ESPN and its subscription-based broadband service, ESPN+, will offer mixed-martial arts fans a new array of UFC matches and special programming under a new rights deal unveiled Tuesday.
The pact, the first between ESPN and UFC, calls for the two companies to stream 15 live UFC events exclusively on ESPN+ under the title “UFC on ESPN+ Fight Night.” Each will deliver a full card of 12 UFC bouts. ESPN will make available a variety of UFC content across its cable networks and digital outlets, including an exclusive, 30-minute special on ESPN’s linear networks previewing upcoming bouts and breaking down match ups leading up to each UFC pay per view event, along with hundreds of hours of UFC library programming and re-airs of current UFC PPV events.
Such a deal has been anticipated since Variety reported in April that ESPN and Fox Sports were willing to split rights to gain access to a broader package of telecasts. At the time, ESPN had signaled that it would be willing to pay $120 million to $180 million per year to add the Endeavor-owned mixed martial arts league to its collection of live-event rights. Meanwhile, Fox, which currently pays $120 million per year UFC rights, would be willing see that number increase to a little more than $200 million. Fox’s current package includes four Saturday-night fights per year on Fox Broadcasting and a number of fight events on cabler Fox Sports 1 that has increased annually under its current agreement.
“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. UFC has always done deals with the right partners at the right time and this one is no exception,” said Dana White, UFC’s president, in a prepared statement. ” We will now have the ability to deliver fights to our young fan base wherever they are and whenever they want it.” UFC’s fan base is among the youngest in U.S. professional sports, with a median age of 40 and an audience comprising 40% millennials.
In addition to the live events and content included in the ESPN+ subscription, fight fans will be able to purchase and watch the UFC’s own streaming offering, UFC Fight Pass, for a separate cost, via the ESPN outlet.