Eleven Sports to add UFC rights in UK as price point details emerge
Eleven Sports, the international pay-TV broadcaster, is in the process of finalising a contract for rights to mixed martial arts' UFC in the UK and Ireland.
The deal, which is expected to be announced in the next week, is being fully signed off with IMG, the agency that has taken a small stake in Eleven Sports’ UK and Ireland business, and would take effect at the start of next year.
News of the addition of rights to the Endeavor-owned UFC (Endeavor also owns IMG) comes as Eleven Sports continues negotiations with IMG over the addition of rights to North America’s Major League Soccer, and as more details emerge with regards to the pricing of the channels.
BT Sport has held UFC rights in the UK and Ireland since the telecoms giant launched its channels in the UK five years ago.
The new agreement with Eleven Sports is not fully exclusive, however, and a pay-per-view agreement will be unveiled with another pay-TV broadcaster.
The UFC rights will add flagship content for Eleven Sports 2, a channel that will offer “live premium fight sports, eSports and extreme sports for dedicated fans, plus football overspill from Eleven Sports 1.”
UFC action is already shown by Eleven Sports on its channels in Belgium and Luxembourg, and the broadcaster today added fight sports content for its new channels in Portugal by acquiring live and exclusive rights in a multi-year deal with Fighting Spirit, the France-based distributor of combat sports content. The deal includes action from Enfusion Talents, M-1 Challenge, Enfusion and M-1 Selection.
BT extended its UFC rights two years ago in an agreement running until the end of 2018 and encompassing live events, highlights and magazine programming. Prior to 2013, the series was shown by ESPN, whose UK and Ireland business was acquired by BT.
The telecoms operator has followed Sky, its pay-TV rival, and ITV, the free-to-air commercial broadcaster, in launching a pay-per-view channel that will go live later this year.
Eleven Sports will launch soon in the UK and Ireland as an over-the-top subscription service, streaming action on its website and on iOS, Android and tablet apps, although negotiations continue for linear channels to be added to leading pay-TV platforms.
Eleven Sports’ nascent service in the UK and Ireland has already landed various soccer rights from IMG, including Italy’s Serie A, Netherlands’ Eredivisie, Sweden’s Allsvenskan and the Chinese Super League, complementing the earlier swoop of rights to Spain’s LaLiga.
The broadcaster also turned to the agency to pick up rights to golf’s US PGA Championship, which will be the launch event for Eleven from 9 to 12 August and can be streamed free of charge as part of a seven-day trial.
Rights to the MLS, which are also marketed by IMG, are expected to be added to the broadcaster’s programming once the existing four-year agreement with Sky expires at the end of the 2018 season, although an agreement hasn't yet been fully signed off.
The programming and production agreement between Eleven and IMG was announced earlier this month.
Pricing Eleven has vowed to offer “an affordable and flexible pricing plan” for its OTT offering and an indication of the price point was given this week as details briefly went live on the Eleven Sports website.
A price point of £7.99 ($10.49) per month (or £69.99 per year) is thought to be very close to the figures that will be announced in due course by the broadcaster.
The broadcaster will offer monthly or annual passes to its service, but not ‘club passes’ to follow all the games of a particular team.
Talks continue with BT, Sky and Virgin over carriage agreements and Eleven has now lodged its applications with Ofcom, the UK media regulator, for two cable and satellite channels.
IMG is to produce the output for both channels from its facilities at Stockley Park in London, and the online streaming platform will use the technology of NeuLion, the streaming technology company bought by IMG’s parent company Endeavor in a $250-million deal.