Sports Business Daily is reporting that Zuffa, the parent company of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), has signed a multi-year deal with Fox to air UFC programming on the FX network and up to four events per year on the Fox Broadcasting Network. The UFC has been with Viacom's Spike TV since 2005 and is completing their second deal with Spike at the end of this year.
ESPN reported two weeks ago that Zuffa and Fox were in negotiations and that Fox had emerged as the leading contender to sign the UFC.
Comcast/NBC had been considered the front-runner to sign the Mixed Martial Arts promotion given the existing relationship between the UFC and the Versus Network, now the NBC Sports Network. The plan discussed would have included the UFC providing events for NBC and programming and live events for Versus/NBC Sports Network as well as G4 becoming an all-UFC channel.
It became clear several weeks back that Spike TV was unlikely to re-sign the promotion given the openly nasty relationship between the network and the promotion.
From Sports Business Daily:
In what would represent a major push into the mainstream for the UFC, Fox has agreed to a deal that will see the broadcast channel air as many as four MMA events per year, according to several sources. The multiyear deal would mark the first time the UFC will have consistent airtime on a broadcast network. Fox execs refused to comment on the deal, but sources with knowledge of the negotiations said bidding had gone as high as $90M per year. The Fox deal is believed to be for seven or eight years. As part of the deal, most of the weekly programming that UFC has on Versus and Spike TV will move to FX starting in January. That includes several fight cards, plus shows like the reality series "The Ultimate Fighter." Fox-owned Fuel also will wind up with some UFC content. But rumors that Fox will rebrand Fuel as a UFC channel are not true, sources said.
The UFC's talks with Viacom-owned Spike ended before that. Sources said Spike ultimately passed over concern that its UFC shoulder programming stopped growing. Shows like "Unleashed," "Knockouts" and "Countdown" averaged 1 million viewers in '05. This year, they are averaging 492,000.