Fresh from the official closing of its Fox acquisition, Disney is beginning to make some major moves in the online streaming space. The company has officially become the only online source for UFC Pay-Per-View events, via its ESPN Plus live and on-demand service. The deal, announced on March 18, lasts until 2025, and is limited to just the U.S.
“Today’s announcement further establishes the strength of the partnership between UFC and ESPN,” UFC President Dana White said in a statement. “Now our fans will be able to watch all UFC events exclusively on ESPN platforms, including ESPN+, which is an innovative way to deliver fights to our young fan base. I couldn’t be more excited to work with ESPN for the next seven years. Together we’re going to do amazing things to help grow this sport.”
The exclusivity kicks off with UFC 236: Holloway vs. Poirier 2 on April 13 and will feature 12 live events per year, for the duration of the contract. The expected price of the Pay-Per-View events is $60 each, and only ESPN Plus members will be able to purchase them. New ESPN Plus subscribers will get one year of the service and a UFC PPV event for $80. The deal doesn’t affect commercial venues, which have traditionally offered access to UFC live events in the past.
Earlier in March, ESPN Plus free trial members were treated to a free UFC fight night, perhaps in anticipation of this announcement. The exclusive deal is something of a punch to the gut for Amazon, which only one year ago began offering UFC Pay-Per-View purchases, without a Prime membership. Now that Disney is gearing up for the launch of its upcoming on-demand streaming service, Disney Plus, we are clearly witnessing the opening rounds of a streaming title fight. It’s a fight that Disney began in earnest last month when it unceremoniously terminated its Marvel shows on Netflix, while simultaneously announcing that mega-hit Captain Marvel will be a Disney Plus exclusive once the Brie Larson movie hits our homes later this year.
The UFC deal also suggests that Apple’s forthcoming live TV and on-demand streaming service will face an uphill battle. Netflix recently announced it would not join Apple’s new integrated experience, and if UFC events are an ESPN Plus exclusive, it’s unlikely Apple will be able to offer these popular Pay-Per-View fights either.
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