By Suchat Pederson, The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal
Aug 16, 2011
By Sergio Non, USA TODAY
The Ultimate Fighting Championship's TV home will move to Fox, according to a report.
UFC and Fox agreed to a deal for seven to eight years, starting in 2012, Sports Business Daily reports, citing unnamed sources. While the agreement calls for up to four UFC shows a year on the Fox network, most of UFC's programming currently carried by Spike TV and Versus would move to Fox's FX and Fuel cable channels, the industry trade publication says.
Zuffa declined to comment on the report.
Spike has been UFC's primary cable outlet since the 2005 debut of The Ultimate Fighter reality show.
Ratings for UFC's live programming -- Fight Night shows and preliminary cards before pay-per-views -- have remained relatively stable over the years.
TUF ratings remain in the 1.0 range despite a time shift to accommodate Spike's new Coalprogram.
But the audience for UFC's taped shows has fallen, Sports Business Daily notes:
Sources said Spike ultimately passed over concern that its UFC shoulder programming stopped growing. Shows likeUnleashed,Knockouts and Countdown averaged 1 million viewers in '05. This year, they are averaging 492,000.
Bidding for UFC's programs reportedly reached $90 million annually, Money has never been the only factor considered by Zuffa, which views free TV in North America as a vehicle for exposure and promotion for its core product, pay-per-view entertainment.
"We're never going to be in a situation where we're making money on those networks," UFC President Dana White said earlier this year. "We'll have to come out in a situation where we break even. That works."
Although Zuffa has negotiated with commercial networks before, as well as HBO, talks usually broke down over control issues. Zuffa has always insisted on keeping control of the broadcast, which is generally anthema to sports networks.
Sports Business Daily did not say whether the Fox deal was with the network's sports arm or its entertainment division.