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Friday, November 10, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- ESPN Re-Affirms UFC Commercial Ban
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

The Disney-owned ESPN has re-affirmed its ban on all UFC-related advertisements from appearing on any Disney-owned network, which includes the ABC and ESPN family of networks.

The UFC commercials that had been appearing frequently on ESPN and ESPNews were already a violation Disney's company policy, which expressly prohibits advertisements
or promotions of any sports program that does not air on a Disney-owned television network.

This is not limited to the UFC. It would also be against the Disney/ESPN corporate policy for a Disney-owned network to advertise a sports program that airs on USA Network, or a sports program that airs on Fox Sports Net, or a sports program that airs on any other non-Disney-owned network.

Despite this policy being in place, the UFC was previously able to place its commercials on Disney-owned networks such as ESPN and ESPNews by purchasing the commercials via local advertising affiliates throughout the country.

As a result of this, Disney/ESPN sent a memo, which has been obtained by MMAWeekly, to all of its local advertising affiliates. After being reminded by Disney/ESPN that the UFC commercials are "a direct violation of our Affiliate agreements," the memo goes on to state, "Please contact your programming colleagues for complete advertising restrictions. ESPN is not accepting these ads on a national level, and the same restrictions apply for our local Affiliates. Thank you for your cooperation and immediate attention to this matter."

With ESPN or any other television network, there's the programming on the network (the actual shows), and then there's the advertising. This news does not affect programming in any way. ESPN hasn't devoted many news segments to the UFC in the past, but there is nothing that would prevent them from doing so in the future. The same goes for UFC fighters appearing on Quite Frankly with Stephen A. Smith, Cold Pizza, or any other actual show.

Advertising, on the other hand, is a completely separate matter. The Disney/ESPN corporate policy is, and has been, that you can't buy ads to promote sports shows that air on any non-Disney-owned network.

This is not a new policy, but some local ESPN advertising affiliates were selling UFC commercials anyway. The memo from Disney/ESPN makes it clear that they are going to start enforcing the policy more strictly, so local advertising affiliates will no longer be able to violate the policy by selling UFC commercials.

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