Fox Grabs UFC Rights, Confident Advertisers Will Buy

Fox Sports chairman David Hill took a swing at boxing more than once Thursday, indicating it has limits on TV while the Ultimate Fighting Championship offers a more immersive experience.

There's "boxing being one-dimensional and this thing being three-dimensional," Hill said as Fox announced a multi-year, multi-part deal to bring the UFC to various properties.

Boxing has been suffering from a lack of marquee events as much as it has from any issues with camera angles. The UFC, meanwhile, is soaring in appeal among a younger audience, making it particularly attractive to Fox.

The arrangement with the Fox Sports Media Group brings the mixed martial arts competition to several networks, including a broadcast network for the first time when it will debut on Fox in prime time on a Saturday this November. Going forward, the UFC will be on Fox four times a year live, either in prime time or late-night.

Other aspects of the deal include reality-competition series, "Ultimate Fighter," which has been hugely successful for Spike, moving to FX in the spring. Viacom, which owns Spike, has indicated it is looking to move away from acquired programming.

FX is also scheduled to air up to six live UFC events through the life of the contract, which is with UFC parent Zuffa. Other events and programming will be on Fox's Fuel TV.

The UFC has been the subject of talk about coming to a broadcast network for some time, but President Dana White, said: "This what I always wanted. This is what I always thought was the pinnacle for us in the United States ... to get on Fox."

A decade ago, the UFC struggled to be considered a sport and attract interest from blue-chip advertisers. White said that to people "who thought I was lunatic 10 years ago ... here we are."

Even Hill had some concerns about the UFC's ability to enter the mainstream, but said its current appeal has put those to rest.

Hill said Fox had discussions with many advertisers about their interest level and while "one or two companies may have a do not buy," there's an ample number ready to get on board.

Word that Fox had a UFC deal was first reported by Sports Business Journal. Fox would not discuss financial terms, but after failing to win rights to the Olympics, it may have had more than a little cash on hand.

Tags: sports, television, tv
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