As the 2017 UFC calendar starts to edge to a close, one thing on the minds of UFC executives will be the re-negotiation of broadcast rights for TV and the Internet. 2018 will be the last year of a 7 year deal the UFC has had with FOX. This deal is roughly worth about 115 million dollars per year.
Part of the reason the sale of the UFC yielded such a huge figure 18 months ago was the fact that the TV rights were coming up for renegotiation in 2018. A number of sources have reported that the UFC are looking for a 10 year deal at between 425-450 million per year. This is a huge increase on the current numbers.
Fox have made an initial offer of circa 200 million dollars per year, while this is a welcome increase it is nowhere near close to the UFC’s own valuation of the broadcast rights. A valuation that was no doubt factored into what they paid for the company.
While the UFC will be disappointed with the improved FOX offer – it will not be in despair. Inside the Octagon 2017 has not been a great year for the UFC but taken as whole the last 7 years have given great both for Fox and the UFC.
The UFC and mixed martial arts are very close to being a mainstream sport. Issues around safety and drug issues have been largely addressed and the fact that USADA are in control of the drug testing of the sport shows the UFC are taking that subject seriously.
One of the unique features of MMA is that if there is any sport whose followers are creatures of the Internet age it is them and doubly so for followers of the UFC. One of the curious aspects of the summer showdown between McGregor and Mayweather was how the MMA Journalists and blogs absolutely killed their Boxing counterparts in terms of Internet and web-based coverage. The sheer volume, quality and innovation of the content was at times amazing.
So you have both an audience and Content creators who are in sync with consuming sport via their mobiles, tablets and laptops. In fact it is their preferred method of consumption.
For this reason I fully expect Netflix or Amazon Prime to make a bold bid for the UFC. In recent years both have made massive inroads into film and television production. The UFC would be the perfect vehicle to make a big splash into the sporting arena. The sheer volume of content that the sport produce via fights and spin off series would be a perfect fit for one of the Internet giants.
A good reference point here is when Sky Sports broke into the UK Football market in the early 90’s. Many said it couldn’t happen. That football was always consumed via traditional methods and TV networks. That people wouldn’t pay for the content. Sky have spent the last 30 odd years blowing that myth out of the water.
To get into the market they had to pay above and beyond the going rate. Today it is considered money well spent. Expect Netflix or Amazon Prime to do the same, probably Netflix. The House of Dana to replace House of Cards.