US sports broadcaster ESPN has enhanced its mixed martial arts portfolio by agreeing a multi-year rights deal with the Professional Fighters League, while pay-television broadcaster TSN has also partnered with the fledgling promotion in Canada.
The PFL markets itself as the first organisation to present MMA through a regular season, playoffs and championship format. NBC Sports Group’s NBCSN pay-television channel had covered the League’s debut 2018 season in the US, but ESPN will now take over exclusive rights, adding the PFL to its coverage of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
From this year, all 10 PFL events will air live across ESPN2 and ESPN+, the direct-to-consumer subscription sports streaming service, with up to three hours of exclusive action live on ESPN+ and up to two exclusive hours live on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes.
TSN holds similar rights and will exclusively air all PFL events in Canada. The rights include the regular season, playoffs and championship event.
Six five-hour PFL Regular Season events will take place primarily on Thursday nights from May to August. Three PFL Playoff events will take place in October, with coverage also carried across ESPN+, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes.
PFL Playoff events will feature the top eight fighters in each of the competition’s six weight classes attempting to fight – and win – twice in the same night to advance to the PFL Championship.
The season culminates with the PFL 2019 Championship on New Year’s Eve with world title fights in every weight class live exclusively on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes. Winners of each title bout will be crowned PFL World Champion in their weight class and earn $1m (€880,000).
In addition to the live events, ESPN platforms will bring fans pre- and post-event coverage and additional exclusive PFL content, including an inside look at the league through a ‘Road to the Playoffs’, ‘Road to the Championship’ and the PFL ‘Best of Season’. The agreement starts with the broadcast of the 2018 PFL Season Review and 2019 Roster Selection Show this spring.
The PFL is set to introduce a number of new ventures this season, including the debut of MMA’s first-ever 155-pound women’s division which will feature two-time American Olympic Judo gold medallist Kayla Harrison, as well as SmartCage and Cagenomics, proprietary PFL features that deliver real-time data and analytics in an attempt to bring fans inside the cage.