Column: Brainstorming the idea of a UFC North American pay channel

By Paul Fontaine

Recently, UFC offered a package on UFC TV (which was also available in Canada to subscribers of Bell TV) whereby customers could purchase four UFC events, 165-168, for the price of 3. With four strong cards in a row and the weakest of the 4 being the first, this was a sound marketing idea by UFC that could bolster their PPV numbers for the year. Personally I was on the fence about ordering the show but was certainly planning on ordering the next 3. With this package I was essentially able to get the September show for free. They also offered customers the opportunity to pay in 4 monthly installments, rather than paying the whole amount up front. This also helps with Christmas coming in that if I was only going to order the 3 shows, my cable bills would’ve been higher for October-December. Now it’s being spread out.

This could potentially be the testing of the waters for UFC to developing a pay channel similar to what the WWE was looking at. If enough customers would be willing to pay $165 for these four shows (in HD) at a cost of just over $40/month, would it be viable to then offer a monthly subscription service whereby all PPVs would be available for $40/month? This channel could also include prelim shows, press conferences etc. They could even offer the broadcast events on the channel, all of the worldwide Ultimate Fighter shows, whatever programming they wanted to fill out the schedule with. The events could be simulcast with the existing networks so the networks wouldn’t lose viewers or ad revenue. The plus for UFC is that they wouldn’t have to share the same split with the cable providers on the PPV buys as they currently do. This would also level out the money they receive from their PPV shows as there would be a guaranteed minimum coming in each month which would likely be more than what they are currently receiving. I find it hard to believe they wouldn’t be able to find at least 200,000 people North America wide that would pay $40/month for a service like this.

For example if a show like UFC 161 were to come along, it’s unlikely that someone would cancel their service for a month to avoid paying for it and then order it again the following month. You’d just accept this month was a weaker show and enjoy all the extra programming on the station.

This is something that UFC should definitely be thinking about if they aren’t already.

Paul Fontaine

Author of “Deuce is Wild” and long time wrestling/MMA fan

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