(Pic via Esther Lin’s MMA Fighting gallery of the UFC FOX press conference)
There’s a buttload of details floating around regarding the UFC’s move from Spike to Fox, but if you’re in a rush and wanna know what the big points are in the deal, here they are:
4 shows a year on FOX
6 Fight Nights a year on FX
2 seasons of TUF Live on FX (12 episodes + 1 finale per season)
Prelim, Countdown, and Unleashed shows on Fuel
On the surface, all this looks pretty groovy. But it ain’t all rainbows and unicorns across the entire deal. Let’s delve into each point and go through the pros and cons, followed by my oh so astute business prognostication on what this’ll mean for the sport!
4 Events on Fox
The Good: This right here is the golden grail we’ve all been waiting for: major events on network television, baby! Four events is also pretty sweet. This isn’t some bullshit toe dipping exercise. Every three months we’ll get another major broadcast event with the opportunity for the sport to have another transcendent Griffin vs Bonnar moment.
The Bad: After years of being pretty damn Grinchy with television cards, we better get something awesome. Four FOX shows means giving up four sexy matches that (if they’re going to have the impact the sport needs) would otherwise bring in 700k+ PPV buys per fight. Is Zuffa willing to give that money up to put major fights on free TV? And what happens if the injury bug fucks up these shows like it’s basically wrecked most of 2011? What happens if these shows don’t ‘Move the needle’ like FOX expects them to? This is a ‘7 year deal’, but then again marriage is supposed to be ‘forever’ too.
VERDICT: AWESOME!!! Fear that the UFC will cheapskate cards or fail to pull ratings aside, there’s no doubt this is well wicked. Four shows a year on a major network like FOX is almost worth breaking up with Spike on it’s own, and we’ve just gotten started. Let’s keep rolling.
6 Fight Nights on FX
The Good: Yeah, I was sad when I found out most of the ‘Friday night fights’ would actually just be episodes of The Ultimate Fighter Live, but there’s a lot to be happy about with six Fight Nights a year on FX. First off, FX is a pretty big network and available in just as many homes across America as SpikeTV. While SpikeTV continues to get shittier with more and more dumbass content, FX has gained a reputation for having some of the best original programming on cable television. Add in the fact that we’re getting 6 fight night events a year versus the 3 we were getting with Spike and there’s no denying things just got better for us as fans with this part of the deal.
The rest after the jump!
The Bad: The Versus vs Spike ratings battles taught us that a big chunk of viewership is tied to a channel and it’s demo. While Fox execs said there’s 80% overlap between FX fans and UFC fans, it will be interesting to see how the UFC does at the start of this relationship and how viewership grows as Joe Six Pack figures out his dude fightin’ ain’t on the Spikes no more. Speaking of that, this also opens the door for another MMA promotion to jump into the UFC’s perfectly formed sofa ass groove at Spike.
VERDICT: GREAT! Competition is good for us fans, as it means more MMA and better quality events. Not only will we be getting more Fight Nights, we’ll also get whatever promotion Spike replaces the UFC with. And if that promotion is Bellator, maybe their production values will stop sucking so hard.
The Good: Sounds like Zuffa finally listened to that shit we said back in 2009 about TUF being stale. Live fights: good. Fans picking the fights instead of the coaches: good. A week’s worth of reality shenanigans crammed into each episode rather than 2-3 days? Good. Fighters having more time to recover between fights? Good.
The Bad: ‘Live fights every Friday on FX’ really just means ‘A new episode of TUF every Friday.’ And I don’t know about you, but I’d like to have a fucking life. I have a dick, and it ain’t going to suck itself. That means I’d like to be able to go out and do stuff on a weekend rather than sit at home liveblogging the Ultimate Fighter. The ‘reality’ of this situation beyond the live format change and the bells and whistles is TUF is now on Friday night. And Friday night is historically where television shows go to die.
VERDICT: Meh… Changes are good, but I have my doubts the changes will be enough to revolutionize the show. After three or four episodes, things will probably slide back into how it was in the past and TUF will be back to struggling to maintain ratings.
Prelims, Countdowns, and Unleashed on Fuel
The Good: At least the UFC will still have a channel where every free timeslot can be stuffed with the latest infomercial for PPV content. That was a real advantage working with Spike: back when they were smaller they’d hook up MMA marathons at the drop of a hat. Not so much since they started producing their own content for idiot mouth-breathers, so the timing is pretty good here as well.
The Bad: Fuel as a channel kinda sucks and doesn’t have a lot of exposure. Half of America can’t get it, and half of the half that do don’t even know they’ve got it. Don’t expect the UFC to raise Fuel up to the next level like what happened with Spike. Hopefully Fox puts some serious effort into bringing Fuel up as a legit channel, but until then the UFC has taken a blow with the visibility for their various shows taking a serious hit.
VERDICT: BAD. Will Countdown and Unleashed shows end up on FX too? Even if it’s at 1am or something, that’d change my outlook somewhat on this.