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The ESPN & Fox Sports TV universe just exploded in UFC’s face

By Zach Arnold | December 18, 2017

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The financial backers of UFC have found themselves in a precarious position for getting a new TV deal, thanks to the proposed dissolving of many of Rupert Murdoch’s sports assets and an internal meltdown with ESPN management.

Many of the Fox sports properties (not FS1, however) are being sold to ESPN to boost their streaming platform in 2018. Rupert Murdoch is cashing out. He didn’t see a long-term future in sports programming on pay television. The old man is getting out while the getting is good.

One of the incredible rumors swirling around the Fox/ESPN deal is that Rupert’s son, James Murdoch, would end up with a gig at Disney or ESPN. James, like Lachlan, isn’t exactly in the Fox News management mold. Such a proposal looked preposterous on paper until Monday’s bombshell announcement of ESPN President John Skipper resigning. The publicly stated reason for Skipper’s resignation was due to substance abuse issues. However, ESPN found themselves caught up in a nasty sexual harassment scandal over the weekend because of a Boston Globe report detailing allegations against personalities John Buccigross and Matthew Berry. ESPN released some of the conversations in question to the allegations but it was reportedly an issue of selective editing. Now the question is when the other shoe drops in Bristol.

ESPN management has been melting down for years despite Bob Iger’s best assurances. Iger just gave Skipper a multi-year extension and now Skipper quits?

Making things even more bizarre, ESPN just demoted Teddy Atlas from their boxing telecasts and banned him from live fight commentary. He’s now stuck doing post-fight Don Cherry-wannabe shtick with Stephen A. Smith. Mark Kriegel, poached by ESPN from Fox Sports/Al Haymon, is a total dud on the Top Rank telecasts with Tim Bradley. The reported reason for Teddy’s demotion involved, you guessed it, complaints about Teddy ripping into athletic commissions and officials.

You can rip Teddy Atlas for many things. His behavior is wildly erratic. However, if you’re going to rip Teddy Atlas for ripping into combat sports corruption, rip Teddy for not being specific or effective enough in his criticism of obvious problems. Removing Teddy Atlas and censoring his voice makes him a martyr for no obviously good reason.

To throw a further monkey wrench into UFC business with Fox, the company just drew a lousy TV rating for the Robbie Lawler/Rafael Dos Anjos fight that got next to no publicity on network television.

All of the turmoil at ESPN & Fox Sports makes Amazon look more attractive as a future UFC broadcasting partner. Turner Sports is lurking but Amazon is Best of Breed on digital technology and can monetize UFC in ways no other business partner can. The television lifelines are starting to get yanked away from UFC and thinking out of the box is required for UFC’s financial backers to make a return on their investment.

Topics: Boxing, Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 7 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

7 Responses to “The ESPN & Fox Sports TV universe just exploded in UFC’s face”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    Sports ratings in general are down. There is so much other good content to watch now. Between huge blockbuster movies and the golden age of television… I do believe sports has taken a massive hit. Sports in general have been slow to adapt to the cord cutting revolution.

    The UFC has a few major problems…

    1. They won’t be able to get close to as much money as they wanted for a TV deal.

    2. They gave away their power to main fights by booking boxing matches and nonsensical undeserving title fights.

    3. Besides McGregor, they don’t have any stars right now. GSP might never come back (and I hope he doesn’t)

    I have skipped the last few UFC events on TV. Their matchmaking is terrible. The commentating is poor. The next card I will watch is the HW Title fight in January because I like the champ.

    The landscape of entertainment is changing. Disney is already behind the eight ball compared to Netflix and Amazon.

  2. Diaz's packed bowl says:

    Out to lunch is the best way to describe the match making.
    UFC 219 is a decidedly light weight affair with only 2 bouts out of 10 being above 155.
    That sentence deserves examining… its only a 10 fight card, when was the last time they ran only ten fights? Also its full of cheap LW and WMMA fights to keep costs down.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      UFC 220 is basically 2 solid title fights and a useless undercard. I wanted to go to the event love but can’t justify it with only 2 worth while fights.

      The New owners just don’t know what they are doing.

  3. Sam says:

    Ha. 45 Huddle is still on here 10 years later.

    The last couple UFC events have actually been stellar.. had you bothered to watch lol.

  4. Diaz's packed bowl says:

    They couldn’t even get ONE big fight for the year end card. They are pushing HH and CC but its not much when HH hasn’t even won a fight in that division. That fight was barely signed! Imagine if contract negotiations stalled… the main event would have been Khabib vs Barboza on a 9 fight card.
    Another experiment in cheapness by the ufc, whats the least we can spend and provide while still making a few dollars.

    that GSP card was obviously worth the money, but 219 is really not even worth watching for free.

    It was a waste to re sign CC. Had they dumped her we may have at least had a decent headliner. Sadly CC is just too ugly for me to watch, not to mention she is a pathetic steroid abuser. Hopefully HH will head kick the ugly offa her! Dern is something to watch, great fighter and hot as Hades!

  5. Diaz's packed bowl says:

    Rizin 8 12 fights 1 decision > ufc 219 10 fights 8 decisions.

    ufc has lost the plot, a year end show should be good yes?
    At least rizin had a HW fight.

    In ufcs pathetic year end show there was little to no attempt to finish except for Khabib, HH lost that fight when she tossed CC down and did nothing to capitalize. A real forgetable evening for ufc fans while rizin had upsets, finishes galore, and Tenshin was showing incredible skills.


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