The UFC’s first of a seven year deal on FOX is coming close to an end, and on the surface it could be suggested that so far it’s perhaps not been the home-run that we had all been hoping for, but according to Fox Exec Eric Shanks the best is still to come.
In fact, despite both the ‘UFC On FOX’ series of live events and ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ reality show on FX having experienced a sharp decline in viewers since January, both Dana White and Shanks appear remarkably upbeat and bullish about the future.
“This is exactly where we thought we would be, if not ahead,” Shanks claimed on the ‘UFC On FOX 5’ press call yesterday. “Some of the things we’re talking about with Dana and Lorenzo…this relationship is going to look different over the next 2-3 years, and it’s only going to get bigger because you’re going to get much more economic support from the advertiser base behind it. When that happens, this thing is going to be one of the top sports in the U.S. on television.”
According to Shanks having UFC on the network has already borne fruit, with 100 new advertisers signed up along with 15 new advertiser categories. The UFC’s shows also draw ratings that compare favorably to College Football’s top 10 games and the promotion’s presence on Fuel TV has lead to the channel breaking all of it’s previous rating records.
That’s not to say that they are just resting on their laurels though as it’s clear they are actively seeking ways to better accommodate the UFC in their network’s programming schedule and improve overall ratings.
They’ve already agreed to move TUF out of it’s current Friday slot and into a more favorable weekday night on FX next season, while the ‘UFC On FX’ events are also shifting to Saturday nights. Meanwhile the prelims for ‘UFC On FOX’ shows will now be hosted on FX instead of Fuel TV in an attempt to draw in more potential viewers for the main show.
Further down the line Shanks also tantalizes with talk of a potential ‘UFC On FOX’ show taking place during Superbowl Weekend in 2014.
“We think that Super Bowl week, in New York, is going to be unlike anything else. We’re going to own the city. We’re going to own that week of sports television, and there’s nothing better that we can think of than a big fight that week.”
There’s also been rumors in the business world lately of FOX starting a new dedicated sports channel called FOX Sports 1 (FS1). Shanks wouldn’t be drawn on that yesterday, saying that they are still assessing their options, but did assure reporters that however FOX proceeded the UFC would have a big role to play in their sports programming.
So this all sounds good from the UFC’s point of view, and by the sounds of things the UFC President is delighted with the relationship they have developed with FOX.
“As the UFC as a company continues to grow, we continue to try new things and do new things, and FOX media group is exactly the same,” White enthused on the conference call. “I’ve been in the television business for 13 years and I’m going to be honest like I always am. There’s a lot of people in this business I can’t stand, I can’t stomach. It’s hard to do business with a lot of these guys. We’ve found the perfect partners. We love the relationship with these guys. We love this company, and like I’ve said, this is a group of guys we want to be with forever.”
White had gone one step further after UFC 154 earlier this month when he hinted that there could be the possibility of the promotion extending their current seven year deal with the network. That raised a few eyebrows given how fresh their current deal still is, but the upbeat attitude of both White and Shanks yesterday certainly added weight to the feeling that perhaps there may be something to this after all.
In the mean time the best things that can happen is that they can end the year on a strong footing with improved ratings for ‘UFC On FOX 5’ on December 8th, and that TUF 17 featuring Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen as coaches can reinvigorate the show’s ratings when it arrives on a new week-night slot in January of 2013.