UFC and ESPN announced a huge deal that changes the face of their pay-per-view model.
UFC President Dana White revealed on Monday that ESPN will become the exclusive distributor of UFC PPV shows in the United States through the next 7 years. This comes after the company almost didn't have a deal in place for UFC 235 on DirecTV just weeks ago, and extends UFC's deal with ESPN by two years.
Domains owned by UFC -- .tv, .com and the UFC App and Fight Pass will still serve as entry points for buyers, but will redirect to ESPN+.
We were issued a press release from UFC announcing the move.
UFC and ESPN+, the direct-to-consumer sports video service from The Walt Disney Company’s Direct-to-Consumer and International (DTCI) segment and ESPN, today announced an agreement that will deliver value and simplicity to mixed martial arts fans, making ESPN+ the exclusive distributor of UFC Pay-Per-View events in the United States through 2025. The agreement will make ESPN+ the single point of purchase for consumers of the biggest UFC events throughout the year and the definitive destination for fans to get the most comprehensive coverage of UFC.
Starting with UFC 236: HOLLOWAY vs. POIRIER 2 on April 13, ESPN+ becomes the exclusive distributor in the United States of all UFC PPV events, showcasing 12 blockbuster live events per year from the world’s premier mixed martial arts organization, for each of the next seven years. The agreement adds a new business model to ESPN+ and builds upon the historic multi-platform rights agreement announced in 2018, which is now extended through 2025.
UFC PPV events sold through ESPN+ will include all bouts on the Main Event fight cards and will be streamed in high definition in both English and Spanish. Preliminary bouts for all UFC PPV events will continue to air nationally on ESPN (English) and ESPN Deportes (Spanish) under the agreement announced in 2018. Early preliminary bouts will be available to all ESPN+ subscribers, as well as on UFC FIGHT PASS and to those who have purchased the PPV. UFC will continue to sell its PPV events to commercial establishments.
“With the addition of UFC PPV events, we are making ESPN+ an absolute must-have for any fan of the UFC and mixed martial arts,” said Kevin Mayer, Chairman, Direct-to-Consumer & International, The Walt Disney Company. “In less than a year, ESPN+ has established itself as the leader in direct-to-consumer sports and this new programming agreement adds a significant business to our platform while reinforcing the value and strength of our product and our content lineup.”
“Today’s announcement further establishes the strength of the partnership between UFC and ESPN,” said UFC President Dana White. “Now our fans will be able to watch all UFC events exclusively on ESPN platforms, including ESPN+, which is an innovative way to deliver fights to our young fan base. I couldn’t be more excited to work with ESPN for the next seven years. Together we’re going to do amazing things to help grow this sport.”
Jimmy Pitaro, President, ESPN and Co-Chair, Disney Media Networks added: “The extremely successful launch of the UFC on ESPN+ emphatically demonstrated the collective power and scale of ESPN and DTCI, and we couldn’t be more excited to continue to drive passionate fans to these new pay per view experiences.”
In addition to giving MMA fans a one-stop home for all UFC PPV events, ESPN+ pricing and packaging will deliver new value to fans as well:
- New ESPN+ subscribers will get one-year of ESPN+ and a UFC PPV event for $79.99;
- Existing ESPN+ subscribers will be able to purchase UFC PPV events for $59.99 per event.
ESPN+ may explore other potential packaging in the months ahead.
Dana White also participated in an interview with Megan Olivi, where he stated that ESPN "kicked the tires, looked under the hood, and liked what they saw." The UFC President noted that with ESPN being the sole provider it would provide more quality, since ESPN has a vesting interest in every single UFC show. He also mentioned that ESPN will have the ability to bundle and provide discounts they didn't have the ability to do with UFC pay-per-view events.
"People will get nervous about the streaming thing, but streaming is where everything is going. If you have Netflix, Hulu, that's what ESPN+ is. You'll get it the same way. The value is going to be better for everything with what you've been paying for 20+ years," said White, before touting UFC Fight Pass.