I often complain about how the UFC is run. Such a beautiful sport, being hamstrung by such short-sighted business practices. Pay-per-view? Really? In 2018? Silliness.
What I’ll suggest here is with the UFC in mind but elements of it could easily apply to other sports. First and foremost, ditch the pay-per-view format. It’s seriously limiting the accessibility of your sport. You know why soccer is so popular? Because it’s played around the world by people who need nothing more than people who want to play and a round thing to kick. The more accessible you make it to the people, the more people will find it fall in love with it. And no, that doesn’t mean Spike TV, Fox Sports, or ESPN. In 2018, it means streaming online.
Make it free on UFC.com. That’s it. No pay wall, no membership fee, no mailing lists… just free. Between prospecting, analysis, press conferences, the Contender series, fight nights, and PPVs, you have a ton of content. Stop trying to shoehorn that content into the platforms that everyone is quickly moving away from. Stop paying a cut of your profits to these major providers, thinking that they’ll produce fans for you. Just put it online and watch the magic.
The first benefit of streaming it directly from UFC.com is that you no longer have to worry about people pirating your content. Why would you go to a sketchy site with a questionable connection to watch the fight when you could watch it in full HD from the source, UFC.com?
The second benefit would be not having to pay a cut of revenue to whoever would normally be hosting your content. No more PPV cuts. No more Fox Sports cuts. All of that revenue would be redirected to the UFC. Sure you’d have to pay to build and maintain the tech infrastructure that would allow you to handle that level of inbound traffic… but I’m fairly confident that’s a fraction of what they’re already paying out.
A third major benefit would be accessibility. Not everyone has cable. Not everyone can afford PPV fights. Not everyone wants to sign up for a subscription to Fight Pass. But just about every one has access to the internet. Make it easy for the world to watch big fights. Make it easy for bars around the world to play fight reels from the library. Make it easy for people to huddle around a smart phone in the middle of nowhere to catch a big fight. Etc. Etc.
A fourth benefit would be full control over the production and experience. You could start to integrate cool features like choose your own camera angle. Imagine having the fight up on the big screen, while having Joe Rogan and DC screaming at each other on your tablet, while having live fight stats on your phone. Or having all 3 judges’ perspectives available. Or being able to rewind or access replays when you want them. All of that starts to open up when you control the production from capture to delivery.
I would go so far as to say make their entire library of content available for free. You could make pre-fight playlists which would get people far more excited for a fight than the dis-genuine hype reels they make these days. And you could release them a week before for those who want to get themselves hyped up. By having all this content for free, it would drive *so* much traffic to their site. Imagine what that would do for the brand as well as the fighters.
If you made the content that much more accessible, you would have that many more people who would love to know more. That would be a tremendous platform for the fighters to get their story out there and promote the things they care about. It would also be a great source of revenue. Fighters could share the supplements they’re using or the gear they’re training in, and that could easily drive sponsorship dollars or a revenue share with the website if UFC.com carried those products. Cause… why not?
But you still need a primary revenue stream and I think the low hanging fruit is ad revenue. For use of the fight library, you run something similar to YouTube ads. For the bigger events, you run something similar to the Super Bowl. At all times, you ensure that the advertisements are of high quality, relevant, and limited in number. If you can use some targeting, make the ads directly relevant to the person watching. You could do that all around the world. I think they’d break the mold with this.
The UFC could reshape the way we follow and watch sports with something like this… but I’m not so optimistic this is the kinda stuff they care about. Oh well..