I had planned to spout off on this topic earlier, but now that I feel up to it, I will post about the UFC’s $1.5 billion TV deal with ESPN.
From what I can tell, it looks to me like this is partly motivated by incumbent rightsholder FOX acquiring rights to the WWE. So ESPN saw an opening to take over the rights, and they did, for millions more than what FOX was already paying.
It also seems like a move by ESPN to shore up their ratings and expand their offerings, and perhaps get some fight fans to return. I think they are realizing that there is a certain segment of sports fans who might not be interested in the NBA, or in watching left-leaning show hosts spewing their politics on all these argument shows that ESPN has.
Or maybe they aren’t, given their recent hire of Keith Olbermann yet again. I guess my big fear is that ESPN and Disney might try and throw their weight around and dictate to Dana White how the productions ought to look. I kind of worry they might try and shove their political leanings down the UFC’s throats. Also, I read an article about some of the issues Joe Rogan had with FOX Sports, with Rogan complaining about too much interference from FOX management about his whole style of announcing.
My guess that’s my main worry: that ESPN will attempt to sanitize the UFC and its production. They better not! From what I gather the UFC had complete control of the entire production anyway, so that’s good.
In general, though, I am very happy to see ESPN actually give the UFC and MMA the time of day, for a change. On that note, an interesting hire by the network is Ariel Helwani, who moves over from The MMA Hour to ESPN. So maybe this is a new era for the UFC and for ESPN. The fact they hired an MMA guy looks to me like ESPN is going to get serious about MMA coverage in the future.