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A/B testing of UFC Boxing, streaming proves Bob Arum right; is Dana White headed out of MMA?

By Zach Arnold | October 26, 2017

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Dana White says UFC is ready to consider a new media deal that involves a heavy dose of streaming online video.

Like Amazon?

UFC Fight Pass has not been the success as previously touted by supporters. The Floyd Mayweather/Conor McGregor PPV mess showed UFCFP’s limitations. It was never meant to be The WWE Network but it was supposed to be taken seriously.

The mixed messages coming out of Dana White’s mouth reflect a combination of two factors. First, he is a human trial balloon trying to emulate A/B testing to see what provokes versus what bores. Second, Dana’s still on the same playbook from the Fertitta Era as opposed to the playbook new ownership (Ari Emanuel/WME) is using. Dana believes in keeping in-house production whereas media reports over the last year indicate WME would be open to outsourcing production and Fight Pass to the right media partner. This constant push-pull from Dana versus WME really surfaced from December 2016 to June 2017 when Conor McGregor forced his way into getting a fight with Floyd Mayweather. Dana was an effective human laser pointer for Lorenzo Fertitta because they were on the page. I question whether Dana and WME management are on the same page.

Here’s the reality: ESPN’s financial collapse ensures that Fox Sports is the only major TV player for UFC. It was very interesting to see Dana White acknowledge that reality during a recent interview with Jason Gay of The Wall Street Journal. Bob Arum rightfully slammed Dana for his typical “boxing is greedy” sales pitch by noting that the renegotiating window for UFC & Fox didn’t pan out and that WME is considering diversification by promoting boxing fights under the Zuffa Boxing banner.

UFC getting a new television deal with Fox is critical. Fox Sports 1 needs UFC. UFC needs Fox Sports because their PPV buys are tanking. UFC needs Fox Sports to help manage UFC Fight Pass. And, most importantly, the new ATSC 4k over-the-air TV format will provide streaming options alongside Ultra HD content. That is the smart play. It would be the smart play for Disney to buy UFC as a league and own it, but Bob Iger and John Skipper have made a series of horrible decisions regarding the future of ESPN. They did well to bring in Top Rank and yet I could easily argue that Top Rank has not gotten the kind of support from Disney that it deserves.

One thing remains consistent from UFC: they’re not selling. I think it’s a mistake. A rather large one. If Disney or Fox can pay $6 billion for UFC, you take the money and run. Pay off the investors. Live happily ever after. There is way too much risk involved in the fight business. And if/when the Ali Act gets amended to cover MMA, the conditions will change further.

Disney really could use UFC right now to help save ESPN but ESPN is heavily over-leveraged on their NFL & NBA contracts. Netflix is heavily deep in original content spending. Which leaves us with Amazon and Twitter for online streaming options. Both entities have dabbled with NFL programming and have found it to be an absolute data-mining gold mine. Even better, those entities paid the NFL and got the streaming product while offloading the production to the league and its TV partners. Amazon is paying the NFL $50 million for 10 games. $5 million a show. How much would Amazon pay for UFC events? Could UFC get Amazon to take over Fight Pass and reframe FP as a one-stop shop for Reebok gear? UFC and Reebok would benefit enormously from Amazon.

As Bob Arum would say, one monopoly helping out another monopoly. How much is UFC really worth? We’re about to find out.

The angle I’m really interested in is UFC Boxing. Since WME took over UFC ownership, Dana White has been skipping various UFC events. This has raised suspicions about Dana’s MMA future. What better parachute for Dana to transition out of MMA than to head a boxing project under the Zuffa banner? WME could keep Dana for UFC but give him the carrot that he has really been interested in his whole life. It would allow Dana to continue his “boxing is greedy” storyline and cast him in a new story where he can portray himself as an incoming hero. It would be a great ego stroke.

Topics: Boxing, Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 4 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

4 Responses to “A/B testing of UFC Boxing, streaming proves Bob Arum right; is Dana White headed out of MMA?”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    The UFC is in trouble.

    1. Their PPV buys have tanked. Their TV ratings have gone down. TUF should have been cancelled years ago.

    2. GSP’s comeback did not generate the buzz they were hoping for.

    Since the UFC was bought by WME, the company has constantly looked for the quick dollar. Ironically, by doing so, they have actually hurt themselves. There is no logical structure to the fights anymore and the fans can sense it. This is why they are doing PPV’s with buys of less then 200,000 now.

    ESPN just announced that they will be laying off 40 to 60 more employees by years end. Some of them are on air personalities.

    Personally I am a huge GSP fan. I live in the Northeast and really wanted to see him fight Bisping live at MSG. However, the ticket prices were so high I could not justify purchasing them. I understood the high ticket prices for UFC 205 because it was the first MSG event. However, it makes no sense for GSP/Bisping when GSP is coming off a 4 year layoff and his popularity is not as big as it once was.

    I am basically not even a fan of the UFC anybody besides watching GSP or Edgar fight.

  2. Diaz's packed bowl says:

    Zach, you lose readers when you post articles with two old Dana photos in a row. Can’t you at least post a current shot of creepy gluttonous fat pig dana?

    Some good news for reebok, I finally saw someone wearing a “UFC kit” they were in the crowd for fight night 119 brazil. I’m sure their new jiz stained ufc wear will result in several more purchases perhaps in mexico.

  3. […] to cover MMA, UFC has no choice but to diversify their content portfolio. It also gives Dana White a natural parachute to phase out of MMA duties when he wants to execute an exit […]

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