Just one Fox, Just one UFC

Posted: August 23, 2011 in Local MMA, Marketing, PR, Social Media, Strikeforce, UFC

Where does the time go?  I went from blogging 1-2 times a day, to a more digestible once a week, to being MIA for almost 2 weeks!  Well, my apologies loyal reader(s).  I’ll be better moving forward.

My next blog post was going to focus on Dennis Hallman’s wardrobe malfunction and how not all press is good press, however I think we can skip that lesson.  Last week the UFC dropped the bomb of bombs, it has secured the final piece of its media empire: a broadcast television deal with Fox Sports.

The Details:

The Ultimate Fighting Championship® (UFC), the world’s leading mixed martial arts organization and No. 1 Pay-Per-View event provider in the world, finds its perfect media match in FOX, the No. 1 television network in the country. FOX Sports Media Group, the umbrella entity representing FOX Networks Group’s wide array of sports platforms, has reached a multi-year, multi-media rights agreement with Zuffa, LLC, owner of the UFC brand.

The landmark agreement, which puts UFC on par with many of the country’s professional sports organizations, delivers four live events in prime time or late night each year to the FOX broadcast network, home to the country’s biggest sports events, including the Super Bowl, World Series and Daytona 500. The first live event airs Saturday, Nov. 12 at 9:00 PM ET/6:00 PM PT. Additional programming on multiple FOX networks launches January 2012 and includes live fights, pre and post shows, countdown shows, UFC Unleashed, UFC Primetime, the UFC Knockout series, Best of Pride, weigh-in specials, and much more original content from extensive Zuffa archives.  The agreement also provides for developing robust mobile and authenticated online offerings to exploit a vast array of digital platform rights.

In spring 2012, THE ULTIMATE FIGHTER, UFC’s signature weekly reality show moves to FX, FOX’s general entertainment cable network now in more than 99 million homes.  With the move to FX, the show will feature a newly-designed format. FX is also set to televise another four-to six-live UFC events annually, with a mixture of additional events and programs heading to FSMG cable networks including FUEL TV.  

For full press release please see: “UFC & FOX PACK PERFECT PUNCH”

(BTW, Kudos to the UFC PR team for a clever subject line.  Too often we get roped into very corporate intros.)

The Pros:

  • As much as I hate to admit it, there are few media giants (outside of ESPN) in the sports world than Fox sports. The exposure to this network’s audience will blow away anything Strikeforce had accomplished with CBS and certainly anything the UFC has done with SPIKE TV. This deal will put the UFC next to MLB, NFL, NASCAR among others.
  • This will dramatically increase MMA education.  Dana White and the UFC brass have been very clear that this deal will require more of a 101 approach than any other.  The general public will not know a proper stoppage from a submission, and certainly will know nothing of the judging/point system.  This will help remove those last few detractors that still think this sport is an underground affair.
  • A world of new sponsors.  With a broadcast deal in the works any sponsors that were hesitant to throw their hat into the UFC ring, will no longer take issue as they will more comfortably align with the Fox sports team.
  • More opportunities for fighter exposure.  With the world of competing MMA organizations shrinking and the UFC growing, this let’s fighters know there are avenues of growing their personal brands.  PPVs and the VS network will help, but Fox opens up fighters to the broader American public.

The Cons:

  • Complaints from die hard fans who take issue with the 101 style approach.  As with any sport, those that are “in the know” will ultimately complain about having to hear their usually fast play-by-play slowed by the need for more in-depth explanations as to what is happening and what it means to the fight.
  • Joe Buck.  I really can’t stand Joe Buck.  I know the UFC has its own commentary team, but even thinking he may be at ringside is going to grind my gears.

The History:
In case you are new to the sport, simply look to the background information the UFC casually places in its boilerplate information.  In under two decades the UFC has gone from a PPV phenomenon with little that recognized an organized sport, to today’s media juggernaut.

Founded in 1993, UFC has been on a meteoric rise since 2001 when it was acquired by Zuffa, LLC, owned by Lorenzo Fertitta, Frank Fertitta III and Dana White.  UFC’S first brush with FOX Sports goes back to June 2002, when Fox Sports Net carried UFC’s first non-pay-per-view event on basic cable television, and delivered what was then its largest audience to date.  Through cooperation with state athletic commissions, consistent rules were established and refined for competition through officiating, judging, the addition of weight divisions, length of rounds and better equipment.  Combined with an unyielding devotion to fighter safety, the UFC has vaulted to mainstream status in the minds of US sports fans attracting major sponsors such as Bud Light, Dodge and Harley Davidson.

UFC has displayed tremendous growth in digital and social media consumption. Unique visitors to UFC.com tripled between 2006 and 2010 (2.1 million to 6.3 million), and UFC established local web sites in 10 countries and Latin America.  Using a unique blend of incentives, promotions and original content, including live bouts, UFC has seen its number of Facebook friends increase from 800,000 in 2009 to 6.1 million at present, outpacing the NFL, MLB and the NHL.  UFC currently ranks second to the NBA in social media followers among the major sports organizations.  Additionally, UFC President Dana White regularly interacts with over 1.5 million fans that follow him on Twitter.

Mixed martial arts skews much younger than more established US sports, which ranged from age 43 for Super Bowl XLIV to 61 for horse racing’s Triple Crown in 2010.  Thus far, the median age for UFC on Spike in 2011 is 36 and 56% of UFC fans fall into the adult 18-34 demographic. Live UFC programming performs extremely well in the advertiser attractive, hard-to-reach male 18-34 demographic, with live event programming averaging a 1.53 rating, making it a top-20 cable show this year.

I’m very interested to see how this first event in November rolls out and how the mass audience reacts to it.  For many, this could be their first MMA fight, for others it may be the first they didn’t have to cram into a bar to watch.  Either way, tune in, pull up a chair and enjoy!

  1. […] UFC/Fox relationship was momentous for MMA. However it would appear the rest of the broadcast community is not as happy as fans […]

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