Los Angeles – Today, Ultimate Fighting Championship, 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.
“We’re excited to be part of the FOX family,” says Dana White, UFC President. “The UFC is finally where it belongs on the number one network in the country and aligned with the most prestigious sports properties in the world. I’ve always said that the UFC will be the biggest sport in the world and with this relationship it will become a reality.”
“My brother Frank, Dana and I always believed that our passion for the sport of Mixed Martial Arts would help us to build the UFC into a successful global brand and ultimately make it one of the premier sports properties in the world,” said Lorenzo Fertitta, Chairman and CEO of the UFC. “The partnership with FOX is a major step in making this a reality and also builds on the great relationship that we already have established with FOX in Latin America, Australia and Europe.”
“Mixed martial arts is not only the fastest growing sport in the world, but also the world’s most exciting form of man-to-man competition, and the UFC is the world’s premier MMA organization,” said FSMG President & Co-COO Eric Shanks. “Since FOX Sports is America’s No. 1 sports network and FOX is America’s No. 1 network for young adults, the UFC on FOX is a perfect match.”
“UFC’s growth over the past decade is nothing short of phenomenal and it has become one of the marquee sports in this country,” said John Landgraf, President and General Manager, FX Networks. “There is a reason for its rising popularity. It features some of the greatest athletes in the world, and we believe it will be a terrific addition to our schedule and look forward to our relationship.”
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 programing averaging a 1.53 rating, making it a top-20 cable show this year.