February 17th 2012 Fighters Only Magazine
In recent weeks it was widely believed that ESPN UK and the UFC would be going their separate ways when their current deal expires in August.
Behind-the-scenes sources on both sides were saying the same thing and so speculation naturally began to fall on which channel would be the next television home of the UFC in Britain.
But it seems the rumour-mill operatives were too hasty, as multiple sources have now indicated to Fighters Only that in fact the relationship between the two parties may be renewed and extended.
ESPN UK certainly hasn’t given up on the UFC. A spokesman for the broadcaster told us earlier:
“ESPN continues to be a strong TV partner to UFC, and our channel in the UK continues to grow in reach and ratings. We are reaching millions of UK fans every month, with 10 consecutive months of overall ratings growth, and consistent growth in subscribers.
“We have spent significant resources in marketing and promotion of the UFC as a part of our range of top-quality sport, and hope to continue to do so beyond the current contract if a deal can be reached that makes sense for both sides.”
UK fans will remember that last year, ESPN UK stopped showing preliminary card fights and other ‘one off’ events such as UFC on Versus.
This is because the contract with the UFC was strictly for main card broadcasts and ‘Fight Night’ events. The UFC used to allow ESPN UK to air undercards and sundry events for free, but changed that policy in mid-2011.
ESPN UK did not want to pay anything extra for the non-contracted content and so the UFC broadcast it to UK fans via its Facebook page and/or the UFC.tv site. But if a new deal is struck, the contract will almost certainly take account of undercards, unique events and other items which slipped through the cracks of the previous deal.
That would expand ESPN UK’s offerings to UFC fans and solidify the channel as the home of the UFC in the UK – but will only happen if both sides are agreed on numbers. If no resolution can be reached there are several other channels in the running, with Sky, FX and a Channel 5 off-shoot among them.
This article was written by
John Joe O’Regan@johnjoeoregan