ESPN becomes new home of the UFC.
Earlier this month, ESPN reached a multi-year tv and streaming deal with the UFC, which calls for up to 15 live "UFC on ESPN+ Fight Night" events per year, with 12 bouts on each card. Today, it was announced that ESPN also acquired UFC’s television rights from Fox Sports as part of a $1.5 billion deal over the next five years.
Both of the new deals, which will cover a total of 30 fights per year, are scheduled to go into effect starting in early 2019. According to Variety, "Sources familiar with negotiations say ESPN has struck a deal for a second portion to the package currently held by Fox Sports that will bring the total cost in the neighborhood of $300 million per year for five years, totaling $1.5 billion."
According to ESPN, the company will also air UFC content across multiple platforms, including a 30-minute special before every UFC pay-per-view event, as well as re-airs of previous fights. ESPN+, which launched last month at a price of $4.99 per month, will also carry the UFC's Dana White Tuesday Night Contender Series beginning in June 2019.
On the other hand, Fox recently spent upwards of $1 billion in order to secure broadcasting rights for WWE's weekly show SmackDown Live. The deal will begin in October 2019, bringing to an end SmackDown's run on NBC Universal networks that started in October of 2010. According to The Wrap, Fox plans to air SmackDown Live on Friday nights at 8pm ET, instead of it's current Tuesday night slot. There had been rumors that the show could expand to three hours, similar to its Monday night counterpart, but it appears the show will stick with the two-hour format. It remains to be seen whether the broadcast will air on Fox's main channel or Fox Sports 1.