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ESPN has struggled a bit over the past couple years with controversies, feuds, and falling viewership, so the network was long overdue for a bit of good news. Most would say this news is better than good, however, as the "worldwide leader in sports" just landed a huge deal with the UFC. Obviously, we're pumped, and fighting fans should be, too, because the two organizations have joined forces to bring live mixed martial arts fighting, as well as other events, to the network's new subscription service ESPN+.
The UFC deal, which is scheduled to take effect January 2019, will mark the beginning of the sport appearing on ESPN platforms. The details of the deal note that UFC will air 15 live events exclusively on ESPN+ with the promise that UFC action will also be seen on ESPN's other networks as well as social and digital platforms. Deadline reported the exact terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it is believed that ESPN will pay close to $150 million a year in a five-year deal. Provided UFC spaces out those live events equally between years, ESPN+ subscribers can expect 3 UFC live events on the platform a year. Under the terms of the deal, each event will be labeled "UFC on ESPN+ Fight Night" and will feature 12 UFC bouts.
The UFC deal also covers additional content for ESPN+, such as new seasons of Dana White's Contender Series, archive programming, weigh-ins, and countdown shows to live UFC events. Additionally, the UFC will bring a new and original all-access series to the platform that will be produced by IMG Original Content. ESPN+ users will also be able to purchase and view the fighting organization's subscription platform UFC Fight Pass as well as pay-per-views for a separate fee. Outside of the streaming service, ESPN will have rights to broadcast hundreds of hours of programming from the UFC library, re-airs of current UFC pay-per-view events, and 30-minute specials ahead of pay-per-views that detail key matchups and storylines.
The UFC's new deal with ESPN comes as the expiration date for the organization's current deal with Fox is set to expire in late December. ESPN signed the fighting organization to its brand for two years less than Fox had with its current deal, with the yearly price tag for the partnership presumed to be slightly less expensive than the final year of UFC's contract with Fox. ESPN+ will benefit by having another new sport added to its platform's lineup, as well as a potential new audience of younger males, who tend to be the sport's primary demographic.
The UFC deal with ESPN officially goes through January 2019. Television will see a lot of entertaining stuff premiering before that date, so be sure to check out Cinema Blend's summer premiere guide to see what other knockout shows could be on the horizon.