Extended talks between the UFC and HBO have ended more than one year after they began with no deal in place to air UFC events on the premium channel:
“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.”
Though a deal with HBO may have aided the UFC’s rapid expansion even further, future deals with non-premium channels like Spike and ESPN could have far greater reach and impact not only for the promotion but the sport as a whole.
The UFC is currently in talks with Spike over a major renewal of their contract though I would not be surprised to see the rights to broadcast events split with additional networks, specifically ESPN. Their current plan does not allow broadcasting of the UFC on other cable networks though a new deal may allow this. This rather minor modification could mean more free UFC events being broadcast to larger audiences, allowing the UFC to tap into markets that may have seemed unimaginable several years ago.