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Opinion: Major changes needed for UFC Fight Pass to be successful

By Zach Arnold | January 1, 2014

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By analyst Tim Stark

On December 28, 2013, the UFC officially announced the “UFC Fight Pass”. The service will give fans access to Zuffa’s fight library and live international events that will not be televised on FOX Sports 1 & 2. The service is currently free to consumers until the end of February, at which time you will be charged $10 per month. You can view my previous article here about why the Fight Pass Service in its current incarnation is a poor option for consumers.

I have tinkered with the UFC Fight Pass free preview… and I am completely underwhelmed. This is a rushed-to-market product that is about 18 months or two years away from being where it should be. This is not what a pay service should look like.

The media blitz has been intense, including this article at Sherdog. UFC Chief Content Officer, Marshall Zelaznik said, “We have strategy meetings and this was, at the beginning of the year, one of the objectives we wanted to figure out how to do this and it all seemed to come together in a perfect storm.” Zelanik went on to say, “We’ve been doing 24-hour days for the last six months to make sure we’re ready, and we still have a lot of work — it’s still a work in progress — but I’m proud of it, I’m proud of all the work we’ve done.”

The UFC Fight Pass was talked about less than one year ago, and only has been worked on for the last six months. So why the rush? On January 8th in Las Vegas, the WWE is rumored to finally introduce their online digital WWE Network. This is a network they have been working on for a few years and will be in direct competition with UFC Fight Pass. With all of this information now known publicly, it is easy to see why Dana White & Lorenzo Fertitta felt the need to rush the UFC Fight Pass site to market.

As a day 1 launch product, Fertitta, White, & Zelaznik have already admitted a few of its early short comings. The first live event on January 4, 2014 will not be available to stream over a set top box like the XBOX or Roku. Instead it will only be available to stream via a computer. They have acknowledged that they are working on changing this within the next 60 days. There is no current mobile access for the UFC Fight Pass. This is unfathomable to launch a streaming service without this in place on day one.

You now have a good idea why the service is so bad right now. Here are some ways that the UFC can improve the UFC Fight Pass user experience.

Links, links, and more links

Let’s use Cain Velasquez vs. Brock Lesnar at UFC 121 as an example. When I click on the page to watch the fight, it is missing a whole bunch of links that would better help the user:

Anything related to this video should have a quick and easy link provide on the video’s webpage to easy to use of navigation.

Past Events

Right now if I click on the “FIGHT Library” link, it brings me to various pre-selected categories. There is no easy way to locate all of the events on the service. There is no master list given to the consumers. A service like this is about giving the freedom to the consumers. None of that freedom exists with the UFC Fight Pass.

The first step to improve this problem is to provide a complete list of all of the events in the Zuffa library. Ideally this list could be searched by year, promotion, championship fights, and various other search criteria. Here is an easy example pulled from Wikipedia that could be implemented for the UFC Fight Pass:


Click on the image to enlarge the graphic

For each full fight event on UFC Fight Pass, they should also have a link to every single fight from that event so the viewer can just watch a single fight video instead of the whole event. Only want to watch Jose Aldo vs. Mark Hominick from UFC 129? The video should be clearly there to allow this to happen from the UFC 129 full event video.

Fighter Database

Every single fighter who has ever competed in a fight owned by Zuffa needs to have their own profile page on the UFC Fight Pass. For example, if I was to click on Mark Hunt’s profile, I should be able to see a list of all his fights currently owned by Zuffa which would include both UFC and PRIDE. And for each of those fights, links to that fight video. And for each event that he competed in, there should be a link to that event video page as well. Right now the closest option we have is to toggle between the .tv and .com websites and some videos are available that way. Those fighter profiles need to be implemented into the .tv website in a more robust fashion. Here is an example of the dot com website:


Click on the image to enlarge the graphic

If this database can be implemented for the UFC Fight Pass, each fight would have its own video. If I were to click on UFC 144, it would bring me to video of the entire event.

Better search engine

To say the current search engine is bad would be a complete understatement. If you type in “UFC 1”, it will bring up any video that starts with “UFC 1”. Which means you will get videos for UFC 10, UFC 112, and so on. And you will get Full Events, Special Features, and Individual Fights all mixed into one.


Click on the image to enlarge the graphic

You will have to toggle through 21 pages of search results to find out that full event video of UFC 1 isn’t even available on the website. The search options need to be much more flexible. The user should be able to select a box for various options such as Organization, Weight Class, Championships, Fight of the Nights, and so on.

Playlist

One of the biggest missing components of the website is the lack of a user playlist. A user should be able to search for 30 minutes on the website and click a button on each video to add to my playlist to watch later. This is a very basic option that is allowed on all web streaming services.


Click on the image to enlarge the graphic

There is some nice new original content on UFC Fight Pass. Shows such as MMA Mindset, The Exchange with Megan Olivi, & UFC Now. With Hulu, if there is a show I want to watch, there is a “subscribe” button that will automatically add new episodes to the playlist when they become available. This would make following a show like MMA Mindset much easier. Below are examples from YouTube and Hulu of how the UFC Fight Pass should be implemented better:


Click on the image to enlarge the graphic


Click on the image to enlarge the graphic

Increasing the fight library

Now that Zuffa has decided to make a true push in the digital realm, I want to see them actively pursue old fight libraries. Many of these libraries currently have no way of being seen by fans and would add to the depth of the video service. Organizations that I would like to see included are: IFL, Extreme Fighting, IVC, and others.

Customer confusion

Many links inside the UFC Fight Pass still say “Buy This Video”, despite being free. And other events like FOX Sports 1 Prelims are given as an option despite not being available on the service in my local area.


Click on the image to enlarge the graphic

Final thoughts

The UFC’s freshman attempt at a UFC Digital Service leaves a lot to be desired. Many of the options that are taken for granted with other streaming services are non-existent with the UFC Fight Pass. It is unacceptable and disappointing that Zuffa is going to start charging fans in March of 2014 for a product that is easily a year’s worth of programming work away from being an acceptable subscription platform for content viewing. It simply isn’t ready for prime time.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC | 18 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

18 Responses to “Opinion: Major changes needed for UFC Fight Pass to be successful”

  1. Zach Arnold says:

    https://twitter.com/danawhite/status/418507537541910528

    ya cause whatever the fuck Fight Opinion is they have done big things!!! Lol

    Good news, Tim. Dana’s reading what you have to say. Perhaps he should listen.

    • rst says:

      When are you gonna get some rich friends that you can mooch off of to finance your schemes boss.

      dana’s got a point as usual.

  2. Tyler Treese says:

    Agreed on all points. If the UFC wants the Fight Pass to be essential for MMA fans then they will need to implement these changes. Low-key international shows won’t be enough to keep subscribers every month.

  3. Rich Hansen says:

    I have watched several fights on there, and I have several $1 holds on my card. That’s super cool.

  4. Tim Lee says:

    Meltzer mentioned that these international events that won’t air live on FS1 or FS2 live will air delayed on FS2. Also the PPV and FOX shows will be on there, but like on a 2 months delay eventually.

  5. frankp316 says:

    This Saturday’s Singapore show will air live in Canada on Sportsnet 360 as usual.

  6. Safari_Punch says:

    What does Albert Pujols have to do with any of this? Are you looking to make a trade in fantasy, Zach :P ?

  7. Minh says:

    Zach – I really like your site and have been reading for a long time. One thing about the Fight Pass (and more in reference to your previous post on it that totalled the bill to USD700 a year) is that it could be a product aimed at the international community. The international interest in the UFC is far beyond the NFL, NHL and MLB. The only US sport that is somewhat comparable in nature is the NBA.

    Right now the UFC isn’t making all that much from international markets despite significant interest. UFC PPVs in the US are all available for free on the FOX cable channels in Asia for example. I’m not sure what the commercials of those contracts are but the FightPass is a way for the UFC to start attracting ‘paying’ international fight fans and control the distribution. Eventually (perhaps when the FOX agreement runs out) I’m sure the PPVs will no longer be available on cable and at that point perhaps they’ll only be available for the internet for international markets.

    • frankp316 says:

      Zuffa made it very clear in the press conference that live coverage of these smaller international shows on UFC Fight Pass is aimed at English speaking markets. I guess that might work in some countries. But it’s clear their contract with Rogers in Canada still allows Sportsnet 360 to air the shows live. So Canadian fans with cable don’t need Fight Pass for that.

  8. Nepal says:

    As Rogan said, “you can’t fight the internet”. Every UFC card from UFC 1 to 168 is available free on line. This ‘problem’ is not going to go away. I personally have a 4TB hard drive with every card on it. I have all the PRIDE cards, most WEC cards, Elite XC, IFL, etc etc. I’ve been collecting cards for years and years and still do, every single card, I never miss one. All the prelims, FB prelims, now all in HD. Anybody can do this if they want and I suspect a lot of people do.

    The advantage of FightPass, when it’s in a more mature form is convenience. Right now, it’s a pain in the butt for me to scroll through close to a thousand cards, then to the right fight. If I had an ability to use a slick GUI that allowed me to quickly search for and select a fight or a fighter, that would be worth something to me. Probably more than $10/month.

    • Jason Harris says:

      Honestly, I can get all of the UFC events on torrents, but I would definitely pay for an easily searchable archive of all of the fights ever.

      Let me search for Randy Couture and easily see him fight Barnett or Rizzo or Van Arsdale. Let me search Vitor Belfort and watch him fight Tank and Liddell and Tito and Anderson.

      But paying per month for some C tier events and a “selection” of library events? no thanks

  9. clint says:

    They have bad password security as well. It is stored as plaintext. Which means if they are hacked and people are using the same password for ufc.tv that they use for other things, they could be in trouble.

    http://bit.ly/1jYG3pH

  10. [...] the folks over at FightOpinion gave a detailed breakdown, enumerating what changes they believe need to be make UFC Fight Pass [...]

  11. [...] the folks over at FightOpinion gave a detailed breakdown, enumerating what changes they believe need to be make UFC Fight Pass [...]

  12. [...] the folks over at FightOpinion gave a detailed breakdown, enumerating what changes they believe need to be make UFC Fight Pass [...]

  13. [...] the folks over at FightOpinion gave a detailed breakdown, enumerating what changes they believe need to be make UFC Fight Pass [...]

  14. [...] colleague Tim Stark wrote two articles about UFC Fight Pass (here and here) which are absolutely worth your time to read & view. Tim is a perfect example of the type of [...]

  15. [...] may well have read mixed reviews on Fight Pass, some go into greater depth than others, but the message is largely the same: There are issues, but the concept is fundamentally sound [...]

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