"We are excited to be able to bring their world-class events and content to ESPN+ and the ESPN networks", said ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro in a statement. Library footage of shows before and after matches will be available as well as the UFC Fight Pass streaming service.
The UFC continues to grow in popularity overseas, and the ESPN+ deal puts it on one of sports' strongest platforms.
The network recently relaunched its app as ESPN+, charging a $4.99 monthly or $49.99 yearly subscription fee for live events that aren't broadcast on any of the main ESPN channels. "We look forward to providing UFC's enthusiastic, growing fan base with a wide array of live events and building a lasting relationship with the industry leader in mixed martial arts", Kevin Mayer, chairman of direct to consumer and global at Disney, said in his own statement.
After an active period of negotiations, the UFC has landed a major media partner in a new multi-year deal with ESPN, which will showcase the sport on its new direct-to-consumer subscription service. The companies' announcement also promises the action will appear on "a variety of ESPN's television, social and digital platforms", in English and Spanish.
There is going to be a new home for the UFC in 2019 and that new home is going to be the Walt Disney Company and ESPN. "This agreement shows the commitment we have to delivering fans the very best across our entire platform". The deal will include 15, 12-fight events per year, which will be referred to as "UFC on ESPN+ Fight Nights".
Meanwhile, the UFC is free to negotiate with other partners for the rest of its live rights. In addition to the UFC, the ESPN+ carries events such as baseball, hockey, boxing, college sports, soccer, tennis, rugby and cricket.
UFC and FOX are completing a seven-year exclusive rights deal signed in 2011. This promises to be one heckuva streaming service as well.
Although the press release issued by the UFC doesn't say how much the deal is worth, a report from Sports Business Daily says the deal is worth $150 million annaully. UFC produces more than 40 live events annually that consistently sell out some of the most prestigious arenas around the globe, while programming is broadcast in over 165 countries and territories to more than 1.1 billion TV households worldwide in 40 different languages.