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The TV industry buzz phrase UFC is banking on in new negotiations: “time poverty”

By Zach Arnold | May 22, 2017

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In an interview recorded this past weekend, Fox Sports point man Michael Mulvihill made his case that the television industry is not dying. In particular, regional sports network are monstrous cash cows and baseball is the sport best-positioned to take advantage of the current media trends because of how much content is produced. It plays in both sides of the equation: live events (standard TV formats) and recorded (digital consumption).

According to Mr. Mulvihill, Americans watch over five hours of TV daily. Cord cutting & cord shaving is having an impact but a disparate one. The impact is felt greater at a network like ESPN. The biggest threat to sports programming and television is “time poverty.” Television habits are becoming a zero sum proposition. Americans are watching five hours a day but viewership habits are hardening. Sports programming is no longer competing strictly with other sports programming for viewership time. The margin for error is getting slimmer. What if there is too much good content?

Mr. Mulvihill remarked that all the major American sports corporations are extremely sensitive to “time poverty.” MLB has implemented small measures to try to speed up games. Instead, games are now over three hours in length. Are Americans willing to spend three out of their five hours daily watching a baseball game? Viewers are hanging in with professional and college football games. Gambling can make torture fun.

According to the Fox Sports executive, two sports are primed to withstand the problem of “time poverty” – soccer (MLS) and MMA (UFC). You can watch a soccer game in two hours. A UFC title fight, with intervals and commercials, is around 35 minutes. This, according to Fox Sports, is becoming more valuable than whether or not a sport can capture the 18-to-34 year old demographic. UFC built its reputation in the television & social media industries on the fact that it’s prime demographic is right in the 18-to-34 year old sweet spot. Mr. Mulvihill believes that reconsideration is in order because younger Americans are delaying big life-changing experiences until they reach an older age – buying cars, houses, and starting families. He believes a more productive demographic to focus on is 25-to-54 and that middle-aged viewers have more purchasing power. This change in principle helps baseball (demo skews older 40s-early 50s-ish) more than it helps UFC.

The words of Michael Mulvihill should not be taken lightly. He is the man UFC will be negotiating with when it’s time to renew the Fox Sports 1 TV deal.

What about multiple television deals with different channels?

Since WME-IMG purchased UFC, the automatic assumption is Ari Emanuel pitching different kinds of UFC television packages to multiple channels (similar to the NFL, NBA, MLB).

Fox Sports just purchased rights to Big 10 college football and is splitting games with ESPN. According to Mr. Mulvihill, the two channels have been engaged in a fantasy lottery of sorts to buy dates in order to get games. Thus, Fox Sports bought the date to get first rights to Michigan vs. Ohio State.

Could such a scenario play out with the UFC? UFC has Super Bowl weekend, Memorial Day weekend, 4th of July, and New Year’s Eve. UFC can’t predict what fights are going to happen on specific dates. Selling dates as events, however, could be the avenue they pursue if they can convince a second television partner to buy some of their content.

The big question is what kind of financial value Fox Sports places on UFC content. Fox needs UFC content to justify the existence of Fox Sports 1. The network suits can argue until they are blue in the face that MLB & college football games are going to build the channel’s relevance. Certain games may pop bigger numbers than UFC programming. By in large, however, UFC programming remains the most solid performer on Fox. It’s good programming inventory. The question is at what price does it remain a good value. ESPN’s misfortunes has taken away some of UFC’s leverage. How valuable is UFC as an antidote to the “time poverty” conundrum?

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 6 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

6 Responses to “The TV industry buzz phrase UFC is banking on in new negotiations: “time poverty””

  1. Diaz's packed bowl says:

    Time poverty, next they’ll call it time insecurity and ask for a gov bail out. Personally I feel the need to ignore the mma newsites for a week or so, mainly because manly cyborg’s ugly roided mug is plastered all over em.

    Great time to get rid of that ugly cheating non marketable person. From the ufc standpoint they kind of have to make an example out of her. Especially after she blames them for her punching the “mean girl” in her lawyers statement online regarding “culture”. She should have just posted the troll beat down scene from jay and silent bobs dogma as validation for her actions.

    What I found to be bizarre were most online commenters were making cyborg out to be the victim?!!?
    Shows you how depraved and backwards the average ufc fan can be.
    Cyborb was strikeforce champ by cheating, so she has NO prior accomplishments to respect her for. SHE disrespected every woman she fought and now SHE wants some respect?

    Aint happenin’

  2. Diaz's packed bowl says:

    fighter poverty is more like it…

    reebok gave out 50% off coupons to fighters for their online site, but 6pm has reebok for better than 50% off and free shipping! even the ufc jersey is on sale for 56% off…–yAQ.zso?s=isNew/desc/goLiveDate/desc/recentSalesStyle/desc/

  3. Todd Gumm says:

    “Time poverty” is just corporatespeak for the competing demands for a viewer’s attention. It’s not new. It’s certainly not an innovative concept. And it certainly doesn’t work to be benefit of MMA and soccer.

    So far, 2017 is the worst year in UFC’s history. Twice in the last 9 months UFC on FOX has set new record lows for viewership. TUF 23 had the lowest premiere viewership in the history of the franchise. Q1 and Q2 are the worst two quarters of PPV in UFC history.

    In other words, UFC is fading badly. The trend has been obvious since last fall. So how’s that “time poverty” working out for the UFC?

  4. […] Fox Sports point man Michael Mulvihill recently admitted that he is reconsidering the value of the 18-to-34 year old demographic for sports fans. He has to. If the youngest sports fans for conventional TV are above age 40, then 35-to-49 becomes your desirable demographic. That’s right in UFC’s wheelhouse. […]

  5. […] Fox will undoubtedly be given a right to match any offer. The network views UFC programming as critical to the future of Fox Sports given MMA’s product format of quick action and tight time […]

  6. […] Seven months ago, Fox Sports numbers guy/fixer Michael Mulvihill was gleeful about how much of a cash cow Regional Sports Networks were for Fox Sports. Mulvihill was also gleeful about the NFL being largely bulletproof in the new digital economy and how UFC was a great programming value because fights can combat the problem of “time poverty.&… […]


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