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UFC negotiations with HBO end without an agreement

Multichannel.com is reporting the following:

The long-rumored distribution deal between Home Box Office and Ultimate Fighting Championship has been KO’d.

The premium service said it will not air live UFC combat sports events on its network in the near future, ending more than a year of negotiations.

“After lots of discussion it became apparent that the business model doesn’t make sense for either one of us. So we agreed to go our separate ways,” said HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg in a statement. “You never know what the future holds. We have enormous respect and admiration for the executives we dealt with at the UFC. We wish them well.”

HBO has been in talks with UFC about carrying live UFC events on the 28-million subscriber pay service, but sources close to both sides said the discussions had heated up over the past two months. In fact, UFC President Dana White was quoted in the Miami Herald this past August guaranteeing a HBO/UFC deal by the end of 2007, saying that it would “definitely be in place for a winter fight.”

Representatives for the UFC could not be reached for comment at press time.

The HBO/UFC breakdown could bode well for Spike TV, which is hoping to extend its deal with the UFC — which includes the popular reality series The Ultimate Fighter — before it expires sometime next year.

The network’s Sept. 8 airing of the UFC 75 event featuring UFC light-heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson drew 4.7 million viewers, the most watched UFC event ever in North America and the most-watched non-World Wrestling Entertainment show in Spike’s history, according to the network.

Spike officials said the network is “optimistic” it can reach an accord with the combat sports outfit.

Considering how confident White was at one point that the UFC and HBO would be able to close a deal, this has to be viewed as a tremendous setback. A deal with HBO would have been huge for MMA in that it would be another step towards greater mainstream acceptance.

It will be interest to see how White reacts. Something like this could motivate him to do something big with ESPN, which reaches more homes than HBO and would carry the same brand of legitimacy.

It will also be interesting to see where HBO goes from here. Have they completely soured on MMA, or just the UFC? And if they are still open to the idea of televising mixed martial arts will they look to an existing promotion (Strikeforce comes to mind as an ideal partner)?

4 COMMENTS
  • Jeremy says:

    Personally I am happy this deal hasn’t worked out. From what I have read about it prior to now it didn’t seem like a beneficial deal to the viewer. HBO was basically talking to the UFC because one executive wanted to show MMA and the rest of the execs at HBO wanted nothing to do with it. Which if those reports were true is not a real good way to start a television relationship. And while I have never thought the UFC’s production is the best in the world, I didn’t like the fact that HBO wanted to handle it all either.

    I am sure the viewership being on HBO would have been great for the UFC but I don’t really care, it never seemed like a good relationship to me. Hopefully they can work something out with ESPN perhaps.

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  • paddiosf says:

    Dana and Zuffa has to get a deal done with a Major Network, maybe ESPN? Fighters Contract or any major sports contracts have alot to do with TV contracts there league or Orginazation sign….With the competition like Strikeforce,EliteXc paying there fighters more than most UFC fighters you may seein time, more fighters jump out of the UFC to make more money elsewhere….

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  • Ryder Die says:

    HBO Sports is a veteran in the sports broadcasting business. A deal with that network would have been beneficial. I think that it does open the doors for a network like ESPN to take over but I just can’t see ESPN’s production with MMA. It is built on the 4 major sports. It would seem like it would be solid but I just cant picture it.

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  • Ivan Trembow says:

    The #1 issue by far was the control of production (ie, the announcers, the camera crew, the production crew, etc). The UFC was insistent on keeping control of production, whereas HBO wanted to be in charge of production just as every other TV network is for every other major sporting event (with the exception of UFC programming on Spike TV, which does have to be considered a “major sporting event” with the M18-34 numbers they pull).

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