There was widespread condemnation amongst MMA fans throughout the UK when it emerged that BT Sports had pulled out of negotiations to retain the UFC back in the summer. There were more groans when it emerged newcomer Eleven Sports won the rights.
Eleven Sports, are a sports streaming service, who had hoped to become a sports version of Netflix. They entered the UK market this summer, winning the rights to La Liga, Serie A, several other football league’s and then the UFC.
The UFC’s deal was due to finish with BT Sports at the end of December and start with Eleven Sports at the start of January. That now may not be happening.
The Daily Telegraph are reporting that the UFC have triggered an exit clause on their deal due to Eleven Sports not having secured a TV deal with any of the major platforms. This was, The Daily Telegraph, say a requirement for the UFC when they signed the deal.
It now seems Eleven Sports are on the brink of pulling out of their UK operations.
The Daily Telegraph are reporting that the UFC are this week in emergency discussions about a new deal with its existing partner BT Sport to ensure fans can continue to access coverage.
An Eleven Sports spokesman said: “Without carriage agreements with the existing platforms, alongside the challenges posed by rampant piracy, the current market dynamics in the UK and Ireland are very hostile for new entrants.
“We are in discussions with our rights partners, La Liga and IMG, about how we can restructure our existing agreements in order to continue our current OTT [streaming] service.”
It seems that Eleven Sports have not sold enough subscriptions in the UK, with reports of only 50000 subscribers paying £5.99 a month.
A pay-TV source told The Daily Telegraph, “These guys were just totally naive about how easy it would be for them to get distribution, which is the absolute key. The problem was they just didn’t have the funding to take the time it takes to do these deals.
“They thought they could just turn up and get wholesale in a couple of months, but the complexity of the technology integration as well as the commercial terms is massive. The other guys trying to do streaming, like Amazon and Dazn, just have deeper pockets and can afford to lose money for longer.”
The UFC has been shown on BT Sports for a number of years now leading to a familiar feel for fans in the UK.
If the UFC and BT Sports can reach a deal, would you be happy with it?