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The end of Setanta Sports in the UK and what it means for UFC

By Zach Arnold | June 23, 2009

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UFC is likely left with the option of heading to Bravo, which would probably be a step down for the MMA organization in terms of TV exposure and rights fees. There is pressure to get a deal done soon, given how Michael Bisping is being pushed in the media for his upcoming fight against Dan Henderson.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, UK, Zach Arnold | 14 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

14 Responses to “The end of Setanta Sports in the UK and what it means for UFC”

  1. Fluyid says:

    In totally unrelated news posted here due to extreme work boredom:

    Posted: Tuesday, 23 June 2009 4:21PM

    Station Casinos Gets Another Debt Extension

    Station Casinos has been granted another extension by its creditors to get a new plan in place for the company’s faltering finances.

    In a filing this week with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Station lists its new deadline as July 17th.

    The company proposed a prepackaged bankruptcy plan in February to restructure and eliminate about half of its nearly $6 billion debt load. Station says it is continuing to negotiate the restructuring plan with bondholders.

    Company owners have agreed to invest $244 million in cash, if bondholders agree to the proposal.

  2. MMA Tycoon says:

    Zach, if they’re going to go down the “Bravo” type route, I would guess they’re more likely to end up on Virgin, who have picked up TUF.

    Unfortunately I personally think that would suck ass! Virgin have no sports broadcasting experience, just like Bravo, and will do a below par job, just like Bravo…. tape delays, shortened shows and bizarely, poor picture quality (their TUF programs are not even set up for proper widescreen and have a black bar top and bottom and look all fuzzy). All in all I will be really pissed off if it goes to Virgin or Bravo… at least Bravo tried to show Affliction live though so perhaps they would do 3am events live.

    There is of course the option of ESPN too. They just bought the Premier League castoffs from Setanta and are rushing through a TV deal (they don’t currently have live sport in the UK under the ESPN banner). It may well be a bit too short notice for them though.

    Sky would be great but perhaps unlikely. As long as the UFC doesn’t end up on PPV it will be OK but suffice to say, whoever gets it will probably do a worse job than Setanta.

  3. kobashi says:

    I have got a feeling Bravo will show UFC delayed like they always did.

    Bravo like the advertising fee’s so it will be UFC delayed coverage with a silly amount of ad breaks. Poor Picture quality to add.

    I am still not sure if SKY are actually interested in UFC. If they are then we dont know if they and UFC have sorted out there differences from few years back. Even if they are I think the max you will see is 50% of events on PPV. The UK customers is a not a monthly PPV Buyer so Sky wouldnt take that risk.

  4. John Griffin says:

    Dana has beef with Sky for some reason, but if he can cut a deal with them he really should.

  5. Alan Conceicao says:

    That doesn’t actually say anything about ESPN picking them up. Just that the UFC doesn’t have a TV partner along with a lot of other leagues and that ESPN is looking into other opportunities quite generically.

  6. Shane says:

    “Dana has beef with Sky for some reason”

    Sky realise UFC rights aren’t going to bring in as many new subscribers as Premiership football which is why they won’t overbid for UFC.

    It seems as if UFC’s UK television model is to get as much for TV rights as possible, even if it means broadcasting on a second rate channel with a smaller audience reach.

    UFC highlight shows before the TUF boom era on Sky Sports did higher ratings than anything post-boom on Bravo or Setanta.

  7. liger05 says:

    Sky would be best for UFC’s expansion plans in Europe. Sky is the perfect platform if UFC want it to be covered as a sport. Sky would not push the events but they would get it all over Sky Sports News. You would see interviews with fighters, results being covered and British fighters would get put on programmes like Soccer AM just to give them more exposure.

  8. kobashi says:

    Dana has beef with Sky for some reason

    From what I remember the UFC and Sky had a fallout after the UFC 38. This even was in London and Sky did a broadcast live on PPV. Remember at this time UFC was not anywhere near as popular as it is today. It did numbers for Sky but I heard Sky wanted more say on the production. We all know UFC do all the production themselves so there was a little argument.

    Sky walked away from UFC after that event.

  9. Shane says:

    Dave Meltzer/UFC’s version of the situation:

    “UFC 38 was the first show promoted with the benefit of strong television.

    UFC signed a 13-week deal with Sky Sports in the U.K. for one or two hours per week on Thursday night of prime-time fights from the company’s tape library. It was the company’s first-ever television deal, designed to build to a live appearance on July 13, 2002, headlined by Matt Hughes defending his welterweight title against former champion Carlos Newton.

    UFC had signed an unfavorable deal to get on Sky Sports and build the show, and with the ratings being strong, UFC president Dana White wanted better terms when the contract came due. But Sky wasn’t receptive. In controversial move at the time, White refused to sign a new television contract. After building an audience, UFC disappeared from U.K. television for years, and it was five years later before another show was run in the market.”

  10. Zack says:

    “Dana has beef with Sky for some reason”


  11. Dave2 says:

    I’m not familiar with the UK television scene. But Sky Sports is a subscription channel like HBO/Showtime so wouldn’t the audience reach of that channel be low compared to a cable channel or network TV? At least according to Wikipedia, Sky Sports seems to have a much bigger audience share than Bravo but I’d think that the UFC could land something outside of for-pay TV.

  12. kobashi says:


    Bravo is an entertainment channel which doesnt really show any live sporting action.

    It is not a free channel. You still need Sky or cable to receive the channel. It is low end though so people with the basic package can receive it.

    Sky Sports is a big powerhouse and is really the only channel in the UK that can help UFC grow. Like liger05 said, Sky would have the fighters on general sports shows etc.

    Being on Bravo is a step down, no doubts about it!!

  13. Dave2 says:

    So there’s nothing else (other than Bravo) that the UFC can get with a wider audience reach than Sky Sports? Subscription-based services (ie. HBO and Showtime) generally don’t have a large reach compared to cable (ie. Spike) here in North America. Not sure how things are in the UK.


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