Under the terms of the agreement, FOX will broadcast four UFC events a year on broadcast television and six events on FX, their basic cable station that is available on 99,369,000 homes, almost the same number of homes that receive Spike.
The Ultimate Fighter will also air on FX in a revamped, live version, while other FOX-owned entities like FUEL and FOX Deportes will also carry UFC programming.
The historic deal was jointly announced at the FOX studios in Los Angeles by FOX Sports chairman and CEO David Hill, FOX Sports media group co-president and COO Eric Shanks, FX president John Landgraf, UFC president Dana White, and Zuffa chairman Lorenzo Fertitta.
"Television is about the next big thing, and that's why we're here this morning," said Hill, who added that the UFC was "something we firmly believe in."
Under terms of the deal, the first UFC event on FOX will air on November 12, while additional UFC programming on FOX networks launches on January 2012.
White lauded the deal as the highlight of his tenure leading the UFC.
"This was it for me, this is what I always wanted," he said. "This is what I always felt was the pinnacle for us here in the United States. Not just to be on the No. 1 network in the country, but to be on a network with all the other real big sports: NFL, Major League Baseball, NASCAR, etc."
The deal was brokered by the UFC's agent Ari Emanuel. Though financial terms weren't disclosed, Sports Business Daily reported on Tuesday that UFC will receive around $90 million per year in rights fees.
For a time, the UFC reportedly looked into launching its own network, a fact that was acknowledged during the press conference by Fertitta. But after considering all the available options including competing network offers, the FOX deal best fit their goals and needs.
"I think that a UFC channel would be very successful," he said. "But we sat down, thought about it a little bit and said, 'You know what we do best? Put on great fights.' We're not in the business of running a network. And as far as the life cycle of the company and where we're at, it just made more sense for us to do this deal with FOX."
FOX executives said they were drawn to the UFC by their ability to attract the coveted male to 18-34 year old demographic. Hill, who had in the past voiced no interest in MMA, said he had changed his tune over the past few years as he watched UFC continue to grow and market their brand and fighters.
White said that the UFC will use the deal as a "fresh start" to revamp all of their offerings, including pay-per-views.
The most significant changes may come to TUF, which will take place over a 12-week time frame and include live fights each week. As part of the deal, TUF will be moved to Friday nights. Each episode will feature taped footage from the four to five days prior, but the match between advancing fighters will be live. In addition to that, coaches will conduct their own training camps during the time and then fight at the end of the season.
While in the past, a network deal may have been undone by an advertisers unwillingness to sponsor mixed martial arts programming, FOX executives say that stigma is nearly gone.
"We would not have gone into the deal if we hadn't canvassed large group of advertisers who are 100 percent behind it," Hill said. "There might be one or two companies that have got a 'do not buy.' There is a hell of a lot more who have a 'do buy' on this sport."
Under the terms of the deal, the UFC will continue to control production of its events, though FOX will have input. FOX will control pre- and post-fight shows.
All in all there will be 36 UFC fights a year on FOX-owned networks, which includes the 26 live TUF fights, 6 FX "Fight Night" events and 4 major events on FOX. White said that the promotion still considers itself a pay-per-view company, but there is no question that there will be many more expectations and much more scrutiny as a result of the major deal.
Landgraf said the deal makes great sense as their research showed that their is an 80 percent overlap between fans of the UFC and FX viewers.
"I can't emphasize how thrilled I am to get this deal done," Hill said. "If you look where Frank, Dana and Lorenzo have taken the group in last decade, imagine what's going to happen in the next decade. I think the growth potential is explosive."
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