UFC an ESPN parent, The Walt Disney Company, on Tuesday announced that they have a reached “an immersive, multi-year media rights agreement for exclusive live UFC content on ESPN+, as well as across a variety of ESPN’s television, social and digital platforms, in English and Spanish, taking effect in January 2019.”
“I couldn’t be more excited to partner with The Walt Disney Company and ESPN on an agreement that will continue to grow our sport,” said UFC president Dana White.
“UFC has always done deals with the right partners at the right time and this one is no exception. We will now have the ability to deliver fights to our young fan base wherever they are and whenever they want it. This deal is a home run for ESPN and UFC.”
The deal calls for 15 live UFC events to stream exclusively on ESPN+, a new direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service similar to UFC Fight Pass. Each event will be branded “UFC on ESPN+ Fight Night” and will deliver a full card of 12 UFC bouts.
As the demographic of traditional professional sports in the U.S. rises, it is no secret that ESPN+ is attempting to target a younger demographic. As a joint release noted, “With more than 280 million fans around the world, UFC boasts the youngest fan base among major professional sports organizations in the U.S. with a median age of 40 and an audience comprising 40% millennials.”
Fans can subscribe to ESPN+ for $4.99 a month or $49.99 per year, which delivers content via the ESPN App or ESPNPlus.com. ESPN+ also includes MLB, NHL, MLS, Grand Slam tennis, Top Rank boxing, PGA golf, college sports, and more.
The deal with UFC includes similar content to what fans now watch on FS1, but moved to the ESPN+ service. It does, however, include some differences from the current TV deal with FOX, such as “Dana White’s Contender Series,” which will begin streaming via ESPN+ in June 2019.
There was no announcement of any live UFC events airing on any of ESPN’s linear networks. The promotion currently airs four live events per year on FOX’s major broadcast network.
The UFC/ESPN deal is focused primarily on digital content. It is believed the promotion will still pursue an additional terrestrial television deal.
In addition to live, exclusive events and Dana White’s Contender Series, the line-up of UFC content available to ESPN+ subscribers will include:
- A new original, all-access series produced by IMG Original Content
- Exclusive pre- and post-event shows for all 15 “UFC on ESPN+ Fight Nights”
- Non-exclusive access to UFC’s full archive of programming, including historic events, classic bouts, and original programming
- Additional UFC-branded content, including “UFC Countdown” shows, press conferences, weigh-ins, and pre-and post-shows
In addition to the live events and content included in the ESPN+ subscription, fans will be able to purchase and watch UFC Fight Pass and UFC Pay-Per-View events via ESPN+, for a separate cost.
ESPN will also bring fans a variety of UFC content across ESPN’s linear and digital platforms, including an exclusive, 30-minute special on ESPN’s linear networks previewing upcoming bouts and breaking down match-ups leading up to each UFC PPV; hundreds of hours of UFC library programming on linear networks; and re-airs of current UFC PPV events.