NFL, UFC among top sports TV deals of year

If you want to see some big numbers, look no further than athletics. From the money spent on youth athletics starting when kids are barely able to walk all the way to the staggering amount of money that goes into the professional sports franchises, the numbers could easily stand their ground against some of the controversial government spending making headlines.

One of those expenditures is television rights. Here’s a look at four of the top deals in 2011. There’s big money being spent even as the economy continues to falter.

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Fox Sports and UFC
• Estimated Value: $100 Million per year for seven years

“There are no rules!” This was the tagline of a new kind of entertainment called the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), but after Senator John McCain called it “human cockfighting,” UFC had a hard time gaining momentum after it was banned in certain states.

Although many of the modern-day rules were developed to allow the events to take place, in 2000, a nearly bankrupt UFC was sold to a group of casino investors, one of which was current UFC President Dana White. Just over a decade later, the UFC is televised in 130 countries and has surpassed boxing and the WWE in annual pay-per-view revenue. In 2010, UFC brought in $411 million in revenue and held seven of the top 10-grossing PPV events.

This new deal with Fox Sports will take UFC content from often low viewership channels like Versus to channels like CBS and CBS-owned cable channels.

2014 World Cup
• Value: At least $425 million

ESPN reportedly will pay $100 million for the English language rights while Spanish Broadcasting company Univision will pay $325 million. It’s safe to say that more deals are in the works.

The Pac-12
• Value: $3 billion for 12 years

The Pac-12 may not be the household name that the NFL enjoys, but for those who love their college football and basketball, the Pac-12 is well known. In this deal with ESPN and Fox Sports, the Pac-12 will see an increase in the visibility of the conference, according to Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott. The Pac-12 has a total of 443 NCAA championships and has high-profile teams like Oregon, Stanford, USC, UCLA and Arizona State.

The National Football League
• Value: Over $20 billion through 2013

The National Football League comes in at No. 1 by a long shot, and although the league is in the middle of a contract, the 2011 revenue is more than $2 billion. The NFL has contracts with each of the major television companies, satellite radio, Yahoo! and other media outlets.

According to the Nielson Research Group, of the 10 most-watched television events of all time, four of those are Super Bowls. The NFL television contracts come with strict rules and stipulations governing when commercial breaks will take place, whether local games that aren’t sold out can be broadcast on local affiliates, and even the days and times when broadcasts occur.

Although advertising revenue has declined even during NFL games, the rights to professional football are still the most sought-after of all sporting events in North America.

The bottom line

Although these numbers look large, they are small in comparison to the astounding numbers associated with professional sports. Add to the television rights, the merchandise and ticket sales and other associated costs and it’s easy to see how TV rights are only a small part of the revenue generated from professional sports.

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Updated Tuesday, Sep 27, 2011