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Is Spike holding the UFC library hostage?

Here’s an interesting little snag in the UFC’s smooth transition from Spike to Fox. While the UFC’s main agreement with Spike ends at the start of 2012, there’s a seperate deal that gives Spike access to the UFC’s back catalog until 2013.

While Spike TV no longer will air live UFC events after this year, its existing contract allows it to air the UFC library (including past events, former “TUF” seasons, “UFC Unleashed” episodes and specialty programming) in 2012. However, as long as Spike TV has the rights to the content, it can’t air programming – including live events – from other organizations, such as Bellator, until 2013.

However, the UFC could purchase and reclaim the library if it can reach a deal with Spike TV.

“If they made a decent offer, we’d probably sell,” one Viacom source said. “Spike’s preference next year is to have Bellator on air.”

“I don’t think FOX truly understands what having the library means,” one Viacom source said. “That means we could put (old seasons of) ‘TUF’ against (new seasons of) ‘TUF.’ We could be airing fights, replays of fights, all kinds of stuff when they’re airing live fights.”

“The last thing you want is confusion in the marketplace,” the source said. “You have to spend a lot of money to let people know where you’re airing. People are creatures of habit. They don’t read stuff for the most part. They only know the channel it’s on, and a lot of people don’t know (about the UFC’s move to FX).”

So it’s a bit of a sticky wicket … buy the rights back and Bellator slides into the hole left by the UFC. Leave them be and the UFC will end up competing against itself on two different networks. Spike already fired a shot across the bow back in June when they put a Fight Night rerun headlined by Nate Marquardt up against a live UFC on Versus card topped by Marquardt as well. Who knows how many people tuned into SpikeTV by accident that night, getting a strange deja-vu vibe off watching him pummel Rousimar Palhares again.

  • DJ ThunderElbows

    Fuck em.  Let ‘em compete against the UFC and keep Bellator off the air.  If Spike wants to do it, let ‘em do it.  It’s not like they’re gonna advertise the move to FX if they buy ‘em out, so the source’s “hypothetical” just bites him on the ass.

  • benhamil

    Somebody tell Diaz that the guys who stole his stash work at Viacom/Spike.

  • agentsmith

    Sounds like a bluff.  Are UFC reruns worth as much to them as new Bellator fights?  Actually that’s a good question.

  • Mixed Martial Adam

    I would think major UFC reruns would still out-perform Bellator, but such a move would certainly strain relations with the new MMA company. 

    In addition, if Spike was deliberately broadcasting UFC events to coincide with FX live shows, wouldn’t there be some legal consequences for deliberate brand confusion? When you also factor in the above interview where Spike states that they could knowingly damage the UFC brand with their own footage it certainly would seem that Zuffa lawyers could find something to attack them with.

    Probably just easier in the long run to buy the contract out and move on rather than risk Spike fucking with them using their own footage and then go through the eventual lawsuit that would follow.

  • frickshun

    This is a interesting quandary.

  • agentsmith

    Unless Spike is sure that UFC reruns will fare better than Bellator, they’d obviously be wise to give it up.

  • P W

    Who the heck willingly sits down and watches RERUNS of TUF? Watching episodes “live” is bad as it is.

  • glassjawsh

    lulz at the spike exec for basically saying that people who watch his station are too stupid to change the channel.

    definitely their target demographic

  • DJ ThunderElbows

    ^Nailed it.