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ESPN becomes exclusive UFC home in US

ESPN has confirmed that it has struck a deal to acquire exclusive rights to all UFC mixed martial arts programming in the US from 2019, dislodging the Fox network as a rights-holder and building on an initial agreement announced earlier this month.

Just over two weeks ago, ESPN said that it had agreed a multi-year deal comprising exclusive coverage of 15 live UFC events on ESPN+, the broadcaster’s new subscription streaming service.

ESPN yesterday (Wednesday) evening confirmed that it has expanded on the deal by becoming the exclusive digital and linear home of the UFC in the US, showcasing 42 live events, 30 of which will feature a full card of 12 bouts.

ESPN’s linear channels will broadcast exclusive coverage of 10 events per year, as well as all UFC pay-per-view preliminary fights. ESPN+ will offer 20 events per year and all preliminary fights for ‘UFC on ESPN Fight Night’ programmes.

The length of the multi-year agreement, which will begin in January next year, was not publicly disclosed. However, the Variety news website said that the deal is worth a total of $1.5bn (€1.3bn) over five years, from 2019 to 2023, or $300m per year.

The UFC took its US broadcast rights to the open market in October after an exclusive negotiating period expired with Fox Sports, which has held US rights to the series since 2012.

In a statement, Fox Sports said that it “has enjoyed an amazing partnership with the UFC over the last seven years”, with Fox Sports having played a key role in supporting the launch of the the FS1 channel.