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Former Zuffa exec surprised at amount ESPN will pay UFC in media deal

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With the ink barely dry on the UFC’s streaming media rights deal with ESPN, there are many details that have yet to be addressed, particularly with how it will affect the Fight Pass platform, since ESPN has rights to the entire library there. Several promotions have partnership in place with Fight Pass (EBI, Titan FC, Invicta FC, GLORY Kickboxing), so it stands to reason that some concern on their part is warranted.

ESPN offers their streaming service platform, ESPN Plus, for $4.99/month while Fight Pass costs $9.99/month. If ESPN is getting 15 events per year, the library, DWTNCS and other shows and perks, subscriptions are likely to drop off with the more expensive Fight Pass service, resulting in fewer eyeballs on the aforementioned smaller promotions.

In a recent interview conducted by MMA Junkie’s Ben Fowlkes, former UFC executive and current CEO of GLORY kickboxing, Marshall Zelaznik weighed in on the deal and how much of an impact it could have on his promotion.

Since Zelaznik was instrumental in the development of Fight Pass, and because Glory has streaming deals with both Fight Pass and ESPN, he possesses valuable insight to the way these deals work. There were a couple standout comments that caught our attention, though, the first being his take on the $150M/year the UFC will receive in the deal.

“For me, maybe the biggest surprise was the amount of money that’s being paid. I have no doubt that the UFC brings that kind of value to an over-the-top platform, because, remember, we launched Fight Pass, so I know what it’s capable of. But somebody did a very good job in the negotiation of that deal to get ESPN up to speed on the value there, and I think the content’s worth what they’re getting paid for it, and it was good to see in a lot of ways.”

With a large portion of Fight Pass being cleaned out in this deal, the smaller promotions with streaming partnerships are looking for answers on what this will mean for them, but according to Zelaznik, those conversations haven’t happened yet.

“I think that’s a good question. I think it’s an unknown right now, especially in terms of what it means for Fight Pass customers in the U.S. And I don’t have any inside information on this. I only know what I read, the same as everybody else, and it looks to me like they’re either going to retail Fight Pass through ESPN, and then maybe there’s an adjustment in pricing, you never know.

But one thing that’s important to remember about Fight Pass is that it’s an international product. There’s a lot of traction with the product internationally. And from market to market, and this was one of the challenges with Fight Pass in managing it, is that it looks different in almost every market around the world in terms of what live content and what delayed content you’re getting, just because of the different license fee deals you may do.

So yeah, while it’s a little ambiguous right now trying to figure out the value proposition of Fight Pass under this deal, it is something I’m watching very closely. Because we’re on Fight Pass, so we’re watching very closely to get some clarity in terms of what this will mean for us and what kind of audience we’ll still be able to drive to our events on Fight Pass.”

There was plenty more in this interview, with topics ranging from possible over-saturation to the building of big stars while being spread so thin. You can catch the entire feature at MMA Junkie.


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