Zach Arnold writes on the recent downward trajectory of UFC pay-per-view buy rates, and looks at the UFC’s position with Fox when it comes to future TV deals.
On recent PPV buy rates:
No matter how you spin the numbers, UFC is falling off a cliff on PPV right now. Sure, they can pop 500k for a Chris Weidman/Ronda Rousey dual event. That appears to be the ceiling. Without GSP & Anderson Silva, it’s a rough go of things. Johny Hendricks is really their best hope at this point in time.
On future TV deals with Fox:
If you’re Fox Sports, you have a lot of leverage come 2018 with UFC negotiations. PPV numbers down. Ratings down. A lot of cards on Fight Pass. UFC audience least likely to watch sports programming. Fox is trying to build a sports channel and one of their anchor properties attracts TV viewers that are the least interested in watching sports.
Arnold paints a dim picture, but there’s no doubt UFC is heading into uncharted waters. The change to showing 50+ events in 2014 was massive, and anecdotally, few if any existing fans I have spoken to have positive things to say about it.
The product is relatively diluted, and it’s next to impossible for the casual fan to watch every event. I’d venture to guess that for many fans, once they miss a few events and feel “behind” on the current events in the UFC their interest in watching future events dwindles. This could result in fans who previously watched all the PPVs becoming fans who pop their head in to see what’s happening only once or twice a year.
The upside to the change in format is that the UFC’s product gets wider, more frequent, and more international exposure. If the UFC plans on sticking to its guns with this approach, let’s hope for the sport’s sake the fans it brings in outweighs the fans it turns off.