UFC and ESPN+ Reach ‘Groundbreaking’ Deal for Live Streaming Events

The UFC has wrapped up at least part of their new television rights deal with ESPN+ getting 15 events per year on the new streaming service just launched by the network.

The UFC and ESPN+ have come to an agreement on a multi-year deal for streaming rights on at least 15 live events and other shoulder programming on the network starting in January 2019.

The deal was announced on Tuesday with the UFC settling at least one part of their upcoming television rights deal, although it must be noted this is only a portion of what they’re currently negotiating with a larger TV package still being negotiated.

According to a separate report from Sports Business Daily, the deal is for five years with ESPN paying around $150 million per year for the rights.

The new deal will see 15 live UFC events streaming on ESPN+, which currently costs $4.99 per month for consumers. The 15 live events will feature 12 exclusive bouts running on ESPN+ and will be branded “UFC on ESPN+ Fight Night”.

“I couldn’t be more excited to partner with The Walt Disney Company and ESPN on an agreement that will continue to grow our sport,” UFC president Dana White said in a press release. “UFC has always done deals with the right partners at the right time and this one is no exception. We will now have the ability to deliver fights to our young fan base wherever they are and whenever they want it. This deal is a home run for ESPN and UFC.”

In addition to the live streaming of those 15 original events, here is the additional programming headed to ESPN+ as part of this new deal.

Exclusive, all new-seasons of “Dana White’s Contender Series” beginning in June 2019

A new original, all-access series produced by IMG Original Content

Exclusive pre- and post-event shows for all 15 “UFC on ESPN+ Fight Nights”

Non-exclusive access to UFC’s full archive of programming, including historic events, classic bouts, and original programming

Additional UFC-branded content, including “UFC Countdown” shows, press conferences, weigh-ins, and pre-and post-shows

From the sound of things, ESPN+ will be receiving a package of programming similar to what currently airs on UFC Fight Pass along with additional live events specific to that streaming service. Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series currently airs on UFC Fight Pass but that will now shift to ESPN+ in 2019.

Now this new deal with ESPN+ only affects these 15 live streaming events for the UFC plus the additional programming.

That means the UFC is still searching for a broadcast rights deal with both FOX Sports and NBC Sports as the leading candidates to land that larger package of events. It’s still possible Turner Sports gets involved after June when a judge will hand down his verdict in the current anti-trust case ongoing with the U.S. Justice Department over the merger between AT&T and Time Warner.

If that merger goes through, it’s entirely possible that AT&T would make a bid to land the UFC’s television rights for their package of outlets.

The UFC isn’t expected to close their television rights deal until later this year.

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Damon Martin is a veteran mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the industry since 2003 with bylines on FOX Sports, CNN, Bleacher Report and numerous other outlets.
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