As of now, no takers for UFC’s new media right deal

November 20, 2017

The Sports Business Journal reports the UFC’s current state of negotiating a new media rights package once its deal with FOX is up.  Currently, the new asking price of $450M per year is a stiff increase that is not garnering a lot of interest at this point.

The current deal with FOX is worth $120 million per year (with it jumping to $160 million for the last year) for the 7 year deal which ends at the end of 2018.  The UFC is looking to increase its rights fee to $450 million per year.  Traditional media companies appear to be weary of the hefty ask.

The article notes that it has had meetings with online companies Amazon and Oath.  There has been speculation that the next media rights deal could include a digital only platform which would be unprecedented.

SBJ notes that with the WWE’s media rights deal coming up in the fall of 2019, the market and bargaining leverage might be hindered for the UFC.  WWE has met with Fox earlier this summer as part of the pro wrestling company’s road show with various networks “to show the power of its programming.”  The WWE’s deal with NBC in 2017 is estimated at $180 million.

Payout Perspective:

With the WWE’s media rights deal up around the same time as the UFC, re-upping with Fox may be tougher than expected.  Although the two companies differ in entertainment products, Fox could see the WWE as a suitable replacement (with better TV ratings) for its FS1 network if the UFC asks for too much.  The unknown factor is the possibility of taking its media rights to a digital only platform.  While this may seem unlikely, the UFC has been a company willing to take risks.  The new ownership may be risk averse but if it cannot secure a deal in the neighborhood of its asking price from a traditional media company, it may look to other alternatives.

White suggests possibility of digital platform for next media deal

October 26, 2017

Could the UFC be moving toward a digital platform for its next media rights deal?  Dana White intimated the notion recently on a podcast with the Wall Street Journal.

The discussion was based on the belief that younger people watch content on phones and tablets rather than on television.  Also cited, was the eroding ratings of networks including ESPN.  The network is building its own digital network in 2018 which will include Top Rank Boxing.   White predicts digital platforms as the wave of the future.  Thus, there is a possibility that the next deal may not include a network.

There is also the possibility of splitting up the rights to include network, cable and digital.

Currently, UFC Fight Pass serves as a supplement to UFC fans.  Similar to the WWE’s Network, it rectnly started a 24/7 model which plays content constantly instead of the user choosing what they want to watch.  The digital platform includes an extensive library of past events and other organizations as well as its own events on Fight Pass.

Payout Perspective:

One of the key things pointed out during the interview was that the UFC produces its own events.  But, it was discussed that the next rights deal, the UFC would relax this custom and allow the rights holder some latitude with the partnership.  Perhaps White is just advocating for digital platforms to step up in the media rights bid by championing it over network or cable.  The UFC has been at the forefront of innovative trends and if digital overtakes traditional platforms, especially with the younger demographic, we might see a serious push for digital content.

Fox Sports to air press conferences for Mayweather-McGregor

July 10, 2017

Fox Sports will air the hype for the August 26th Mayweather-McGregor fight according to Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports.  The additional hype for the event should help the event as well as the network.

Fox Sports 2 will do specials of “UFC Tonight” this week as the big press tour begins Tuesday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.  It will air the press conferences on FS2 all this week live and then re-air them on FS1.

There will also be a weigh-in show on August 25th on FS1 and Fox Sports Deportes.  There will be a pre-fight show on August 26th on Fox and Fox Deportes.  Also, there will be a post-fight show on FS1 and Fox Deportes.

Payout Perspective:

The UFC is going to go all out in promoting this fight and the extra TV for this should help.  With so much demand for the press conferences as the complimentary tickets have sold out quickly, televising these pressers make sense should help build some viewership for FS2 and FS1.  Since McGregor is such a draw just for his time on the microphone, I would suggest that there will be some decent ratings for the press conferences.

Ariel Helwani given lifetime ban by UFC

June 5, 2016

MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani was escorted out of UFC 199 prior to its conclusion according to multiple reports including the host of the MMA Hour.  In addition, Esther Lin and Casey Leydon of MMA Fighting were required to leave the event.

MMA Fighting has issued a statement:

MMA Fighting and SB Nation fully support Ariel, Casey, Esther and the entire MMA Fighting staff. And we appreciate the support we have received from the MMA Fighting audience and community.

The UFC has not been in contact with us since revoking the credentials of Ariel, Esther and Casey. But we will keep you, our audience, informed of the situation.

Ariel will address what occurred at UFC 199 on tomorrow’s MMA Hour. The show begins at 1 p.m. ET / 10 a.m. PT

Essentially the statement amounts to an advertisement for the MMA Hour.

Helwani indicated that he was told that he was banned for life from the UFC.

Payout Perspective:

The move by the UFC amounts to a PR issue with dealing with the media.  Helwani has scooped the UFC of its breaking news of fight announcements on its FS1 show, UFC Tonight, since leaving the show.  The reason for his dismissal on Saturday night was the reporting of Brock Lesnar’s return prior to the UFC’s announcement.  Jumping on the news appeared to be the last straw for the UFC.

But the question is why Helwani was the scapegoat for the news leak.  Shouldn’t the UFC be irate over the sources that fed Helwani the news?  Likely, Helwani was the easiest target.  Moreover, he has become a popular media figure in MMA.  Perhaps a little too big.  Helwani still has the contacts within the industry to obtain stories and unless the UFC can control his contacts, then he will still be a major MMA media figure.

Frankly, whether you notice it or not, the control of the news by an organization is not uncommon.  The tenuous relationship between public relations and journalism was exemplified by this episode.  While we may believe the UFC doesn’t need the media, it actually does.  If you watched the PPV on Saturday, the UFC 200 promo for Jones-Cormier included interviews with 3 reporters (Kevin Iole, Case Keefer and John Morgan).  The inclusion reflects the fact the UFC needs the media to legitimize fights.

Will the UFC suffer for what it has done? Of course not.  If you look at bigger leagues and companies, the muting of news occurs all of the time.  Helwani was not the chosen person to break the Lesnar story and the UFC decided to make an example out of him.  It does appear that more bigger name, mainstream journalists are picking up on this issue.  Will the UFC do anything to address the matter or will they just let it air out?  The Stitch Duran situation was prickly but the UFC got through it fine. We shall see.

UFC, DGital Media to produce podcasts starting June 21

May 30, 2016

The Sports Business Journal reports that the UFC and DGital Media have struck a deal in which the company will launch a twice-a-week podcast featuring UFC President Dana White, fighters from the company and other notable figures.

Financial terms of the multiyear deal were not disclosed however SBJ reports that the companies will split advertising revenue from the podcasts.

DGital Media is the same company that produces NBA writer Adrian Wojnarowski’s “The Vertical Podcast.”

The podcasts begin June 21 featuring former UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra with comedian Jim Norton.  The show, “UFC Unfiltered with Jim Norton and Matt Serra” will be 1 hour shows releasing on Tuesday and Thursdays.  The usual platforms such as iTunes and GooglePlay will carry the shows for free download.

According to the SBJ article, the UFC had been considering launching a podcast “for a few years.”

Payout Perspective:

Believe it or not podcasts are a big media platform.  The question is whether they could be monetized via advertising.  The only real measure for podcasts is how many downloads they receive.  Even then, its not known whether or not they are listened to by the consumer.  Thus, for an advertiser, it becomes a gamble as to whether or not an ad is heard or if it just falls on deaf ears.  The UFC seems positive that it can leverage this show to sell to its existing sponsors as well as others.  It will be interesting to see if the podcasts become the go to place for fighters and it excludes other shows like “The MMA Hour.”

Fox Sports suspends Florian for plagiarism

January 16, 2016

Fox Sports has suspended analyst Kenny Florian for plagiarism issues after the former UFC fighter used analysis in a report that was pilfered from a combat sports writer without attribution.  Florian has since apologized for the indiscretion but is still being suspended according to multiple outlets.

Florian used word for word analysis from Lee Wylie in previewing the TJ Dillashaw-Dominick Cruz fight set for this Sunday.  Fox Sports called Florian’s use of work without attribution a “critical oversight.”

Via Fox Sports PR

Payout Perspective:

Although it seems that the online generation cares less about attribution and crediting reports, the move by Fox Sports was the correct thing too.  But to back up, color me surprised to know that Florian does not receive any help (even from another MMA guy) in formulating analysis for his television spots.  I would think that he would run these things by someone before he says them.  The good news is that this was not overlooked as happens so many times in the web site/social media era.  Basically bigger media outlets usurp ownership over stories and scoops to avoid crediting someone not with their organization.  Should Florian be fired? Hard to say, but it does call into question his credibility as an analyst.

UFC evolves as media company

November 23, 2015

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports on the UFC and its operations as a media organization.  The write-up reflects the evolution of the UFC’s production to promote itself.

The article indicates that the company has 85 full-time employees including 15 at offices overseas that are dedicated to in-house production operations.

The UFC saves 35 percent of the costs as opposed to hiring an outside production company.  Even if they were to hire someone, the UFC believed that no one understood its branding and advertising.

It also talks about the “Embedded” episodes which were geared toward the 18-25 demo.  Notably, it reports that the Embedded series drew 38 million viewers during fight week for UFC 193.

The Rousey-Holm video which gained wide acclaim is an example of the UFC thinking of promoting itself outside of the box.  With its digital consultant, the promo was produced and the company developed a strategy for its release.  Four versions of the video were made.  Ellen DeGeneres released the video featuring Rousey, while Golden Boy’s Oscar de la Hoya (focusing on Holm’s boxing bacground) released the Holm version.

UFC Fight Pass is also an example of the building out of the company’s media capabilities.  Recently, an original show on Fight Pass featuring Dana White debuted on the online platform.  It drew 1.1 million views.

Payout Perspective:

The article captures the organization’s dedication to original content and controlling its own message.  The UFC’s model for promotion is similar to that of the WWE in that it controls its product closely.  Thus, even though it has the ability to hire outside companies to produce content, it does it themselves.  It’s also interesting note that it is becoming more creative in how it disseminates its content.  Notably, the Rousey-Holm trailers were exclusively provided to Ellen (the Rousey-focused promo) and Oscar De La Hoya (Holm-focused promo).  As the UFC continues to evolve its media arm, we should see more targeted promotional campaigns for its product.

Recent issues dealing with media problematic with UFC stars

November 7, 2015

As many MMA fans watched Vitor Belfort battle Dan Henderson once again Saturday night, his dealings with the press leading up to UFC Fight Night 77 have been interesting to say the least.  Belfort’s attempt to manage the media is just one of three interesting shots at controlling media perceptions.

Deadspin and Bloody Elbow released reports on Belfort that reflect abnormally high levels of testosterone in his system leading up to his title shot against Jon Jones in September 2013.  Essentially, one might conclude from the articles that the UFC knew that Belfort was on TRT, yet it was not reported.  Moreover, Jones was fighting a challenger that was on TRT although no one let the champion know.

Belfort was scheduled to do PR for his fight on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani last week but that interview was nixed due to the fact that Helwani wanted to ask about the reports.

Since The MMA Hour incident, Belfort has given interviews with the press but skirted the questions related to his TRT usage and the write-ups about it leading up to UFC 152.

Notably, Belfort has submitted to USADA testing twice under the new UFC-USADA drug protocol.

Still, Belfort’s legacy is likely tainted with his prior PED use and the Deadspin/BE revelations which implicate him as using TRT.  Notwithstanding these issues, which may be out of his hands, Belfort’s PR efforts leading up to this fight reflect poor media relations.

Helwani was right to cancel the interview or willing to have the interview cancelled if he was not able to talk about the recent newsworthy items. It’s not the job of Helwani to amend his questioning here, but for Belfort’s media team to ready itself for the questions. Certainly, avoiding the interview altogether was an option, but promoting the fight (a part of his job as a contracted fighter for the UFC) was the impetus for the appearance.

Speaking of PR issues, Ronda Rousey hung up on a UFC media call when a question was posed about her relationship with Travis Browne. The controversial UFC heavyweight announced that he was with Rousey in an interview. Browne is being accused of his estranged wife of domestic violence. The accusation caused Browne to be suspended by the UFC but after an investigation into the matter, Browne was reinstated.

When asked about the relationship, Rousey hung up the line in the first several minutes of the conference call. She never returned to the call. It was clear the question, was unacceptable to her. But was it an unacceptable question? There has been no news as to the reasons for her dropping the line and not fulfilling her obligation to the UFC and the media.

The question, while being somewhat off topic from UFC 193, the event that was the primary reason for the conference call was within the realm of possibility. Admittedly, it did seem like a “gotcha” moment but it was a newsworthy question to bring up. Browne answered the question in a prior interview. Certainly, he could have deferred the question citing his personal life but decided to respond.

For Rousey, it’s clear that she was caught off-guard. Moreover, it seems like her team needs to come up with a strategy to decide on how to address the matter. Rousey and Browne are UFC fighters and are in the public eye. At some point, if their relationship continues, mainstream outlets (i.e., TMZ) will hone in on the relationship.

Rousey is the biggest draw in the UFC. Her brand is ascending. With appearances on Good Morning America and Ellen, she is becoming more visible and a role model to young women. Would her brand suffer if the public knew who she was dating?

Then, there’s the issue of Conor McGregor. The Irish fighter had to respond to critics after he was spotted wearing a poppy. A fan blasted the UFC interim featherweight champion for wearing the symbol of remembrance of British soldiers of World War I. The “poppy” is controversial in Northern Ireland and many Irish refuse to wear one due to the conflicts between the countries. McGregor maintained wearing the poppy was done in remembrance of all soldiers but was still criticized for perceived insensitivities.

He wrote in a Facebook post:

I know where my allegiance lies and what I do for my country. I don’t need a stupid little flower with a 100 different meanings to tell me if I do or do not represent my country.
Check the facts of its original meaning. ALL soldiers. ALL wars.I have the blood of many nations on my gloves. Fought and beat on the world stage. You have a pint in your hand and a Celtic jersey on in your local. F*** you and the Queen.

Payout Perspective:

These three recent episodes reflect a need for UFC contracted fighters to become more media aware. In the case of Belfort and Rousey, it’s a matter of preparing a strategy to responding to tough questions. In the matter of McGregor, it’s a matter of realizing the sensitivities of your audience. The most important thing in all of these media-related matters is execution.  In all three, the execution was poor and it appears that each did not have a media strategy, or had a poor one in the case of Belfort.  UFC Fighters are not the only sports figures dealing with media mishaps.  But if the UFC wants to change perceptions and garner more fans, it needs to work with the media and become more media savvy.

The UFC and NFL took down Deadspin twitter account Monday

October 13, 2015

The UFC and NFL filed take down notices for copyright infringement against the twitter accounts for the sports web site Deadspin and the Vox Media-owned SB Nation Gif account per CNN Money.  As of Tuesday morning, the Deadspin account had returned to twitter but the SB Nation Gif account remains suspended.

THIRD UPDATE:  The UFC only filed a take down notice against Deadspin and not the SB Nation Gif account per NY Times.

SECOND UPDATE: Per Forbes.com, the UFC specifically took issue with a Deadspin tweet related to Ronda Rousey’s last fight.  One could surmise they played the entire fight from UFC 190 or at least the KO.

UPDATED:  For those wondering, takedown notices are governed under Title II, Section 512 of the DMCA which is found here.

Takedown notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) were issued to both Deadspin and SB Nation for alleged violations of copyright.  Both twitter accounts routinely use GIFs from the NFL and other sports.  Per CNN Money, there were 33 pages of notices filed by NetResult, an Internet copyright monitoring company acting on behalf of the NFL and UFC.

Engadget reports that the takedown list request includes a number of video files from Deadspin’s main account and @SBNationGif.  The requests will be submitted to the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse – an independent 3rd party research project studying cease and desist letters concerning online content.

Per ESPN, the NFL and Twitter announced a two-year content and advertising deal that would send more NFL video highlights and pictures from games through Twitter.

Although maybe not a direct correlation, Deadspin has published critical pieces of both the NFL and UFC.  Recently a Josh Gross article about Vitor Belfort received much praise for his investigation that the UFC allowed Belfort to fight despite troubling drug test results pre-fight.  But the article received a scant reply from the UFC.

Payout Perspective:

The take down of both twitter accounts were interesting for the sheer fact of the multitude of followers that use each for news/entertainment and thus it was a noticeable loss on twitter.  It could be just coincidence that Deadspin have published critical articles about the UFC and NFL.  You may also say the same for SB Nation although the use of gifs may be the key to the take downs.  Notably, the UFC has cracked down on gifs of fights in the past.  At a time when the ownership of new technology is still somewhat unsettled, these take downs represent the progression of protection of league rights in media.  MMA Payout will continue to follow.

Dana White slams ESPN for OTL piece

March 7, 2014

MMA Fighting reports that Dana White has unsurprisingly shot back at ESPN for its “Outside the Lines” piece on TRT.  White denied claims that he “flip-flopped” on the TRT issue.

White accused ESPN of embellishing the story by Mike Fish and Josh Gross which highlighted mainly UFC fighters applying for exemptions to use testosterone.  The multiple story expose from ESPN painted the UFC in a bad light particularly an inference that UFC physicians would diagnose fighters with low testosterone in order for them to receive an exemption from the state athletic commission.  Particularly damaging was the comparison of athletes that requested exemptions in other sports versus the number that have made requests in MMA. Additionally, “Outside the Lines” obtained a letter from 2010 which diagnosed 24-year-old Todd Duffee with “extreme fatigue” and prescribing Testosterone Cypionate.

Via MMA Fighting:

“The whole ESPN, that thing was such a sham,” White said. “That story was such a sham, and of course, they ran the s–t out of it because it’s negative, half of it wasn’t true or was just embellished. It’s rampant throughout MMA. 500 guys in MMA and five guys can’t have exemptions now.”

Payout Perspective:

Maybe its just OTL pieces that White does not like at ESPN as he was not a fan of its report on fighter pay either.  Remember when Dana White took over the Sportscenter Instagram account for ESPN in promoting UFC 168?  Well, his comments about the ESPN piece is the “hate” part of his “love/hate” relationship with the network.  It was obvious that White was not going to like the ESPN investigative story as it paints the UFC in a bad light.  The UFC declined to be interviewed for the story.  Likely, it did not want to put itself in a corner and/or have to answer the tough questions about Belfort (the report occurred prior to Belfort’s withdrawal).  Of course, accusing the journalists that they were making things up can be an issue especially to a journalist’s reputation.  As for the investigative piece, it’s worth another read to see if you side with White.

Next Page »