ESPN+’s debut of UFC Fight Night on Saturday drew a record number of subscribers, marking the largest catalyst for Walt Disney Co.’s premium sports video service.
The streaming service added 568,000 new subscribers over the weekend, with more than 90 percent coming in on Saturday, the company said. In contrast, it took ESPN+ five months to surpass 1 million paying subscribers when it launched the service in April.
This was the first fight card of the five-year media deal between UFC, The Walt Disney Company’s Direct-To-Consumer & International segment and ESPN, announced last year. ESPN+ will offer 20 exclusive UFC Fight Night on ESPN+ events per year and all preliminary fights for UFC on ESPN Fight Night programs. ESPN linear networks will broadcast 10 exclusive UFC on ESPN Fight Night events per year as well as Prelim fights for UFC pay-per-view events.
The preliminary card that aired on ESPN following Zion Williamson leading the Duke Blue Devils to a 72-70 win over Virginia, would register a 1.4 overnight rating, the highest for a UFC Fight Night prelim since 2013.
“Our first UFC Fight Night on ESPN+ was a thrilling evening of action and a great success, with a record-setting night that continued the momentum for ESPN+, delivered strong ratings on ESPN and marks a great start to our new agreement with the UFC,” said Kevin Mayer, Chairman, Direct-To-Consumer and International, The Walt Disney Company. “It was a milestone evening, with the success driven by outstanding joint efforts from the teams at DTCI and ESPN.”
The prelims were headlined by crowd-favorite Donald Cerrone’s second-round TKO of Alex Hernandez, which may set up a showdown with former two-division champion Conor McGregor.
For whatever it’s worth, UFC is finally on a network that will promote their brand well.