‘Fits like a glove’: Foxtel signs exclusive UFC deal

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Foxtel has signed a new multi-year exclusive deal with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), bolstering its sports offering after also securing an extended deal with ESPN last week, which includes rights to the NBA, NFL and MLB.

Under the new deal, announced on Wednesday at an event in The Rocks in Sydney, Foxtel and Kayo Sports will become the UFC’s sole pay-per-view provider in Australia from 2024.

Australian Alexander Volkanovski has emerged as one of UFC’s major starsCredit: Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

The pay TV and streaming company’s chief executive, Patrick Delany, said the popularity of the combat sport was growing with 4 million domestic fans and 700 million globally.

Foxtel said it did not disclose the price of its broadcast deals.

“Our business suits big promotional pay-per-view events like this. We are all about big franchises,” marking a shift from its wide-reaching “Over 50 Sports Live” tag it has run since its inception in 2018.

Previously an unchallenged subscriber product, Fox Sports and Foxtel has fought a content and sports rights arms race over the past five years in a battle to stay relevant with Australian audiences.

Foxtel launched its digital sports streaming product Kayo in 2018 to cater to a wider audience, yet with competitors emerging, Delany is now focusing on the biggest sports that matter to Australians.

“The bottom line is we’re about the five top-tier sports because we are mainstream, not niche,” he said.

The financial equation of buying a single event doesn’t work for Foxtel, Delany says, pointing to the ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup broadcast on Seven and Optus Sport, particularly in the streaming era.

“It needs to be something major for us to dig in, unless it’s on Australian soil,” he says. “You get the subscribers in and then they immediately leave, unless it’s part of a bigger narrative.

“So UFC fits like a glove.”

Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany says the popularity of the combat sport was growing.Credit: Arsineh Houspian.

Commercial pay-per-view sales to 5000 pubs and clubs are a particular revenue driver, says Delany.

“You go to any pub and Fox Sports is all over the place. It’s becoming more like if you go to America, ESPN is in every bar and UFC plays a big role in that.”

Previously, UFC events could be accessed through Foxtel, Fetch, Main Event and the UFC’s own Fight Pass.

While Foxtel has long-term deals in place with the AFL and NRL, its extension with ESPN last week puts to bed the threat of the US network launching a local product for its sports codes – at least for the time being.

“They have profited tremendously from Kayo because Foxtel wasn’t growing, and we were really their only outlet.”

Foxtel secured extended HBO rights this year. Jennifer Coolidge appears in a scene from The White Lotus.Credit: HBO

Foxtel has also had to fend off chatter of a local launch of Warner Bros Discovery’s HBO-led streaming service MAX after it extended a deal to keep shows such as The White Lotus, The Last of Us and House of the Dragon on Binge and its legacy product this year.

Delany says launching a streaming service is “very difficult” for the more niche players. “I don’t know why you’d do it.”

“The exuberance of subscription numbers has passed a long time ago, it’s now about revenues. If you look at the amounts we pay for these things, we pay a lot of money. It’s good business.”

UFC will touch down in Sydney in September for UFC293, with more local events touted.

UFC president Dana White said he was excited to be extending the broadcast partnership with Foxtel Group.

“Together, we will continue to grow UFC in Australia and they will be the destination for the biggest and baddest fights we put on year-round.”

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