Report: Ad buyers frustrated with lack of data from UFC on ESPN+, DAZN programming

November 19, 2019

According to a report from Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand advertisers are growing weary of the unknown viewership numbers that are watching online content such as the UFC on ESPN+.  The concern may lead to a demand from advertisers to provide solid numbers for specific program for direct-to-consumer platforms.

At a National Association of Broadcasters panel in New York Adam Schwartz, Horizon Media’s senior vice president and director of sports media noted that his company has pushed for specific numbers as to how many consumers are watching specific programming.  Notably Schwartz buys advertising packages for the likes of Geico, Sprint, Capital One, Burger King and Corona.

He noted that the UFC on ESPN + has been frustrating to decipher because rather than provide advertisers with actual viewership numbers, ESPN+ provides an overall number of subscribers.  According to the SBJ report from Schwartz’ appearance on the panel, there is a UFC sponsor (name not revealed) that entered into a deal with the company prior to the ESPN+ contract and was promised a specific number of viewers.

Additionally, DAZN has not provided concrete numbers for its MMA or Boxing events.  Schwartz cites these two as challenges for advertisers because they must make a monetary decision based on speculation.  Without concrete data, its hard to prove whether or not the advertising campaign was successful, influenced its target audience or was a bust.  Furthermore, it would be hard to convince your buyer of the bottom line if the specific program does not provide ratings that one might be able to assess.

Payout Perspective:

One of the questions that loomed when content moved to digital platforms was how would programming be tracked.  Television ratings are prevalent and are easy to access. Ad buyers are able to analyze the numbers of viewers watching and breaking down the demographics to determine how to target a specific audience.  As we have learned from this report, online content viewership of specific events is not released to even advertisers.  One might also believe this to be true of UFC PPV events.  While DAZN has noted it gained subscribers for big events, it does not disclose specifics.  Similarly, the UFC has not provided solid numbers unless it wants it to be known.  This may not be fair to the media.  But it would be frustrating for an ad buyer that cannot quantify its return on investment.

The panel did note that advertisers may seek to pay a premium for the specific numbers which might entice digital holders to provide them.  Of course, disclosing the information would make tracking the viewership patterns easier and the possibility that the media would get a hold of the information.

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