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FX Pins Down UFC Deal

8/22/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

FX will look to draw young, mixed
martial arts fans into the ring with live and
series content from the Ultimate Fighting
Championship.

The cable network will offer live UFC events
as well as carry the MMA outfit’s reality series
The Ultimate Fighter as part of Fox Sports
and UFC’s landmark
seven-year
distribution deal
reached last week.

Analysts say the
deal will pay UFC
at least $90 million
annually.

FX will air six
live UFC fights a
year along with
24 live fights each
week from The Ult
imate Fighter
,
which aired its previous
14 seasons on
Spike. Each year
the network will
run two seasons of
the reality series —
which pits amateur fighters in weekly elimination
bouts with the winner gaining a UFC
contract — and will tape each week’s episode
days in advance instead of several months
prior to its season airings on Spike.

FX president John Landgraf said the deal
— which also gives Fox broadcasting network
four live UFC events as well as UFC
content to Fuel and Fox Deportes — will help
put FX in the same competitive ring as its cable-
network competitors TBS and TNT, which
both offer major sports properties.

The UFC is the latest sports acquisition for
FX, in addition to Pac 12, Big 12 and Conference
USA college-football games— a
new direction for a network mostly known
for scripted series such as Sons of Anarchy,
Justified and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

“It’s hard to compete in the upper, upper
echelon without a significant sports property,
and we haven’t had one since NASCAR
left the channel,” Landgraf told Multichannel
News
. “Now we have two with college football
and UFC, which will be 32 out of the 52
weeks of the year.”

By loading up on sports and movie content,
FX clearly is targeting a higher echelon
of license fees, beyond the estimated (by SNL
Kagan) 40 cents monthly per subscriber for
the 98-million-subscriber service. TNT, by
comparison, gets $1 per month, per Kagan,
while TBS gets 45 cents.

Landgraf said the UFC audience compares
favorably to FX’s viewers: Among men
18-34 there is an 80% overlap in FX’s viewership
and UFC fans, he said. He added that FX
will not only benefit from increased ratings
stemming from UFC content, but will help
the UFC broaden its audience through promotion
on FX shows.

“I think FX can help the UFC to reach a
broader audience and I think we can create
greater engagement with our brand and our
channel,” Landgraf said. “It’s an incredible fit.”

For the UFC — which a decade ago was
banned from pay-per-view due to its perceived
violent nature — the deal puts the
MMA into the mainstream of sports programming,
according to UFC president
Dana White.

“This was what I always wanted and would
be the pinnacle for us,” White said. “It will
take this sport to the next level.”

Fox Sports chairman David Hill said Fox
is not concerned about the controversial nature
of the mixed martial arts genre, adding
that numerous companies are ready to advertise
on the live Fox events.

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