As if you needed further proof that the UFC has their eyes set on media domination one need not look any further than a recent rumor posted by the Wall Street Journal that reports ZUFFA, the UFCs parent company, is currently in talks to purchase the G4 cable network.
According to the WSJs online media & marketing blog:
“Ultimate Fighting Championship, which pits boxers and martial-arts specialists against each other in bloody bouts, is in talks to acquire control of its own cable network, said people familiar with the matter, as it seeks a more direct relationship with the sport's growing fan base.
The sports organization, which popularized a new breed of fighting known as mixed martial arts, is in talks to buy control of NBCUniversal's struggling G4 gaming network, the people familiar with the matter said.”
Never mind the authors’ archaic editorial describing the UFC as containing “bloody bouts,” this is a monumental development if it indeed comes to fruition. UFC president Dana White has long hinted at wanting to one day have a UFC network and with the news his wish could materialize into reality soon.
With countless fights in the UFC catalog, which also now includes PRIDE and Strikeforce fights, in addition to original programing it certainly wouldn’t be difficult for the UFC to find programming to fill G4 with. In fact, the options for the UFC in terms of programing on their very own network are virtually limitless.
Of course, the biggest loser in this scenario is Spike TV which had long been the cable networking partner of the UFC. The growing disenchantment between the UFC and Spike has been growing larger as the network’s contract with the MMA promotional juggernaut nears its expiration. Rumor has it that Spike does not want to pay an astronomical sum of money to extend out the contract and executives from the network have been spotted at some Bellator shows leading to speculation of having the fledgling promotion move homes under the Viacom banner should the UFC bail. Bellator has a current broadcast deal with MTV2. This inevitably is more negotiation leverage than anything else, but the same could be said about the UFCs reports of purchasing a controlling stake in G4.
Will the UFC – Spike marriage break up at the end of 2011? It’s hard to say. By purchasing G4, the possibility is there for the UFC long-held wish to infiltrate network television through NBC. Not that Middle America would be perfectly fine with MMA on a channel that is home to Jay Leno’s vanilla ice milk brand of comedy. Also lost in the discussion is the fact that Spike TV is available in 99 million homes across America as opposed to the 59 million homes with access to G4. Of course, the argument to that is how many people were actually clamoring for G4? After all, there are only so many reruns of Ninja Warrior a person can take before the smash their TV with a katana sword. The UFCs involvement would more than likely change that as Direct TV, who had dropped carrying G4, would be way more apt to picking up the channel should their MMA cash cow purchase it.
The UFC has been on a tremendous run as of late and they show no signs of slowing down. It all reminds me of rapper Beanie Sigel’s line in State Property, “You either get down or you lay down.”
Sources: Wall Street Journal, MMA Fighting