ESPN is set to become the official home for the UFC, both online and on broadcast television. Earlier this month, the UFC revealed a $150 million a year deal to air 15 live events on ESPN+. Now Variety is reporting that the Disney-owned sports company is snapping up the traditional broadcast rights to the fight promotion as well, bumping the total deal to $300 million a year and 15 more events on ESPN cable networks for a total of 30 live shows.
For the past seven years, the UFC has been part of the Fox network, with events shoring up a ton of Saturdays on FOX Sports 1 and 2. Now ESPN is hoping the UFC can provide an initial influx of ESPN+ subscribers and help stem the ratings bleed and demographic slide of their cable networks. UFC TV ratings haven’t exactly been hot fire lately, but they did consistently bring in some of the best numbers for FOX Sports.
This news comes on the heels of Fox paying $205 million a year to air WWE Smackdown on Fridays. Many industry insiders referenced this as a pivot from UFC to WWE broadcasting, with Sports Business Daily reporting that Fox picked the Smackdown deal over a renewal with the UFC due to high costs. Previous rumors had Fox offering $200 million a year to continue holding the UFC broadcast rights.