Last month it was reported the UFC was expecting to receive upwards of $450 million annually for their new broadcasting rights contract. The current seven year contract between the UFC and FOX expires next year and pays the UFC $115 million per year.
According to reports from the Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand and ESPN’s Darren Rovell, FOX’s initial offer for UFC rights is in the range of $200 million. With the end of their previous contract nearing, exclusive negotiating rights for FOX and the UFC expired last month, meaning the sport can discuss future deals with other companies.
No other offers for UFC broadcasting rights have been announced, but Turner Sports has shown interest. A potential deal for Turner to be the UFC’s broadcasting rights holder remains difficult due to AT&T currently trying to purchase Time Warner. The U.S. Department of Justice may require Time Warner to sell Turner, or DirecTV prior to any merger. That uncertainty makes it difficult for Turner to take on a yearly expense of nearly $450 million.
UFC president Dana White also expressed interest in selling the sports broadcasting rights to an OTT platform. With Facebook, Netflix, Amazon and other streaming services showing a desire to invest in sports, White views non-traditional television as a potential landing spot.
“Now with technology, we’re getting to the point that I always dreamed about,” White said on the WSJ’s Unnamed Podvideocast. “I always used to say, we’ll take this thing all around the world, build a fanbase, build some talent in every country around the world, and then we’ll get to a point in time where everybody can watch it at the same time on the same platform.”
It remains to be seen if the OTT route is still a viable option for the UFC, either way they might need to come down from their asking price. ESPN’s Darren Rovell said he doesn’t believe the goal of receiving $450 million a year for broadcasting rights was ever realistic for WME-IMG, which owns the UFC.