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« | Home | »

The NFL gives UFC a lump of coal

By Zach Arnold | December 26, 2007

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The big American sports news story tonight is the decision by the NFL to have the Week 17 game between the New York Giants and New England Patriots simulcasted both on NBC and CBS (along with The NFL Network).

As has been reported all week long by Pro Football Talk, Massachussetts senator John Kerry has been threatening anti-trust hearings on Capitol Hill if the NFL did not make the Patriots game available to a wider audience base (outside of the premium sports channel).

The move is a double-whammy for UFC, as the Patriots/Giants game will run head-to-head against UFC 79. Furthermore, it will put major pressure on UFC because the organization was attempting to draw a big closed circuit audience at Madison Square Garden. Dave Meltzer, earlier in the week, estimated that only 1,000 tickets had been sold for the closed circuit event and that star power (including Forrest Griffin) was being sent to New York to help promote the closed circuit broadcast.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 21 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

21 Responses to “The NFL gives UFC a lump of coal”

  1. Jeremy (not that Jeremy) says:

    It’s hard to draw simulcast audiences when you’re charging money for the privilege.

    However, I did go to some theatrical live “screenings” of some HDNet feeds when MLS first started on HDNet, and it was quite the experience. I’m not sure how just watching something on a jumbotron would replicate that though.

    Or maybe they have some gigantotron screen that they intend to set up.

    It’s always struck me more as something that you do for your home fans who don’t have the wherewithal to travel to a huge event than something that you ought to be charging money for. It’s a good will gesture to open your home facility to show an away game.

  2. Zach Arnold says:

    I always wondered if they were doing the closed circuit broadcast at The Theatre at MSG (the 5,000 seat room that the NFL uses every year for the draft), as that room has been used for closed circuit broadcasts for a long-time.

    If UFC actually was going to use the main arena for a closed circuit broadcast, wouldn’t the rental fee be astonomical (as in six-digits)?

  3. pauli says:

    can someone explain how having the game on two broadcast networks instead of two affects the ufc? i’m not understanding why this would be something for them to get worked up about.

  4. IceMuncher says:

    The Patriots game starts a couple hours before the UFC event. I don’t think that the overlap is going to do much damage to the UFC viewership.

    I know I was planning on catching the first hour or so and then switching to the UFC. I imagine the rest of the fans (the ones willing to buy the UFC PPV in the first place) would probably do the same.

  5. The Gaijiin says:

    I believe you PAY a subscription for NFL Networks – which was initially the only “network” (premium channel) broadcasting the game.

    And now you have the game running on two FREE NETWORK TV stations. They sorta, kinda reach a wider audience than a premium cable channel. And the two teams playing are from pretty damned big markets (Boston and New York). Not to mention that this is a pretty “historical” game as a team tries to be only the 2nd NFL team to go undefeated in the regular season.

    Seeing that football and UFC likely draw on a somewhat similar demographic, this could create a difficult choice for a sports fan to make: UFC PPV vs. free NFL game – and last I checked only one sport far and away the biggest sport in North America (hint: it’s not “ultimate fighting”).

  6. Mr. Roadblock says:

    The NFL Simulcast is a huge TV story.

    Is this the first simulcast since Super Bowl III?

    I can’t ever remember this happening in my lifetime (since 1977).

    I’m not sure how much of an effect it will have on UFC if any at all. It may even help UFC, because people will get together to watch the game and being a Giants fan with their secondary I can tell you that the Pats should be up 28-0 by early second quarter. The game starts at what 8 or 8:30 eastern? It won’t be competitive by UFC start time and will be officially over by the time the only 2 fights worth watching on the UFC PPV air.

  7. Zach Arnold says:

    Out of the two points raised, the bigger issue by far is the closed circuit deal.

    The Pats game is a big deal in the New York media and a ton of focus is going to be on that and not anything else sports-wise.

  8. Asa says:

    Perhaps if they had advertised this thing in the subway, this would have sold better. This is the first I’ve heard of it.

  9. Mr. Roadblock says:

    I don’t understand why anyone would go to watch the UFC at a closed circuit deal. Even if tix were only $10 if you went with another person or 2 you’d be better off watching at home.

    Playwright’s tavern up on 47th and Broadway always has the fights and is a great bar with Brooklyn Lager on tap and excellent food. So if you’re watching it out why not go there. The Garden is a dump with piss poor conveniences and it is frustrating to get in and out of because of poor design.

    What UFC doing a closed circuit at the Garden suggests to me is that they want to show the NY Athletic Commission how many people turn out and get the NYAC to sanction MMA in the State. I wonder if the Garden is in on it and is letting UFC use the building for free, otherwise it is a wast of money as the Garden is a very expensive building.

  10. Jim Allcorn says:

    Not to sh-t on Dana’s parade ( well, maybe just a wee bit … ), but this, I think, is a huge blow to what I already think is an under performing event as far as fan & media interest is concerned. We’ll have to wait & see just how much this affects the PPV buyrate.

    Die hard fight fans like the vast majority of us here won’t alter our plans to either order the PPV or go somewhere that carries the event. But, your general sports fans that may have been considering ordering the PPV as alternative programming to the game? I tend to think that their actions will be greatly affected.

    Sure, like icemuncher says, some will use the simulcast game as a lead in to the UFC, but let’s face it folks, the majority of your average sports fans just aren’t that smart or savvy. Despite the difference in their start times & the likelihood that the Pats will be well on their way to 16-0 by the time the UFC telecast begins, I tend to believe that most of your typical sports nuts will still see it as a free BIG GAME vs a $45 PPV.
    Which do you think “Joe Sportsfan” is going to go with. Especially considering the fact that so much of America had been expecting to be denied the opportunity to see this historic game because of the NFL Network’s exclusive rights to it. Now it’s going to be doubly or even triply attractive to them because they’ll be led to believe that they’re going to be getting “something for nothing”.

    Add it all up & multiply it by two because of the huge push that the NFL, both networks & the media are bound to be giving it & I think this particular UFC event is going to be lost in the BIG GAME’s shadow.

    As for that closed circuit show at The Garden? Can we say money pit?
    At this point, I think Dana & the boys would be better suited just writing the entire NYC area off as a loss & they should go ahead & give all the ticket holders their money back & make the telecast a freebie as a goodwill gesture. I think the positive press that they’d receive from it would be far more valuable than the what they gain from any ticket sales.

    But, I really doubt that Dana has the “lemons into lemonade” mindset necessary for something like that. Instead, he’s likely to just keep dropping F-bombs all weekend long & create a theory about a vast “NFL conspiracy” aimed at the UFC because of it’s fear of the UFC usurping the NFL’s place as the #1 sport in America. I think I can already hear the claims coming all the way from Las Vegas now … LOL

  11. David says:

    D Dubya can be a real jerk!

  12. Matt Hicks says:

    Football starts at 8:15 pm EST and UFC starts at 10:00. There is a good chance the game is going to be a blowout and if that is the case, a lot of people will probably be tuning out before UFC has started.

    The only way the game will effect the PPV is if the game is close thoughtout and similar to the game the Pats had with The Ravens on monday which got the huge rating. But the chances of the happening are slim.

  13. David M says:

    I think Brady needs 2 TD passes to break the record, the Giants will be resting their starters because they are already in the playoffs and don’t want their starters to get smoked right before the playoffs (bad for the psyche), so my guess is it will be a blowout by halftime and the 3rd and 4th quarters won’t be much more than glorified garbage time.

    That being said, I am surprised at how underwhelming the buildup to UFC 79 has been. There hasn’t been much advertising at all, no buzz, no push, no nothing. I know UFC has lost a lot of money due to their Euro expansion and buying Pride (both are big mistakes IMO, the latter obviously much moreso than the former), and perhaps they are trying to cut costs, but this would seem like a curious way to do it; why would you intentionally not advertise your biggest show of the year? Is Dana afraid to see either Chuck or Vanderlei lose 3 in a row? Whoever loses that fight (probably by crushing KO) is probably finished as a potential main eventer; Silva, for all his savagery and skills, hasn’t even gotten a warmup match to show the American fans what he is capable of before he is tossed into the fire. And the Pride tape collection has been worth fucking nothing, because for whatever reason the UFC is scared to show more than 3 seconds at a time from any of his fights, or to talk about how badly he dominated (the rarely seen) UFC champ Rampage.

  14. klown says:

    Yeah, I don’t get why the Wanderlei collection isn’t played up more. His video library is probably the most fearsome in MMA.

  15. Jeremy (not that Jeremy) says:

    Gaijin, NFL network is a basic cable network, or a sports tier network. It’s not a la carte. Same class as the Golf channel.

    The problem is more that the NFL has been having a pissing contest with certain cable companies, which should surprise no one who has ever read anything about cable companies.

  16. Pierre-Luc Allie says:

    With cineplex now converting to digital broadcast, closed circuit viewing will become big business in the future. I know some cineplex broadcast WWE’s ppv, I wonder when UFC are gonna start doing it too.

  17. Jeremy (not that Jeremy) says:

    Ok, so this morning I discovered that in the Boston/New Hampshire area, the game will also be broadcast on channels 5 and 9 (ABC affiliates).

    This means that when I fire up my television on Saturday night, I’ll have ten different channels that I can tune to and see the Patriots and Giants.

    Happy fun time, a really great use of valuable digital bandwidth.

  18. I’m a Bears Fan.

    When the Pats game is on, I will no doubt be watching either a re-broadcast of an earlier soccer match on Setanta or “Flip This House” or something my wife would watch.

    Then it’s time for UFC 79….

  19. ilostmydog says:

    WTF? We don’t get Packers/Cowboys but John Kerry gets his panties in a knot over not being able to see Pats/Giants? Christ almighty. How many people are going to change the station when the score is 30-0 at half time?

  20. The Gaijin says:

    Gaijin, NFL network is a basic cable network, or a sports tier network. It’s not a la carte. Same class as the Golf channel.

    Ahh…I stand corrected. From my understanding, the Canadian equivalent is the “NFL Season Ticket” which includes pretty much every game under the sun and the NFL Network as well. At least that’s how I understood it, but another Canadian that bigtime into NFL feel free to point out the error of my ways.

    I do know that Dana himself has admitted they don’t like directly competing with the NFL (in an interview about moving TUF to a new night). So I imagine he’s less than pleased to hear this news.

  21. Tomer Chen says:

    Playwright’s tavern up on 47th and Broadway always has the fights and is a great bar with Brooklyn Lager on tap and excellent food.

    It’s actually on 49th, but yeah, I tend to go there for the most part when I see UFC cards (if you go in early enough, say around 7:30 or 8 PM, they usually don’t even charge you $20 entry as it’s “too early”). I’ll be there this Saturday, I think. Anyone else planning to go there?

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