UFC president Dana White talks about the Web as if it’s the eventual home of UFC pay-per-views, so much so that if he’s wrong he says he and his company are “screwed.” Sounds like a gamble for a guy who fancies wagering tens of thousands of dollars on blackjack. What’s Zuffa betting on? That web-based content is the future. That the promotion can survive and thrive without a broadcast or cable television partner. That it can find a way around sharing money with the nutty pay-per-view industry.
Why work in conjunction with a network or carrier when your brand is pervasive enough, your technology is capable enough, your intent is strong enough to strike out on your own? That question has to have been bandied about at Zuffa’s Las Vegas offices, if for no other reason than the quality of people working there would think of this stuff. Plus it makes sense.
When White talks about a UFC-dedicated channel, as he did in interviews last month, he very well could be referring to Web-housed content. Mixed martial arts, after all, survived online at a time when people like me would have given anything to watch free tape-delayed MMA on TV. Now it’s something to bitch about. In part, the sport reached this point because of its close link to the Internet and the explosion of social media like Facebook and Twitter, where White has 1.2 million followers. Unlike boxing, which is woven into the fabric of traditional sports media, MMA was and is empowered by a strong, activated online community. Traditional media is attempting to play catchup.
Would UFC fans pay 10 bucks a month for an xbox or playstation app that gives them access to a massive library of past events, prelims, and countdown shows? Oh, I dunno. We’re pretty damn stingy with our money. After all, only 300,000 people paid 45 bucks to buy that Mir vs Crocop card. We’d probably rather buy another 60 dollar shirt with rhinestones instead.