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UKTV moves into sports with David Haye fight

UK multichannel operator UKTV has landed exclusive local rights to former world champion boxer David Haye’s comeback fight.

David Haye Mark De MoriThis marks the first time UKTV has acquired exclusive UK sports rights, with pay TV providers Sky and BT Sport and the terrestrial networks tending to have carved them up in the past.

“We are quickly establishing UKTV as a network able to handle attention grabbing live events, from the Python’s last ever performance – Monty Python Live (Mostly) for Gold through Really’s Halloween spectacular Most Haunted Live to Dave’s ratings success, the Red Bull Soapbox Race,” said UKTV director of commissioning Richard Watsham.

“Our ambition continues to grow in terms of the variety and quality of our programming and appointment to view TV remains at the top of our wish list.”

Dave’s general manager, Steve North, added the network was “increasingly stretching” its offering by “bringing them programmes which tap into the news agenda, such as last year’s election special The Pub Landlord vs Nigel Farage”.

Haye fights Australian boxer Mark De Mori on Saturday, January 16 at 9pm GMT. UKTV will play the fight on flagship free-to-air channel Dave.

Additionally, Dave will show a half-hour preview show, Haye v De Mori: The Countdown, on Friday, January 15 in an 8pm slot. This will feature the build up to the fight and detail why Haye, a former WBA heavyweight champion widely considered one of Britain’s greatest modern boxers, is making a comeback after three years in retirement.

UKTV has rights to Red Bull’s extreme sports cliff-diving programming, and has dabbled in non-exclusive football matches, but this marks a step change for the BBC Worldwide- and Scripps Networks Interactive-owned broadcaster.

Earlier this week, UKTV released figures that showed its bouquet of channels had out-performed Channel 5 and Sky for the first time.