (which are being offered up separately during this latest round of negotiations) and approximately 15 more live events per year.
Now the pay-per-view events being listed as equity for a potential television partner doesn’t necessarily mean the UFC is suddenly going to stop doing those events and give them away for free on television. It must be noted, however, as Dave Meltzer pointed out in his breakdown of the new deal with ESPN+ that the value of an event at approximately $10 million per show is more than what the UFC gets on the majority of their pay-per-view events currently.
Meltzer adds that for the UFC to make $10 million on pay-per-view, a show needs to sell around 285,000 buys, which is a rarity these days outside of a few marquee events. Perhaps the UFC sees that figure and now they are thinking about cutting back on the total number of pay-per-views if a broadcast partner is willing to pay them even more per event.
While the ESPN+ deal was for 15 events at reportedly $150 million per year, the rest of the television package is expected to net even more money for the UFC with figures north of $200 million per year. At that cost, the UFC might be able to shave off a couple of pay-per-view events per year and put them on television thanks to the new broadcast rights partner.
If these figures hold up, the UFC would be putting on around 42 events starting in 2019, which is up from 2017 where there were a total of 39 events.
Obviously thanks to the ESPN+ deal, the UFC now has the opportunity to truly negotiate with potential broadcast partners to get the best possible deal for the remaining slate of events.
FOX still remains a major player as they are planning on adding even more live events to their programming schedule after selling the majority of their assets including the television studio to Disney. NBC has reportedly shown interest in the UFC television rights after missing out on them back in 2011 when the company ultimately signed with FOX. There’s also the possibility that AT&T/Time Warner get involved in the bidding if their merger is approved by the Justice Department in June.
For now, the UFC will continue to speak to all potential suitors for the remaining slate of events with hopes of kicking off 2019 in a very big way for the organization.