ESPN’s MMA Rumor Insider account reported on Friday that Fox was the new front-runner for the UFC TV deal, claiming that talks between the UFC and NBC/G4 may have broken down.
ESPN.com has learned that the UFC’s rumored 2012 broadcast deal with NBC and takeover of the company’s G4 network may not happen now, as the unconfirmed rumbling are that negotiations may have broken down. Several sources say Fox — including its FOX Network, FX, Fox Sports Net and Fuel properties — is the new front runner for a UFC distribution deal and that an agreement could be done by the end of the month.
This latest rumor comes after the UFC officially announced it had signed a two year TV distribution agreement with Fox Sports Latin America last week. If you recall, Bellator was in talks with Fox to get this TV deal package back in late 2010, before the budding promotion ended up signing with MTV2. MMAPayout sources learned at that time that Fox was interested in featuring MMA but wanted to sign with a promotion that could move the needle since driving 18-34M ratings is a key part of the deal. At the time, the UFC and Strikeforce were in heavy consideration while only preliminary talks took place with Bellator. The deal with Bellator was rumored to air Bellator events live on FX with tape-delayed broadcasts on sister stations FOX Sports Net and Fuel TV.
Similar to what we have heard before with NBC and G4, the ESPN points out that Fuel TV, which is currently Fox’s “action sports” network, would “likely be the hub for UFC content and could be renamed and rebranded as such”.
It’s no secret that Fuel TV has been stocking up on MMA programming as of late, signing MMA promotions Shark Fights and Hong Kong based Legend Fighting Championship along with developing original programming such as “Bruce Lee Lives!” and the Bas Rutten hosted “Punk Payback” show scheduled to debut in November.
Fuel TV started looking adding new MMA programming back in late 2010, claiming in several interviews that one of their goals in the upcoming few months was to expand the channel’s target demo from 12-to-24 to 12-35 males and increase their overall audience in 2011.
This latest news supports the claim that the UFC is in fact talking to everyone, a list that now includes their current broadcast partner Spike TV, NBC/Versus/G4, and Fox/FuelTV/FSN/FX. The UFC is looking to get a significant boost in TV right fees for 2012, a lucrative market currently paying top dollar for live sports programming.