The UFC has agreed to a deal with ESPN that will make ESPN+ the exclusive broadcast partner of the promotion’s PPV events through 2025.
The agreement gives the OTT service the rights to 12 tentpole cards a year, in addition to the 20 Fight Night shows they’re already contracted to air.
Fans who want to watch the UFC’s biggest stars will now need a subscription to ESPN+, but that monthly re-occurring payment won’t actually cover the cost of the PPV shows.
You’ll still need to purchase each of the 12 events individually, though ESPN plans to discount UFC PPV’s from $64.99 to $59.99 to offset the service’s fee.
It didn’t take long for ESPN to realize “that it can use the UFC to bring ESPN+ subscribers into the big tent.”
The service drew 568,000 new subs within 48 hours of its first UFC event.
ESPN+ is creeping up towards 3 million subscribers, but there’s every reason to believe upcoming UFC PPV shows will continue to drive new subs.
You can’t assume that every UFC fan bought that first card, nor should you accept that they remain subscribers – remember, fans could cancel shortly thereafter without charge.
You also have different fan bases for different fighters and they’re often tied to ethnicity; I fully expect the ESPN+ subscriber base to continue to grow every time they have a UFC event.
The UFC’s deal with ESPN relinquishes much of the upside that it would experience “if another big PPV draw, like Connor McGregor, arrived”, but I think taking the guaranteed pay day – one likely “worth hundreds of millions of dollars” – is a wise decision.
Selling UFC PPV’s is a risky business proposition. Every fighter is just one fight away from losing their invincibility and the biggest stars now make enough money that they don’t “need” to fight once they achieve superstar status.