Yesterday was a big day for Fox. In a media event in New York City they announced the creation of Fox Sports 1, which will launch on August 17th to approximately 90 million homes nationwide. There will be a Fox Sports 2 soon, but details on when that will come to fruition were not addressed. Fox deems this new venture into all-sports channels as legitimate competition for ESPN.
This news directly affects MMA fans, as Fox revealed their plans for UFC programming (among their other higher profile sports). Currently, the UFC has live and taped programming airing on Fox, FX, regional "Fox Sports Networks", and Fuel TV. That will change this August, as Yahoo's Kevin Iole reports, fans can expect to see nearly all "cable TV" UFC programming on FS1.
The launch of FS1 will allow viewers to find virtually all UFC programming in one place. As the first year of the UFC-Fox partnership played out, they had to deal with the fallout from the promotion's former broadcast deal with Spike, as well as educate fans on which of the Fox networks would carry which shows.
Now, with the exception of the four cards a year that will appear on the broadcast network Fox, all UFC programming will be found on FS1.
So for those who have been frustrated in the past with the UFC holding cards "all over the shop" from Versus and Spike to FOX, FX, and Fuel, there is a significant reprieve. If you want UFC content on your television, it will either be on Fox Sports 1 or Fox itself.
Fox Sports Media Group (FSMG) co-president Eric Shanks shared what their plans are for the UFC, and it includes a live card on August 17th. Dana White was also asked about the future of The Ultimate Fighter, which currently airs on FX:
" ... This is one of the final major levers to pull, because now everything is finally in one place. Dana and Lorenzo have been saying for a long time that fans, honestly, in that first year were a bit confused. Some of it was on Fuel, some was on FX and some was on Fox. This is really that last lever to pull, and it puts everything in one place. It's going to be huge going forward, starting off Aug. 17, and we're kicking off with a prime-time fight that night." White would not discuss whether the announcement applies to the reality series "The Ultimate Fighter," saying, "We're not ready to talk about that yet." "TUF" is currently in its second season on FX.
As far as live cards on FS1, MMA Junkie's Steven Marocco tried to clarify exactly how the UFC will handle the rest of the 2013 "free shows".
So I have an update on FSN 1: Looks like 6 live cards from 8/17 to 12/31. One is launch, 4 are on Wed, and 1 on Fri in December (overseas).— Steven Marrocco (@MMAjunkieSteven) March 6, 2013
It should be noted that both FX and Fuel TV were contracted up to 6 events per year, making for 12 events combined. So far, FX has had 1 completed event, with another one scheduled in May and one rumored for June. Fuel TV has run 2 events this year with a 3rd one scheduled for April. Unless there are other Fuel or FX cards scheduled for July, the "6 live cards from 8/17 to end of 2013" is really just transferring the 3 remaining shows each for Fuel and FX to Fox Sports 1.
The December "overseas" show could very well be the Australian event that UFC officials confirmed last February.
In addition to the 2013 events on FS1, it's also been reported that the UFC will host a Super Bowl week event on the same channel.
We still have plenty of info to decipher over the coming months, but here's just a brief recap of what we know or what's been reported:
- SPEED will become Fox Sports 1. Fuel TV will become Fox Sports 2.
- All UFC programming will be on either Fox, FS1, or PPV.
- Fox Sports 1 will be the primary home for UFC programming, including Fuel TV staples such as UFC Tonight, Unleashed, Countdown, Primetime, older events, etc.
- Live FS1 fight cards will air primarily on Wednesdays and run from 8 PM ET - 11 PM ET. The first event is August 17th on Saturday. It will NOT be a weekly feature.
- Fox will still broadcast 4 live UFC events per year.
- All preliminary card specials for Fox and PPVs will be on FS1. No word yet on how the preliminary card of Fox Sports 1 shows will be broadcast.
UFC shows airing on a Wednesday is nothing new. If you recall, Spike TV frequently held "Fight Night" shows and multiple seasons of TUF on Wednesday.
As always, stay tuned for more UFC on Fox Sports coverage over the next few months. The more details emerge the clearer the picture we will get as far as how the UFC will be presented under their new home.