Here’s an interesting little snag in the UFC’s smooth transition from Spike to Fox. While the UFC’s main agreement with Spike ends at the start of 2012, there’s a seperate deal that gives Spike access to the UFC’s back catalog until 2013.
While Spike TV no longer will air live UFC events after this year, its existing contract allows it to air the UFC library (including past events, former “TUF” seasons, “UFC Unleashed” episodes and specialty programming) in 2012. However, as long as Spike TV has the rights to the content, it can’t air programming – including live events – from other organizations, such as Bellator, until 2013.
However, the UFC could purchase and reclaim the library if it can reach a deal with Spike TV.
“If they made a decent offer, we’d probably sell,” one Viacom source said. “Spike’s preference next year is to have Bellator on air.”
“I don’t think FOX truly understands what having the library means,” one Viacom source said. “That means we could put (old seasons of) ‘TUF’ against (new seasons of) ‘TUF.’ We could be airing fights, replays of fights, all kinds of stuff when they’re airing live fights.”
“The last thing you want is confusion in the marketplace,” the source said. “You have to spend a lot of money to let people know where you’re airing. People are creatures of habit. They don’t read stuff for the most part. They only know the channel it’s on, and a lot of people don’t know (about the UFC’s move to FX).”
So it’s a bit of a sticky wicket … buy the rights back and Bellator slides into the hole left by the UFC. Leave them be and the UFC will end up competing against itself on two different networks. Spike already fired a shot across the bow back in June when they put a Fight Night rerun headlined by Nate Marquardt up against a live UFC on Versus card topped by Marquardt as well. Who knows how many people tuned into SpikeTV by accident that night, getting a strange deja-vu vibe off watching him pummel Rousimar Palhares again.