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Will the Spike TV UFC PPV lead-in TV specials increase buy rates?

By Zach Arnold | October 13, 2009

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Not as crazy of a question to ask as you might suspect.

UFC 103 in Dallas did an reported 400,000 PPV buys for an event headlined by Vitor Belfort and Rich Franklin. 400,000 PPV buys for that show is pretty damn good business.

So why was Spike TV’s 1-hour lead-in event with dark matches from the PPV site portrayed as a failure in the media?

Because the show did a 1.4 cable rating, which was labeled by various writers as ‘disappointing.’ But, wait a second, aren’t many of those writers the same people that claim that it’s not how big your cable rating is but how many viewers you convert into PPV customers?

By those standards, the Spike TV experiment was a success — enough of one for the network to continue doing it for future UFC PPVs, including the October 24th event at the Staples Center headlined by Machida vs. Shogun.

The question is — how effective will the lead-in program on Spike be this time around for the PPV buy rate for UFC 104?

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 29 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

29 Responses to “Will the Spike TV UFC PPV lead-in TV specials increase buy rates?”

  1. Zack says:

    Who actually reported that PPV number other than Meltzer in passing on his radio show? That’s a great number if true.

  2. Alan Conceicao says:

    I’d love to see a final number in a few months on UFC 103. I don’t believe it had 400,000 viewers. Period. That’s the trending number, and how often do those come out true? I’m sure its decent though if they’re gonna try this again.

    As for whether or not it helps buys: If they think it does, great. I’ll DVR this and go do something else that night and I’m cool with that. I don’t really care one way or the other about the business aspects, much less the events themselves I’m in the US on the night of a PPV that isn’t crap.

    Its interesting to note that this has been done before ion boxing. Jean Marc Mormeck fought on HBO free prior to the start of Roy Jones Jr./John Ruiz, for instance. They don’t seem to be interested in repeating that, though.

  3. Zak says:

    I don’t think there is anyway to quantify how many people bought the pay-per view as a result of the Spike lead in.

  4. 45 Huddle says:

    From a business perspective….

    1. The 1.4 cable rating is still better then anything else SpikeTV would get in that time slot.

    2. I bet it does help attract a few fans. Some fans who are on the fence to purchase it might get the MMA Blood flowing their veins and order it on a whim.

    3. It is hard to know how many people it added to the PPV Buys. It is also hard to determine if it will be a short term thing where once fans get use to it, it converts less and less people each time.

    4. I am interested in seeing what type of cable numbers it brings in for UFC 106. If they do the hour free show for that event, I think it will determine what the maximum rating can be for these shows.

    Purely a side discussion, but it does relate to the UFC PPV Numbers…. When Dave Meltzer says: “UFC 1## got 400,000 PPV Buys”, I figure it does not include the number of purchases online. Has any numbers ever been leaked as to how many people typically buy it online? I have done it twice since they started it.

    From a fan’s perspective….

    I absolutely love this. A 4 hour event does get a little long, but no complaints from me. I think it gives more exposure to more fighters, and that is absolutely important….

  5. DAMN says:

    i don’t think it helped, the ufc brand will deliver 300-400,000 ppv buys for any show(if you believe meltzer).
    in the long run i think it is bad for business, to many shows means over satration and risks exposing a shallow talent pool.
    any one here looking forward to the super six on showtime? the best vs the best until one man remains.

  6. Joseph says:

    I have another take on it. The UFC is doing this to give some pretty good ratings for Spike, plus, help boost PPV buys, for struggling cards, like UFC 103 and now UFC 104. I doubt they will do this for UFC 106, but, we shall see.

  7. IceMuncher says:

    I don’t know how many people it persuades to buy the PPV, but that number > 0, so it doesn’t really matter. Spike gets a ratings boost and the UFC gets an increase in PPV purchases, even if it’s marginal. Most importantly, we the fans get free fights. Everyone wins, and there’s no downsides as far as I can tell (well, maybe less people buy undercard fights from UFC vault).

  8. For a fan its great to get to see free fights. And its good for the fighters to get the added exposure. But, I think that showing the undercard on Spike helps only a little in getting more PPV viewers. To be honest, the UFC commercial hype gets me more interested in the main event. Watching an undercard fight can sometimes be slow and doesn’t really get people pumped up as much as something like a countdown to UFC show.

  9. IceMuncher says:

    That’s why they’re showing Hardonk/Barry and Bader/Schafer, rather than Okami/Sonnen. Those two fights should have a lot of action, plus Bader has the TUF hype-train working for him.

  10. Ultimo Santa says:

    I can never complain about more MMA. I don’t think any true fan would.

    Which is surprising to me that Strikeforce has any detractors at all…if you like it, it’s there. if you don’t, fine – but they force UFC to see them as a threat and counter-program.

  11. Dave says:

    Ultimo Santa is on the ball here.

    As for the lead-in, of course it helps. I think there is a cap of people who will be watching television on a Saturday night and I think if you are on the fence about buying the show but get an hour lead-in for free before hand with a bunch of decent fights it can easily push you over that fence and into buying a PPV.

    I’m curious as to what SpikeTV is getting out of all of this outside of it being good for their name/brand value. I really don’t recall from last time, but were there on-air pitches or anything? It just seems like going ad-free, even for something that will amass you a lot of viewers, doesn’t make fiscal sense.

  12. jr says:

    I think it’s good for late deciders and even people who might want to order the replay while having remorse on a sunday they didn’t order the show from the free fights they saw. The cupboards are bare at Spike. It’s better to have a UFC preshow on than a CSI episode everyone’s seen multiple times before

  13. Brad Wharton says:

    Great news for the fighters who get to participate as well.

    Surely being on TV > being on PPV in terms of number of eyes on you…hopefully that will lead to some decent sponsorship money.

  14. Jeremy (not that Jeremy) says:

    I approve of and like the idea of prelims being on free TV, but 103 did feel kind of long as a result. That and playing the same fights both on Spike and on the PPV seemed not particularly awesome.

  15. Steve4192 says:

    1.4 is a great rating for SpikeTV.

    That is a little better than any non-season premier episode usually pulls (pre-Kimbo) and it is happening on a Saturday night, which is generally a MUCH weaker viewing night than the weeknights that TUF airs during. Getting a 1.4 rating on a Saturday (plus the UFCs regular demographic multiplier) is a big number for SpikeTV.


    “When Dave Meltzer says: “UFC 1## got 400,000 PPV Buys”, I figure it does not include the number of purchases online.”

    Melzer’s numbers also don’t include non-domestic PPV buys. While those numbers are pretty small, they add up, especially the Canadian PPV buys. International PPV plus internet PPV buys may not be driving the business, but they are not insignificant either.

  16. Steve4192 says:

    “That and playing the same fights both on Spike and on the PPV seemed not particularly awesome.”

    There was not a lot they could do about that. They ran out of short prelim fights by burning through them all during the Spike broadcast. They wound up showing four fights in that one hour time slot.

    In the future, I suspect they’ll be a little more careful about showing ‘extra’ fights on the Spike broadcast and hold a couple back for the PPV.

  17. Mark says:

    When talking about TNA having to paper the crowd for their upcoming Los Angeles show, Meltzer claimed UFC is having to paper as well.

  18. 45 Huddle says:

    Not surprising. I also noticed that the highest ticket price for UFC 107 in TN is only $350. Looks like they learned there lesson with Portland when it comes to smaller markets. And really, if they aren’t in a huge market for MMA like Vegas, then the highest ticket price shoudlnt be above $400. Which is still expensive….

  19. Alan Conceicao says:

    The wheels are continuing to fall off the Randy Couture wagon; Tompkins has left as head trainer. Gee guys, I wonder what happened? I bet no one asks any questions about, for instance, where Randy is financially.

  20. Zack says:

    Meltzer’s numbers definitely include Canadian PPV buys.

    I agree on the smart pricing on UFC 107. Unfortunately, it’s not just small markets. It should be anything without a blockbuster main event. If they priced Staples like that I probably would’ve gone.

    They should’ve learned their lesson from last time there when they had to paper 1/3 of the tickets. This is shaping up to be the same.

  21. […] to order said card). Some were critical of the relatively poor ratings garnered by the fights, but Zach Arnold sees it differently: Because the show did a 1.4 cable rating, which was labeled by various writers as […]

  22. The Gaijin says:

    Seeing as we’re a week removed – any word on last week’s TUF rating? I don’t think I’ve seen it reported anywhere…not that I’ve been looking really hard however.

    I’m interested to see how the show is doing without the Kimbo push…I’m pretty intrigued by the rising tensions between Quinton and Rashad, though it’s kind of empty knowing that they aren’t fighting in the near future.

  23. You could make some sort of quantitative dataset based on Nielson ratings within timespans. How many people went from watching the UFC 103 prelims to buying the UFC PPV in Nielson households?

    I wonder if that’s possible for Nielson to see in those households. Obviously, it wouldn’t give you a highly accurate number, but you could take that number and use it against the total buyrate for UFC 103. I imagine it’s fairly low though.

  24. Ultimo Santa says:

    Notice how TUF’s entire ad campaign now revolves around 30-second spots showing Kimbo Slice training, and the voice over saying “Maybe NEXT week he’ll be back! Will Kimbo get his chance to return?!”

    And then a close-up of Kimbo saying “I’m ready to bang! Tage me in, man!”

    At this point they’ve teased it so much that it will seem like a massive swerve if Kimbo DOESN’T fight on TUF again.

  25. 45 Huddle says:

    2.8 Million Viewers for last week and this week. It was 2.9 Million for the 2nd week. So that seems to be the constant number when Kimbo isn’t being featured. Still way up….

    I’ve given up on this season until the semifinals. Just nit good stuff….

  26. Alan Conceicao says:

    Fun note of the day: HBO will be utilizing 24/7 for Jimmie Johnson in preparation for the Daytona 500 next year. Its the first time the tool will be used outside boxing.

  27. Mr. Roadblock says:

    24/7 is done by the guys who do Hard Knocks, the NFL training camp show. It is the same format.

  28. Razorstorm says:

    I guess it is true they are trying to capitalise on the whole Kimbo situation but this is standard marketting.

    Its no different than the fedor situation really

  29. village1diot says:

    I don’t care as long as they keep doing it. Free MMA on TV is always a good thing. Especially if it is UFC.


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