The UFC and Pay-Per-View

Is the relationship becoming less lucrative? Over in the Diary section, "robnashville" introduces the possibility: With all of the back and forth between Randy…

By: Luke Thomas | 16 years ago
The UFC and Pay-Per-View
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

Is the relationship becoming less lucrative? Over in the Diary section, “robnashville” introduces the possibility:

With all of the back and forth between Randy Couture and the UFC brain trust and numbers being thrown about, looking at a few of the figures gives us insight into the well being of the company.  During the press conference by Dana and Lorenzo we were able to glean from their handouts the recent performance of the UFC on PPV.  According to Dana, Randy’s fight with tim sylvia did in the neighborhood of 520k buys while his showdown with heavyweight contender Gabriel Gonzaga did about 480k buys.  While these numbers are good in historical context, they represent a noted cooling off in the PPV performance of the UFC.  

Couture represents one of the higher profile and more bankable stars for the company, so the  modest PPV sales in comparison to the salad days of 2006 must be seen as worrisome by UFC brass.  2006 was a watershed year for the UFC in terms of the numbers they did on PPV. They went from a company that was ecstatic if a PPV did 250k to 300k buys to one that was able to triple and quadruple those numbers on a regular basis during 2007.  From Hughes-Gracie, to Shamrock – Ortiz, to Hughes Penn 2, through to Liddell Ortiz 2, the UFC was seemingly break PPV records for mma fighting with each successive broadcast.

There was a foreshadowing of this slowdown in PPV sales earlier in the year when Lt Heavy weight Champion Chuck Liddell faced off against challenger Quinton Rampage Jackson.  The fight between Liddell and Jackson arguably received the highest level of mainstream media attention of any  UFC fight ever, and Dana White was highly optimistic in his projections of sales for the showdown.  Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer reported at the time that White expected in the neighborhood of 1 million buys, nearing the record  of 1.2 million buys done by Tito Ortiz vs Liddell 2.  While high expectations may have been warranted, the actual PPV’s sold had to be seen as a disappointment.  Meltzer reported that Rampage’s PPV bonus was paid based on 620k buys, almost a third less than projected.

Interesting thesis. “robnashville” speculates about the potential causes for this alleged dip. Before I can sign on to his hypotheses I’d need to see a larger set of numbers to establish a trend, although on the face of it the idea sounds plausible.

I would add to the existing explanations the possiblity of financial burden. $40 a pop (non-HD) is significant for just about any financial arrangement in the middle class. With the regularity of UFC events (in addition to other PPV shows), one’s cable bill can become astronomically high. Moreover, the argument that you can “watch the UFC for free at a bar” is pretty misleading, too. You can easily spend more than $40 at a bar and even if you don’t, the idea that you’ll spend nothing is silly. Between transportation, potential cover fees, and a few beers, the price winds up being roughly equivalent.

I cannot wait for the day when the vast majority of MMA is on free or cable television. Perhaps that will be later than sooner, but my hopes are high. Faster, please.

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Luke Thomas
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