UFC pay-per-views head exclusively to ESPN-Plus

The UFC is taking another step away from traditional cable and satellite television operators.

Viewers hoping to order the organization’s pay-per-view events will only be able to do so through the ESPN-Plus subscription service beginning with UFC 236 on April 13, the companies announced Monday.

“Today’s announcement further establishes the strength of the partnership between UFC and ESPN,” UFC president Dana White said in a statement. “Now our fans will be able to watch all UFC events exclusively on ESPN platforms, including ESPN-Plus, which is an innovative way to deliver fights to our young fan base. I couldn’t be more excited to work with ESPN for the next seven years. Together we’re going to do amazing things to help grow this sport.”

The UFC’s agreement with DirecTV to distribute pay-per-view events domestically expired ahead of February’s UFC 234 event, but the companies came to an agreement to air the broadcast days before the fights. They did so again before UFC 235 in March.

Now that relationship has been severed.

Pay-per-view providers and content creators like the UFC typically split revenue almost down the middle, but it’s believed the UFC was seeking something closer to a 70-30 breakdown.

The new deal runs through 2025 and applies to consumer purchases in the United States. Commercial buys will still be available through other outlets.

It calls for 12 pay-per-view events per year with purchases through the platform offering high-definition streams with both English and Spanish commentary. ESPN-Plus already airs upwards of 20 UFC Fight Night events per year and preliminary card action under a multi-year agreement that brought the UFC to ESPN in January.

That deal also includes 10 ESPN events per year and fetched the UFC $1.5 billion over five years.

“With the addition of UFC PPV events, we are making ESPN-Plus an absolute must-have for any fan of the UFC and mixed martial arts,” said Kevin Mayer, Chairman of Direct-to-Consumer International for The Walt Disney Company, in a release. “In less than a year, ESPN-Plus has established itself as the leader in direct-to-consumer sports and this new programming agreement adds a significant business to our platform while reinforcing the value and strength of our product and our content lineup.”

Pay-per-view events purchased through the app will cost $59.99 and the service will offer a one-year subscription to ESPN-Plus for an extra $20 for new customers.

ESPN officials stated there may be other package deals announced in the future.

Viewers who have been purchasing events through the UFC’s digital brands like UFC.com or the organization’s app will be redirected to ESPN-Plus.

ESPN-Plus reported 568,000 new subscribers in two days before the Jan. 19 UFC event on the platform, its largest event and subscription catalyst to date.

“We couldn’t be more excited to continue to drive passionate fans to these new pay-per-view experiences,” ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro said. “In addition to giving MMA fans a one-stop home for all UFC PPV events, ESPN-Plus pricing and packaging will deliver new value to fans as well.”

UFC 236 features a pair of interim title fights, headlined by a lightweight bout between Dustin Poirier and featherweight champ Max Holloway. Israel Adesanya will take on Kelvin Gastelum for the interim middleweight belt.

More MMA: Follow at CoveringTheCage.com and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-277-8028. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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