UFC to launch 24-hour channel for Latin American markets before end of year

USA TODAY Sports

The UFC, in partnership with Televisa, the dominant network in Mexico, announced Thursday plans for a 24-hour subscription-based channel to cover Latin America, with the exception of Brazil. The channel would air all events live, and well as air historical programming from UFC, Pride, Strikeforce and WEC.

The UFC and Televisa announced on Thursday the planned launch of a 24-hour premium channel that will be available throughout most of Latin America.

The channel, designed to be subscription-based similar to HBO or Showtime in the U.S., is designed for Central and South America, with the exception of Brazil, where UFC already had existing major television deals.

The scheduled launch will be late this year.

The channel is very similar to the plans of World Wrestling Entertainment, except the pro wrestling company's prime market will be the United States, which includes moving most of its pay-per-view events to the channel. The UFC model is in markets where they don't already have pay-per-view distribution, and will be offering all events, both those televised on free television in the U.S. and the pay-per-view shows, on the network. By not doing the channel in the U.S. and Canada, they protect their pay-per-view business, still the company's leading revenue stream.

The programming will be based around not only airing every event live, but also airing all the reality shows in Spanish, as well as other shoulder programming that airs already in the U.S. In addition, programming will make extensive use of the videotape libraries of not just UFC, but libraries they own of Pride, WEC and Strikeforce.

"The launch of the UFC channel is a game changer for our sport and its fans throughout Latin America," said UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta. "We are giving millions of fans across the region complete access to all our live events and programming for the first time. UFC is the fastest growing sports organization in history and with the strength of Latin America's premier media group, Televisa, the UFC Channel will become the fastest growing sports network in television history."

Televisa is the premier network in Mexico, bigger in its culture than any of the individual broadcast networks in the U.S. are in American culture.

Before launching the channel and to more familiarize the Mexican audience to UFC, a number of events and shows will be airing on both Televisa Ch. 5, and Televisa Deportes. Ch. 5 is equivalent to a strong broadcast network in the U.S. because it's geared toward the young adult audience in many ways like FOX, but with a larger market share. They will be broadcasting a number of live major events in a new deal that goes into effect in June. Televisa Deportes is the country's largest sports channel.

Televisa has aired UFC events in the past, including Saturday's UFC 160, headlined by Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio Silva. UFC 100 did excellent ratings on Televisa in 2009, with the Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir main event being viewed live by 13.3 million of the country's population of 108 million at the time.

A strong partnership with Televisa is likely to open door for a potential live event in Mexico. Dana White had said for years that Mexico and the United Kingdom were the two international markets they had targeted when first buying the company in 2001. But politically navigating the tricky Mexican politics has kept them from doing a show. Having Cain Velasquez as heavyweight champion of Mexican heritage with both of his parents born in the country, has created a star who already has a major following in the country.

Live events will also air on Golden Channel in Latin America prior to the network launch.

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