As their current deal with FOX draws to a close next year, The UFC are currently in talks about their broadcasting rights with major players in the marketplace, and in an interview with the Wall Street Journal this week, Dana White indicated that it’s not a forgone conclusion they will remain on TV.
The broadcast landscape is shifting rapidly, with the major cable TV companies no longer in as strong a position as they once were with major digital platforms like Netflix changing the way people like to consume content.
“I think where you really see it is, look at ESPN,” White told the WSJ. “Look at how powerful ESPN was five years ago, what they were getting per sub. Their subs are dropping. They’re scrambling to figure it out right now.
“There’s no doubt that the internet and OTT is where it’s all going. So, it’ll be interesting to see when the smoke clears who’s still around and who’s not.”
As such, White has admitted that moving onto a digital platform instead is a serious option for the UFC.
“Absolutely,” White told the WSJ when asked if the UFC was considering shifting to a digital platform. “That stuff is all about to change. When I grew up, we had Channel 3, Channel 5, Channel 8 and Channel 13. And then the channel Sesame Street is on. Those are all the channels that we had, right? (Now) Nothing is on.
“I think that we have the type of content that people will watch. Not every fight that I put on is a mega fight and a fight that spills over into the mainstream, but I’ll get those twice a year.”
However, it should also be noted that there have been rumors that the UFC may be looking to split up it’s content among various different broadcasters rather than sticking to just one as they did with their current FOX deal.
That would mean that some events could still feature on TV, while others could be assigned to a digital platform, and of course not forgetting the fact that the pay-per-view market is still in play as well.
Making the right moves here will be crucial to the UFC’s future growth and so it’s likely to be a major focus of attention for Endeavor (formerly WME-IMG) head-honchos Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell and White in the coming months.