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Why did UFC leak info on Anderson Silva/Michael Bisping on Christmas Eve?

By Zach Arnold | December 24, 2015

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Anderson Silva will fight Michael Bisping on February 27th in London. The event will not air on Fox Sports — it will air on UFC’s Internet site instead.

The obvious question: what’s the motive? The conventional wisdom is that UFC is trying to boost the value of their OTT (over-the-top) play in order to gain leverage when the Fox Sports deal expires. If that’s the wisdom, I don’t buy into it at all.

UFC has value for Fox Sports 1. It does not possess value for big Fox. The network TV cards simply aren’t promoted right. After the Cain Velasquez fight went so quickly, so did the amount of advertising by the television network.

The problem for UFC is simple — ESPN is in rocky shape long-term. Disney knows it. I would not be shocked to see major firings at ESPN early next year over the bloated new TV rights deals signed with the NBA and other sports properties. ESPN was very interested in Al Haymon’s PBC because he was paying the bill, not ESPN. So far, the PBC experiment has been lackluster to say the least.

The combination of ESPN tying itself up with significantly bloated TV rights deals along with cord shaving/cord cutting means Disney has a real problem on their hands. Their most recent filing with the SEC shows some damage. A couple of years ago, ESPN would have been in prime position to poach UFC away from Fox. Now? Not so much. ESPN has been rather generous in giving UFC publicity and Dana White has played ball with them much more than he has Fox Sports 1.

If ESPN isn’t in the picture for leverage, then UFC has to create something as a leverage point to create even the appearance of a bidding war. Or, in this case, an Over-The-Top play.

I wasn’t bullish on WWE Network but at least I got the logic. Jonathan Snowden said that WWE Network and other OTT plays would take the concept of PPV and shoot it in the head. WWE Network is proving that the cost for obtaining complete control over distribution of your product is significant because people aren’t willing to pay as much for your product in the future.

UFC Fight Pass is boxed in a corner. Fight Pass is not meant to be like WWE Network in moving away from PPV but it’s also not meant to be simply a niche multimedia portal. The problem is that when you try to be all things to all people, it usually disappoints.

I have no doubt that Anderson Silva’s return fight will boost subscriptions to Fight Pass. How many subscribers will it be worth? Can you get more than 50,000 additional subscribers?

When you have an announcement on this level, you usually don’t see it buried in a Christmas Eve news dump. We’re living in interesting times.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, UK, Zach Arnold | 10 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

10 Responses to “Why did UFC leak info on Anderson Silva/Michael Bisping on Christmas Eve?”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    1) The WWE had to pull the trigger on the WWE Network when they did because of market saturation. They needed to be one of the first to the market and get a good customer base to build from. Now we see everybody trying to sell a network online. CBS & NBC have their own streaming services. Hulu has upped the price for commercial free. Amazon is trying to compete more with original programming. McMahon timed it perfectly. Sure he hurt himself short term, but if he didn’t, the future would have been much worse for his company.

    2) Disney (who owns ESPN), is seeing a shift in their business this year. ESPN is going downhill while their movie business is going up substantially (thanks to Marvel & Star Wars). I wouldn’t be shocked if they decided to invest less in the future in ESPN as cable subscriptions fall and their revenues go down.

    3) The UFC is in a weird position right now. They have main eventers who are more popular then ever before. And yet the rest of their fighters are probably more disposable then every before as well.

    Fight Pass is in that weird middle zone where it isn’t a bad service, but there is also no major reason to subscribe to it. The UFC would have to put many more cards on it to get more casual fans to purchase it.

  2. cutch says:

    I don’t know what the PPV contract looks like but if I was the UFC I would be looking to put on monthly cards featuring the guys who headline their normal PPVs (under 400,000 buys) and then leave say 4 cards for big PPVs featuring their superstars like Conar, Ronda & Jones with the right opponent.

    They dont even have to have all the fights at the same time an Anderson Silva in London hours earlier wouldn’t hurt them that much

  3. Alan Conceicao says:

    Now and forever, the difference between real sports and pro wrestling is that in pro wrestling, the headliner for your major cards can always appear as the key draw. As long as your Cena is healthy, he can wrestle 20-25 minutes on TV once or twice a week no problem. Boxing hasn’t come close to working like that in generations and MMA certainly never has either. Guys need to train and take time off between fights. Top tier headliners rarely compete more than twice a year. Those fighters need repeated exposure and time in front of eyeballs to reach the next level.

    Boxing hurt itself tremendously in those regards way back in the 70s and early 80s when the sport transitioned to primarily being on premium cable/satellite. The money increased, but the ability for people to easily access it went down. MMA choosing now at this early stage to head into a specialty internet niche is an awful idea for that reason.

  4. rst says:

    I like the way anderson describes this as his first step before fighting for the title again.
    He has no shame or self awareness does he.

  5. ot says:

    Would UFC events provide additional value to the ESPN stream service?

    • 45 Huddle says:

      The biggest knock against FOX Sports is that they are so anti-streaming right now.

      Give me Silva/Bisping on Fight Pass any day of the week over shows on FS1.

  6. 45 Huddle says:

    Rumors swirling of McGregor vs. Dos Anjos in TX in March.


    Why even call the UFC a sport at this point? And where is the media taking the UFC to task for these decisions?

    • Safari_Punch says:

      Because they ones with the loudest voices are lapdogs.

    • rst says:

      Whats his name talks all that jazz,
      but the UFC is generally smarter then being led by the stars it makes.
      They are aware of the difference between balls out JMMA and at least attempting to look like a sport.

      And their diversions into fluff are only the same diversions of mainstream sports.
      Rousy was suddenly the voice of MMA on espn.

      In a nutshell, whats his name can say all he weird isht he wants,
      and zuffa will pick and choose from that.

  7. Nepal says:

    Watched the Fedor comedy show. I love the journo crowd with their “Fedor is back”. It would be like GSP coming back now and beating a top kickboxer that had 2 MMA fights. Utterly meaningless.

    Maybe they just mean, “Fedor is back to beating people that have no business being in the ring with him”.

    After watching the UFC for all these years and even with the many things about the cage I don’t like, it was like watching amateur hour with the the ropes and how they negatively affect a fight.

    Is Fedor really in need of the money? I guess a $2M payout is nothing to sneeze at and to hell with that legacy shit.


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