Show us the money: UFC’s staggering TV demands

IF you want in on the Conor McGregor gravy train, you’re going to have to pay.

According to a report by Sports Business Daily, the UFC is seeking a “staggering” increase in its next TV rights deal from the $115 million annual figure it currently receives from Fox Sports.

The report, based on information from unnamed media and UFC sources, indicated the company’s “magic number” is $450 million a year over 10 years — a jump of 291 per cent.

The promotion is coming from a lower base, but that type of increase would leave the latest broadcast deals signed by America’s four major sports league in the shade.

The UFC’s current deal with Fox Sports, which it signed in a watershed moment for mixed martial arts in 2011, ends in 2018. Fox Sports, under president Eric Shanks, will have an exclusive window to negotiate a renewal starting late next year.

The fight promotion’s new owners, who paid $4 billion for the company this year, hope to take advantage of a favourable market in America where the majority of broadcast deals for major sporting codes are tied up well into next decade.

“Fox Sports is considered a frontrunner to renew the deal because UFC programming is a big part of FS1’s schedule and generally draws the channel’s biggest ratings. FS1’s program schedule would have a big hole to fill if the UFC went to another network,” the Sports Business Daily report said.

“But sources say that executives inside the network already have started baulking over the proposed $450 million-a-year price tag. Fox tried to buy the UFC over the summer, but it refused to increase its $3.6 billion bid, in part, because its executives felt the UFC overvalued its media rights.

“ESPN is a logical alternative for the UFC, and sources said network executives will sit down with the company if it allows Fox’s exclusive window to lapse.

 “But ESPN executives believe a big rights deal for the UFC will have little, if any, effect on its affiliate deals with pay-TV distributors — deals that account for most of ESPN’s revenue. Most of ESPN’s affiliate deals run for several years. Plus, ESPN’s parent company, Disney, could be squeamish about the sport’s violent nature.”


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