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Dana White: Every major outlet ‘is interested in making a bid’ for UFC’s broadcast rights

The next major domino in the multi-billion dollar business of sports broadcast rights fees should soon fall, with the NBA expected to ink a deal worth more than $70 billion with ESPN, Amazon, and NBC Sports most likely footing the bill.

Despite the audience for the NBA staying somewhat stagnant over the past few years, with ratings still not recovered in a post-pandemic world, the thirst for live content continues to drive broadcast rights deals higher and higher with each new package. Once the NBA finalizes its broadcast rights deal, the next major player in the market is UFC.

Currently working through a seven-year contract at ESPN that ends in 2025, UFC is expected to begin negotiations on a new broadcast rights deal in the next several months. It’s tough to imagine ESPN won’t make a competitive bid to keep UFC, especially with reliance on the organization to continue driving viewers and subscribers to its streaming service ESPN+.

That being said, ESPN has a lot of irons in the fire right now with a new shared sports streaming service launching later this year — alongside Warner Bros. Discover and FOX — and eventual plans to launch a standalone streaming service. Of course, ESPN is also paying part of that massive $70 billion plus package to keep the NBA at a time when the owners at Disney have continuously spoken about controlling costs as the network continues to lose its audience, with more and more viewers cutting the cord.

If the NBA deal closes as expected with three major networks landing the rights, that would leave Warner Bros. Discovery out in the cold after the company maintained a long-running relationship with the basketball league. Assuming Warner Bros. Discovery loses the NBA, that would leave the company with major deals in Major League Baseball, NASCAR (starting in 2025), the NHL, and some college sports.

Does that mean the loss of the NBA could potentially make Warner Bros. Discovery a major suitor for the UFC broadcast rights deal?

“Listen, I think everyone is kicking the tires and is interested in making a bid,” UFC CEO Dana White told the Sports Business Journal when asked about Warner Bros. Discovery potentially snagging the broadcast rights deal.

There is no shortage of potential players who could be vying for UFC’s TV deal.

When prior negotiations were happening for UFC’s broadcast rights, Amazon made a significant bid and nearly landed the entire package. Netflix has also become a player in live sports programming after landing a Christmas day package for NFL games and inking a huge $5 billion deal for WWE’s flagship show Monday Night Raw to move there in 2025.

WWE is part of TKO Group Holdings, the same company that owns UFC.

While there will be no shortage of interested parties vying for UFC’s broadcast deal, White said it’s taken a lot of time but he’s actually in a really good place with ESPN right now. That doesn’t necessarily mean ESPN has a leg up on the competition, but White seems happy with his current broadcast partner.

Still, money always talks loudest in these kinds of negotiations.

“Yeah, everyone is kicking the tires,” White said. “And over the however many last years that we’ve been together, I’ve had some headbutting with ESPN, but I feel like we are in a really good place right now and I’m really happy with my relationship with them and the way that this whole thing is running. We’ll see how it plays out.”

ESPN maintains an exclusive negotiating window to try and secure a new deal with UFC starting in January 2025, although it’s unlikely the two sides reach an agreement. UFC won’t know its true value until other potential suitors begin bidding, and that can’t happen until after the exclusive negotiating window closes.

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