Are Exclusive Streaming Services Hurting or Helping MMA?
Over the past year, many major mixed martial arts organizations have inked broadcast partnerships with exclusive online streaming services. The first domino to fall in North America was, of course, the UFC.
Previously paired with FOX Sports, the UFC surprised many when they signed a deal with the Disney Corporation and its sports entertainment property, ESPN. Surprising or not that the family company would bring in such content, the crux of this stemmed from where the deal placed the broadcasts. Under this deal, UFC events will mainly see light on the networks ‘new’ paid streaming service, ESPN+.
For a wholesome $4.99, mixed martial arts fans are privy to UFC-centered content. Near-simultaneous to the acquiring UFC rights, ESPN+ added accompanying shows who the international scale of the sport is wholeheartedly lost upon. If the so-called, ‘oversaturation’ of combat creeps into them, subscribers could enjoy such wonderful content as College Lacrosse, Major League Soccer, and professional Tennis.
To whine at the frequency of a wolf howling to the moon at the atrocity which is ESPN+, comparatively speaking, is a waste of time. Others in the market of ‘alternative’ sports streaming offer a less than enticing price point.
For $9.99, DAZN provides a healthy portion of combat sports. Their package includes Combates Americas, Bellator, Golden Boy, Matchroom Boxing, and more. Yet, what really sets DAZN apart from the others in North America is J. League and AFC Champions League. Of course, we all know of J. League, Japans leading professional soccer organization and who could forget AFC Champions League? The premiere Asian continental club football competition/tournament.
Last to the over-priced party was B/R Live. B/R Live, as they secured broadcast rights to ONE Championship. For $7.99, North American audiences can enjoy one of the best mixed martial arts promotions on the planet. Or, they could enjoy The Spring League (A league for undrafted American football players) and The World Armwrestling League.
Most can understand the unsustainability of streaming content for free. Yet, what is left not understood is the deep segmentation.
Demographics of MMA Fandom
There is no question that male-centered programming is vanishing from television exponentially in this day and age. While the merit and economics of this trend are not coming under question here, it is worth pondering where this demographic migrates.
Even beyond the male demographic, were a vast majority of MMA fans ever wealthy?
If you watch fight broadcasts as if they were a sermon, you might believe so. The reality is, front row seats at sporting events are expedited tickets to divorce for your average patron. For a celebrity, it’s a marketing tool.
Considering the depth of fandom at even regional level shows, an assumption to make of MMA fans, as a group, skews towards working class.
If that assumption reigns true, have we seriously considered the task we’ve asked them to undertake? Do we understand the consequences of asking this group to pay out for multiple streaming services, internet (that allows us to use the streaming services), cable, phone (phone, cable, and internet bundle together for a cheaper overall price than individual services), and the occasional PPV?
A standard bundle of phone, cable, and internet from Comcast comes in at 89.99 a month, over a 12 month period. According to the US Department of Energy ¹, an average American household spends approximately $2,060 (figure based on utilities for a home, not apartment) on utilities. Add upon those, $9.99 a month for UFC Fight Pass, $4.99 for ESPN+, $9.99 for DAZN, $7.99 for B/R Live, and factor in one UFC PPV: $65. Maybe you are adventurous and you purchased one RIZIN card as well as one KSW card. Both of those PPVs would cost you $31.98.
Over the course of a single year, watching MMA from the comfort of your own home costs approximately, $4,507.28. That figure represents a fan who buys a single UFC PPV per month, as well as buying an even split of 12 KSW and RIZIN events. What doesn’t factor in that equation is the rent or mortgage which keeps that roof over your head. Also not included, cell phone, insurance, car payments, gas, gym membership, and countless other things that are already mainstays among your budget.
Strictly MMA viewing costs sit somewhere around $2,447.28 per year (figure simply discludes estimated cost of household utilities).
With all these expenses, fans have few options. Either save your money and be left out. Or, pay to play the game: MMA Fandom.