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Report: ESPN+ subscription fees to increase sharply, making UFC fandom costlier than ever

Monthly or annually, it’s about to get significantly more expensive to watch the UFC on ESPN+.

ESPN+ on a phone. Not your phone, but a phone.
ESPN+ on a phone. Not your phone, but a phone.
Photo Illustration by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The ESPN+ streaming service has consistently raised prices over the summer, but this latest increase is the biggest one yet.

Bloomberg Magazine reports that starting in August, ESPN+ will cost subscribers $9.99/month or the cheaper option of $99.99 for a one-year commitment. At the moment, monthly subs are $6.99/month or $69.99/year, so the increase on either side is a whopping 43%.

More details on this decision:

Disney is taking a risk with the timing of its price hike as the highest US inflation in four decades is already squeezing household budgets, souring people’s view of the economy and forcing some to scale back entertainment and other discretionary spending.

At the same time, media companies are under increasing pressure to turn a profit with their streaming ventures. ESPN+ has been gaining momentum, with subscribers climbing 62% in the past 12 months, to 22.3 million, after years of anemic growth. But it’s still not making money.

The new price structure could push more people to buy Disney’s bundle of streaming services. That bundle, which includes ESPN+, Disney+ and Hulu, costs $13.99 a month, or $4 more than the new standalone price of ESPN+. The bundle’s price will not change for now.

Bloomberg also reports that Disney’s direct-to-consumer business (which ESPN+ falls under) lost $887 million in the first quarter of 2022.

Here’s a little timeline of ESPN+ price hikes:

2020: $4.99 to $5.99/month | $49.99/year unchanged

2021: $5.99 to $6.99/month | $49.99/year to $59.99/year, then $59.99/year to $69.99 year

2022: $6.99 to $9.99/month | $99.99 year

During this timeframe ESPN+ has obviously expanded its variety of live and original sports programming, and this year there will be an NFL regular season game exclusive to the service in October. The UFC, of course, is one of the marquee properties on ESPN+. Many of the promotion’s Fight Night shows are exclusive to the ESPN+ paywall and all pay-per-views can only be ordered via ESPN+.

What has also been consistent aside from ESPN+ rate increases is the hike in UFC pay-per-views at the start of the calendar year. When the UFC rights went exclusive to ESPN in 2019, pay-per-views were $59.99. The following year it was bumped up to $64.99, then $69.99 at the start of 2021, and at the moment it’s $74.99. Don’t be surprised if come January 2023, UFC pay-per-views are $79.99 at which point they’d be as expensive as your typical boxing pay-per-view, eliminating what was a major plus in the UFC’s favor when comparing pay-per-view costs for them vs. big boxing matches.

Even if there is no PPV increase on the horizon, this is the most expensive time to be a UFC fan in history. If you budgeted for an annual subscription + 12 pay-per-views, that’s about $1,000 before you include any applicable taxes. If you got the monthly route it’s definitely over $1,000 before taxes. Disney has cited in the past that the UFC has been the undisputed main driver of subscriptions, although so far in 2022 pay-per-view income has dropped and that has had an impact on slowed ESPN+ revenue growth.

I’m sure at this time of humongous inflation this is the exact type of news you wanted to read.