ESPN has reached a deal to become the exclusive media home of the Ultimate Fighting Championships in the U.S.
ESPN outbid incumbent Fox, which recently reached an agreement to air WWE Entertainment’s SmackDown on Friday nights.
“ESPN’s unparalleled multimedia platform is the perfect home for the UFC and will deliver tremendous value to both parties,” said Jimmy Pitaro, ESPN president and co-chairman, Disney Media Networks. “UFC fans are passionate and loyal and we plan to bring the full power of ESPN’s live coverage, powerful storytelling and unmatched distribution to serve them in an unprecedented fashion. We can’t wait to get started.”
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Combined with an earlier deal that put some UFC events on ESPN and the new ESPN+ direct-to-consumer service, published reports put the total value at more than $1.5 billion over five years.
“Every year for the last 18 years, we have taken this sport and brand to another level,” Dana White, president of UFC said. “We find innovative ways to promote our athletes and build stars. Today is another monumental day for UFC, our athletes, and our fans. We are now part of the ESPN family, recognized around the world as the pinnacle in sports broadcasting. I am very excited for this next chapter for UFC.”
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.
The deal calls for ESPN and ESPN+ to carry 42 live events, 30 of which will carry full cards of UFC battles.
ESPN will televise 10 exclusive events as well as all UFC pay-per-view preliminary fights. ESPN will brand its programming UFC on ESPN Fight Night.
ESPN+ will have 20 exclusive events and all preliminaries for UFC on ESPN Fight Night programs.
“The expansion of our relationship with UFC is an exciting development for fight fans,” said Kevin Mayer, chair, direct-to-consumer and international, The Walt Disney Co. “Delivering 20 exclusive UFC fight nights per year and a host of original content to UFC’s young, passionate and tech-savvy fan base, makes ESPN+ the clear new digital home for UFC and further establishes our new service as the leading platform for direct-to-consumer sports streaming.”