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Report: ESPN, Fox proposing to team up for new UFC TV deal


Variety reported Tuesday that ESPN and Fox have proposed a multi-network approach to televise the UFC once the organization's existing deal with Fox runs out.

According to the report, ESPN's contribution would be between $120-$180 million a year while Fox would increase its yearly commit to just over $200 million, coming somewhat closer to the reported $400 million a year owners Endeavor were looking for when they purchased the organization for more than $4 billion.

What's in it for ESPN?

While much maligned in the media due to the rise in cord cutting over the past few years, the Disney-owned sports entity is betting big on the future of their OTT service, ESPN+. The service launched last week for $4.99 a month and the deal would bring up to 15 live events to the platform, according to the report.

What's in it for Fox?

If you haven't noticed, there's a lot of UFC on both Fox Sports One and Fox Sports Two, both in live event programming, replays, and hours upon hours of "shoulder" programming. While the report says their overall amount of shows would decline, they certainly wouldn't be paying $200 million a year to have the amount of shows decline by that much.

All of this comes at an interesting time for both companies considering their recent deal in which many Fox-owned properties were sold to Disney. The two share co-ownership rights on several college football properties int addition to Major League Soccer.

So, what about PPV?

The piece didn't mention how any of this would affect the company's PPV future. Fans know that the company's offerings last year and this year have waned in value, outside a few big exceptions, due to injuries, missed weight cuts, and light card depth. If two companies were involved in the rights, one would have to think some of those borderline PPVs would change to live events instead with an emphasis on bigger PPVs with the company's bigger draws.

So, what about Fight Pass?

The company has taken a much different attitude toward Fight Pass than when they hired former head Eric Winter several years ago. (He left shortly after the Endeavor purchase.) While they still air a few exclusive shows and a few fights on fight nights, it's essentially just access to a tape library and live events from regional promotions. Endeavor recently purchased streaming provider Neulion for $250 million, leading to speculation the company might just move everything onto their own OTT platform. If the ESPN/Fox alliance comes through, fans can at least hope for better quality streaming than they are accustomed to now, especially with the archived footage.

So, what about WWE?

The other factor is all of this is WWE who has reportedly been courted by Fox. This potential move doesn't necessarily kill that as the "new" Fox is moving quickly toward more live event/sports programming on their remaining properties. It might affect the money offered in a deal, but with new Disney cash, that still might be another big splash they want to make.