This story was updated at 4 PM Eastern.
Two weeks after ESPN officially got into the UFC game with 15 shows for its OTT platform, the Disney-owned sports media giant doubled down, adding another 27 events to its package that begins in 2019, ending the Fox era.
Variety had the scoop in the early morning hours of Wednesday that the Sports Business Journal's John Ourand confirmed and added more details to. The official announcement came Wednesday afternoon via a press release in which they touted UFC's claim that they have the youngest fanbase among major pro sports organizations (40) and an audience of 40% millennials. They didn't reveal where that info came from.
The new deal is for five years and a total value of $1.5 billion. ESPN outbid Fox Sports for the contract that kicks off in earnest this January. Ourand said NBC Sports and Turner Sports were also interested.
The breakdown of shows, courtesy of Ourand, is as follows:
- 20 yearly ESPN+ events
- 10 yearly shows on ESPN linear TV
- 12 yearly PPV prelim events on ESPN linear
UFC will run 12 PPVs per a year while Fight Pass exclusive shows weren't mentioned. Per Dana White via ESPN's Brett Okamoto, UFC will continue to handle TV production. This is unlike other sports that have deals with ESPN, say the NFL, which ESPN handles full production for, including commentators.
The amount is over twice what UFC was receiving in their Fox deal for prelims, FS1 Fight Nights, and shoulder programming.
Dave Meltzer and others had said UFC had a standing offer of $200 million from Fox for a package of shows even after the initial ESPN deal. Given Fox's reported 5 year, $1 billion deal for WWE SmackDown, questions remain on how that affected negotiations and whose decision it was to move on.
If all reported numbers from the past week come to pass, WWE's annual North American TV contract values for Raw and SmackDown would be more than UFC's, something that just a year ago seemed highly unlikely.