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Dana White: UFC open to digital platform for next broadcast deal

The UFC is currently in the negotiation period for its next broadcasting contract. And it seems like the world leader in MMA is keeping its options open.

UFC president Dana White told the Wall Street Journal on a recent podcast that the promotion could indeed end up on a digital platform — not a cable network — after the current deal with Fox Sports is up at the end of 2018.

“Absolutely,” White told Jason Gay on “The Unnamed Podvideocast.” “That stuff is all about to change. When I grew up, we had Channel 3, Channel 5, Channel 8 and Channel 13. And then the channel Sesame Street is on. Those are all the channels that we had, right?”

White continued that at home in Las Vegas he has cable and DirecTV. That’s 2,000 channels and there still isn’t much to watch, he joked. That’s why he thinks the UFC will be a hot commodity for a potential broadcast partner.

“Nothing is on,” White said. “I think that we have the type of content that people will watch. Not every fight that I put on is a mega fight and a fight that spills over into the mainstream, but I’ll get those twice a year.”

White said his kids don’t watch television and are constantly on their phones. Watching three-hour long football or baseball games is not necessarily what younger people are doing in the United States in 2017. The UFC is different, White said.

“That’s why I love my content,” he said. “My content works. My content is quick, exciting and fun to watch on any platform.”

One of the big advantages, White said, is that the UFC produces its own shows. While leagues like MLB, the NFL and the NBA get billions of dollars from networks, those networks are the ones that produce the games. The UFC does things in-house and always has since White and the Fertitta brothers purchased the company in 2001.

White said a good example of how over-the-top or OTT (non-TV) services are in the driver’s seat is the deterioration of ESPN’s ratings and how much money that network gets per cable subscription.

At one point, ESPN was thought to be a potentially big player when the UFC broadcast deal is up and maybe it still will be. The channel is starting its own streaming service, so maybe that will help. There’s also the possibility the UFC’s broadcast presence is split up between network television, cable and digital.

“I think where you really see it is, look at ESPN,” White said. “Look at how powerful ESPN was five years ago, what they were getting per sub. Their subs are dropping. They’re scrambling to figure it out right now.

“There’s no doubt that the internet and OTT is where it’s all going. So, it’ll be interesting to see when the smoke clears who’s still around and who’s not.”

For the UFC’s part, White is not worried at all. He has been saying for five or six years that OTT is the future. And it appears that the future is here.

“Fighting, it works everywhere, all across the planet,” White said. “Now with technology, we’re getting to the point I always dreamed about. I always used to say, ‘We’ll take this thing all around the world, build a fanbase, build some talent in every country around the world and then we’ll get to a point in time where everybody can watch it at the same time — on the same platform.’ We’re getting to that day.”

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