The speculation can now be put to rest. The destination for the UFC’s broadcasts from the end of the year onwards has been decided. Variety first reported Stateside that the UFC has struck a five-year, $300million-a-year deal with America’s No.1 sports network ESPN to carry their live events from the start of 2019. The deal effectively replaces that currently held with Fox, and will see the UFC net a colossal $1.5billion over the next five years. The deal will see ESPN-branded networks broadcast or stream 42 UFC events, either in full or in part, each year, starting next year.
What does the new deal mean for British viewers?
It’s improbable the adjustment in telecaster will hugy affect the goal of any potential television bargain here in the UK. Just if the UFC had chosen to break with convention and move completely into the domain of web based gushing with an accomplice like Netflix or Amazon may there have been the probability of a worldwide rights bargain being struck. Yet, with the UFC joining forces with ESPN, it would appear to be all alternatives stay on the table for the UK advertise.
Where are the UK rights likely to go next?
Sky was thought to be seriously interested two years ago, but with their partnership with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Sport organisation seemingly going from strength to strength, with their ever-growing boxing output, plus the hugely popular major tournaments from the Professional Darts Corporation, they may opt to go with what they have. Despite their packed roster, Sky may still be interested but, as things currently stand, the value of the UFC deal to BT Sport would appear to be higher than it would be for Sky. But the possible return of a certain Irishman might just persuade Sky to take a punt.
Could the UK soon get UFC on pay-per-view?
UK fans won’t want to hear this, but don’t rule it out. And it could potentially come sooner than you think. Sky Sports regularly run their bigger boxing shows via their pay-per-view channel Sky Box Office, and the potential return to the octagon of Conor McGregor could tempt the Osterley-based broadcaster to stump up the cash to open up the possibility of a first-ever UFC pay-per-view broadcast featuring the Dubliner. It’s worth noting, too, that BT Sport also plans on launching a pay-per-view channel of its own, with BT Sport Box Office set to launch later this year. Realistically, given the time slots involved and the fact that we don’t currently have a big-name British UFC world champion to galvanise the UK viewership, a pay-per-view UFC event for this market is only really feasible if McGregor is involved. He’s the one man who can pull in casual viewers and persuade enough people to part with their hard-earned cash to watch.
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