UFC announces mobile, internet tv deals in Japan

January 25, 2011

The UFC announced two Japanese media deals which will expand its reach to Japan. According to the UFC, the digital media distribution deals will enable significantly wider access to a range of UFC content to Japanese MMA fans.

Via UFC press release:

First, UFC® officials announced a deal with TV Bank Corp. which will provide an Official UFC Mobile site across all three major Japanese cellular networks – NTT Docomo, KDD AU and Softbank. The agreement with TV Bank Corp. will ensure that UFC® updates, ringtones, wallpapers, fights on demand and other exciting content are made available to UFC fans in Japan. Most news and features will be accessible for free, while premium content will be available on a pay basis.  The partnership establishes TV Bank, a subsidiary of major Japanese digital media company Softbank, as the UFC’s primary online content distributor in Japan. In a second announcement for Japanese UFC fans, UFC officials confirmed an agreement with the Hikari TV, the internet protocol television network (IPTV) operated by NTT Plala Corp.  The digital network will air delayed live and archived UFC bouts, as well as classic fights from the famed PRIDE® library. Hikari TV currently enjoys a rapidly growing subscriber base of more than 1.3 million subscribers in Japan.

The web sites will launch February 1st. The UFC indicated it plans on a show in Japan in late 2011 or 2012.

In conjunction with the announcement of the new partnerships, the UFC announced the recent signings of three Japanese MMA stars: Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto, Michihiro Omigawa and Riki Fukuda.

(Photo above courtesy of UFC, pictured from left: Riki Fukuda, Kid Yamamoto, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Michihiro Omigawa and Yushin Okami at Monday’s press conference in Japan).

Payout Perspective:

The move is a sign of the expanding strategic global growth the UFC is planning for 2011 and beyond. It makes sense given the turbulent state of Japanese MMA. There is an existing MMA fan base in Japan that could be enticed into becoming UFC fans.

The addition of the Japanese fighters should help bring in the Japanese MMA fan. Last spring, Japanese MMA manager Shu Hirata spoke to MMA Fighting as to how the UFC could garner more Japanese fans:

Look at MLB. its very popular in Japan now because there are Japanese stars that are doing well – like Ichiro and Matsui. But in the UFC or WEC, we still haven’t seen Ichiro or Matsui yet. Think of it this way: if GSP or Anderson Silva were Japanese, then they would be all over the Japanese TV by now and even an old lady in the deep woods of Yamagata prefecture would know what the UFC is. So fighters are the ones that can really change everything. Even only one Japanese champ might be able to change everything. We need Japanese Tiger Woods in the UFC then everything would fall into the places for the entire industry.

It will be interesting to see how the Japanese fighters will be featured. Yushin Okami is in a holding pattern for a shot at Anderson Silva. But, his wait may get longer if GSP-Silva happens and/or he gets leapfrogged by a returning Chael Sonnen. Another idea could be Silva-Okami if and when the UFC runs a show in Japan.

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