April 1, 2016
Variety reports that World Wrestling Entertainment and Snapchat have signed a multiyear deal that will start this Sunday at Wrestlemania.
The image messaging app will produce and distribute Live Stories from Wrestlemania and other events. According to Variety, “WWE fans will be able to contribute video and photos that will be curated and packaged by Snapchat along with WWE-supplied content into a brief video available to the app’s more than 100 million daily active users.” Snapchat will cover other WWE live events throughout the year.
This partnership is a push by the company to reach out to a younger demographic as those that use Snapchat tend to skew on the younger side. It is also a way for the WWE to reach out to fans on other social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other digital channels. The article also indicates that one of the other big pushes is for this partnership to help bolster the subscription base of the WWE Network.
November 13, 2015
UFC announced the launch of an official app on Amazon’s Appstore. The app will be available on Amazon Fire streaming devices which will allow users access to UFC PPV broadcasts starting with this Saturday’s UFC 193 and UFC Fight Pass.
Via UFC press release:
“We are thrilled about the new UFC app on Amazon’s Appstore as fight fans can now enjoy the UFC experience on Amazon Fire TV’s set-top-boxes and Fire TV Sticks,” UFC Senior Vice President of Digital Edward Muncey said. “UFC has always been on the cutting edge of utilizing technology to engage our fans, and now Amazon Fire users can view exclusive content wherever they are.”
The UFC app will initially be available in North America, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, China, Japan, Australia, Spain, France and Italy, and will support in-app purchasing in local currencies. The app will provide access to UFC weigh-ins, press conferences and other live streams, bringing fans closer to UFC and their favorite athletes anywhere with their Amazon Fire device.
The UFC app comes to Amazon just in time for the holidays. The news should bolster Fight Pass subscriptions. It could help with PPV sales as well although we may never hear an estimate of those purchases. What this move does is make the UFC available to more people on a widely used platform.
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.
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.
September 8, 2015
UFC Fight Pass is making moves as recently hired Eric Winter is seeking for expansive growth in the coming months. In a couple recent interviews he has provided some insight into the future of the digital platform.
MMA Fighting reports that Winter foresees more original content as well as the eventual hope of holding weekly live cards on the over the top platform. In addition, Winter stated that Fight Pass will go under a technology update which will include an updated search functionality. He also indicated the signing of more organization as content partners. Currently, InvictaFC and TitanFC have deals with Zuffa for live streaming of its fights on UFC Fight Pass.
Winter who came over from Yahoo to be the new Senior Vice President and General Manager for UFC Fight Pass plans big things for the digital platform.
In an interview with Multichannel.com, Winter and Chief Content Officer Marshall Zelaznik talked about Fight Pass and its future. Although they were asked, they did not reveal the number of subscribers. They did infer that subscriptions were exceeding expectations.
In the interview, Winter and Zelaznik stated that they do not see Fight Pass following the lead of the WWE Network (i.e., no PPVs on Fight Pass). They emphasized the company’s commitment to its PPV distributing partners.
They also inferred that virtual reality would be a part of the future on UFC Fight Pass as well as more original content. They said to be toiling with Google Cardboard for virtual reality.
Some interesting takeaways from the MMA Fighting and Multichannel.com interviews. The first is that the UFC is not going to move away from its PPV model anytime soon. Unlike the WWE, the UFC’s business model is predicated on PPVs and it sounds like the company has no plans to change course (like the WWE) when it comes to PPV. As for the future of Fight Pass, content is king and the challenge Winter seems to have is how to engage its core demo to subscribe when there is so much UFC on television. The original content should help as well as the live fights. But, with the fickleness of the demo and cord cutters, the challenge will be having fans pay $10 per month.
October 20, 2014
Former WWE color commentator Jim Ross had some interesting comments about the future of UFC Fight Pass as he seemed rather bullish on the future of the over the top model. The comments come at a time when online services seem to be on the rise…or maybe on the decline depending on what you read.
In an interview with Bloody Elbow, Ross was quoted that the shift for companies such as the UFC and WWE to digital networks is a thing of the future. Despite the rocky starts for each, he believes that it is a “genius-like maneuver.”
With last week’s announcements that HBO and CBS were offering online services and ESPN providing a streaming-only service for NBA content the week before, it’s apparent that over the top (OTT) network offerings are the growing trend. But, is there enough of a market for them? Although the model seems to be geared toward cord cutters, it would seem that the addition of so many subscription services would negate any savings from cancelling a traditional cable package? Would it impact ad revenue?
The WWE will make its quarterly earnings call on October 30th and we will see how much of a dent it has made in its goal of 1 million subscribers to its OTT WWE Network. You may recall it made a meager increase in its goal last quarter. The last report this summer indicated that it had added just 33,000 subscribers for approximately 700,000 total subscribers. Even with the addition of an international market, it is unlikely that the 1 million goal could be met. This should be something that other OTT subscription services should take notice.
On the other hand, all reports suggest that the UFC Fight Pass is doing well (although no numbers have been revealed). But, unlike the WWE, it keeps its PPVs separate from the network. Fight Pass is geared for the hardcore fan and it would be hard to argue that it takes away from the UFC’s PPV buy rate. While Fight Pass offers an extensive fight library and live fights from overseas, most of the marquee names and match-ups remain on PPV.
So, will digital networks like the WWE Network and UFC Fight Pass thrive in the future? Perhaps for the young, cost-conscious consumer that is savvy enough to deal with the online world but do not want to be tied down with a traditional cable package. But, it’s unlikely to take over.
August 10, 2014
The Sports Business Journal (subscription required) reported on the WWE’s launch of its network as part of its feature last week on Over The Top (OTT) networks. The article compliments another within the same issue which talks about the new platform in general.
The article on the WWE reports on the tumultuous time it has had with the launch of the network. Upon the announcement in January, there was much anticipation. But, after the initial numbers came out coupled with the general disappointment the rights fees deal caused the stock to drop and momentum to stop.
The WWE did receive some interesting information from the first few months from subscribers. Despite being off on its projections, the subscribers that have the network are very satisfied with the network. Many utilize the network at least once a week. Also, Xbox and Playstation are the two platforms used by most subscribers. This last part of information would suggest that a younger demo has purchased the network and maybe not as many older viewers (those that one would presume would subscribe for the older content) have the network.
The overarching theme about OTT is the direct competition it has with traditional platforms. At this point, OTT does not offer live sports with the exception of the WWE Network. No big revelation in the article about the WWE. Although the number of subscribers did not hit its target, the users that have it like it. What may be lacking is the older demo that the WWE thought would have been brought in by the vast WWE library.
April 14, 2014
MMA Fighting reports that Titan FC has moved its April 25th event to May 16th. The reason for the change appears to be due to injuries of some of its fighters.
“I refused to put out a subpar fight card when just this weekend three more fighters got hit with the injury bug,” Titan FC president and CEO Jeffrey Aronson said. Raphael Davis is still scheduled to face Jason Brilz in the main event.
In addition to moving the date, it is moving its location from Kansas City, Missouri to Newkirk, Oklahoma.
Another change will be its live streaming of prelims on CBSSports.com instead of CBSSportsNetwork.com.
It’s rare that you see a company move an event so close to the intended date. But if it’s due to injuries and the second time it gets a chance to appear on CBS Sports Network, it wants to put its best foot forward. I am not sure how big the move from CBSSports.com to CBSSportsNetwork.com is in terms of actual viewers, but it appears that there is a possibility of reaching a much broader audience according to Aronson. We have seen WSOF live stream on NBC Sports Network online and Bellator stream prelims on SpikeTV.com. And, of course the UFC has now moved its prelims to its Fight Pass platform. The move to online viewing is another way for fight organizations to grab viewers.
April 7, 2014
WWE announced in a press release this morning that it has 667,287 subscribers to its network which launched this past February and “is well on its way to reaching its goal of 1 million subscribers by the end of 2014.”
UPDATED 9:05am PT – 4/7/14: It looks like that investors are not impressed with the 667K numbers according to Deadline.com and the sell off is more than just investors capitalizing on the stock price. Deadline states that at least one analyst predicted the sub number to be between 500K-800K on Friday. The original expectation was that it was to be at 1M after Sunday’s big event.
The press release comes just one day after Wrestlemania 30 aired without major tech issues on its network. The news appears positive for the company long term although short term WWE stock is taking a hit. In morning trading Monday, the stock is down almost $4 as it appears that many investors are selling off the stock.
The WWE also announced that it broke the record for the Superdome (Mercedez-Benz or Silverdome if you are Hulk Hogan) as its highest grossing entertainment event for the venue. The announced attendance was 75,167 for a gate of $10.9 million.
UPDATE: It looks like Wall Street is not impressed with the 667K announcement as it expected a higher number of subscribers. The stock is taking a big hit as shares have gone done at least 20% today. We will see how this number is spun as the WWE is set to announce a new rights fee agreement in the coming weeks.
The network announcement for its subscribers should be seen as a success as there were many concerned about tech issues that would scare many away. However, there were few reported glitches on any platform for yesterday’s big event despite the fact it was likely the most watched day for the network as most WWE subscribers and many curious non-wrestling fans tuned in to see it. Looking at this strategically, the timing of the announcement makes sense since one would think many signed up close to Wrestlemania to take advantage of the streaming as opposed to paying $70 on PPV.
The real test will be how (and if) the WWE can retain these subscribers. Wrestlemania was the big carrot for the network this year and realistically a one-time thing. How will the WWE continue to grow its subscribers to reach 1 million?
Based on this information, can we assume that UFC Fight Pass is having similar success? While the UFC will not release any information, the speculation is that it is doing well with its digital network and since it is now available for international fans, it probably continues to grow its subscriber base.
February 26, 2014
On Monday the WWE launched its much heralded Network which it advertised to be available on almost every platform imaginable. The good news is that number of those signing up exceeded expectations. The bad news is that it is experiencing technical difficulties across most platforms.
The WWE’s technological partner in the venture, MLB Advanced Media, indicated that it had not expected the demand it has received from people signing up. The WWE released a statement Monday regarding the issues upon signing up and the subsequent technical issues subscribers found once they were able to attain access.
MLBAM, WWE’s tech partner, was overwhelmed and its systems have been unable to process most orders since 9 am due to demand for WWE Network.
— WWE Network (@WWENetwork) February 24, 2014
The WWE also stated that MLBAM was aggressively working to resolve the matter on Monday morning. Although not directly, the WWE inferred that the fault lay with MLBAM for the tech issues. At least, that’s how it is being interpreted in the press. One would think that a part of this has to do with the one week free trial. Even as of Wednesday, there are still problems with logging in.
We are working to fix log-in issues on the @WWENetwork application that are effecting viewers with accounts created in the last 24 hours.
— WWE Network (@WWENetwork) February 26, 2014
In my own experience, I was able to sign up at 6:01 a.m. on Monday via PC, one minute after the promoted launch, but was only able to watch last year’s Wrestlemania in the first hour. I was not able to go through the library until mid-morning. Later that day, the stream was fine for me on the PC but I experienced issues on my iPad. Notably, I have experienced more buffering issues on the PC on Tuesday night and today.
Certainly, these issues are being worked on but the technical issues are a concern for the WWE going forward since its heavy investment in the product. The WWE and MLB Advanced Media must make the fixes soon. If the free trial ends with the problems persisting, its likely that the WWE will lose a lot of potential customers.
Tech issues were a given as to challenges facing this network. The question is how fast can the WWE and ML BAM fix them. If we are to spin this in a positive light, the overwhelming demand for the Network reflects the fact that its promotion of its product created a swell of interest. But, the tech issues could make folks concerned and they may decide not to subscribe if they feel that these issues will be an inherent part of being a subscriber.
July 12, 2013
Live streaming of events is a relatively new technology that smaller MMA/boxing and pro wrestling promotions have taken to as a way to expose its brand to a broader audience. But setting a bigger footprint comes with growing pains as production costs must be weighed with exposing your brand to bigger audiences.
The biggest example of the problem with live streaming occurred this year when Invicta FC’s event in January had streaming issues running through Ustream. The problem dealt with Ustream’s paywall which prevented access to the event. “The issue was an overload of requests to purchase the event in a very short amount of time,” Ustream spokesperson Victoria Levy told MMAPayout. Eventually, the paywall allowing viewers to pay for the event was taken down. Ustream acknowledged an issue with a public apology. Since that issue, Invicta ran another event on the Ustream platform without any substantial issues as Ustream addressed the issues. “The stability of the existing system was improved and basically the whole process was rebuilt to avoid this in the future,” explained Levy of the process to address the Ustream issues
Wrestling promotions Ring of Honor and New Japan among others have had multiple issues with live streaming online. ROH indicated it would not offer live internet PPVs again after several issues with the streaming. Its last iPPV experienced streaming issues during the main event. This was not the first time its events were marred by streaming issues. It has decided to tape delay its events to avoid further issues.
What is Internet PPV?
As you can gather from the name, Internet pay per view, or iPPV, is a platform in which viewers can pay to watch a live show which is streamed online. A company can have the iPPV on its own web site or have a third party, like Go Fight Live, host the event.
Who uses it?
Anyone. From small to big, regional to national, MMA, boxing, pro wrestling and other combat sports utilize iPPV in order to promote its product. The promotion usually fronts the costs for the technology and production costs in order to run the event.
Most promotions seek to establish a bigger footprint outside of its region and perhaps garner an internet following.
What are the obstacles to iPPV?
There are several barriers to entry when it comes to live streaming an event. The first is the cost.
The costs of an iPPV vary. But, according to Roy Englebrecht, promotions should focus on the look of the iPPV. Production costs are very important in how the PPV will look to the viewer. Englebrecht runs Fight Club OC in Southern California. He has attempted iPPV twice but decided to forego online streaming to focus on the people in attendance. “Nobody wants to buy a small club show on the internet because there are not many quality fights and the production is not that good,” explained Englebrecht.
The second issue which ties in with the first is the production value. Englebrecht brought up the issue that the promotion’s brand is out there for the public and anything less than a top notch looking product hurts the brand.
Englebrecht runs an instructional course on fight promotion and does not talk about iPPV or PPV because it makes no sense.
“There are many hard costs before making a dollar,” explained Englebrecht. If a promoter wanted to run an iPPV Englebrecht estimated that at a minimum a promoter would have to spend $2,000-$5,000 on lighting alone. A decoder, a technological piece that is needed for the PPV to work would cost at least $500. These are only a couple of the big ticket costs for an iPPV.
“The key for any promoter is to put on the best show for ticket buyers that are there,” Englebrecht added that if a promoter were to put on a PPV, they would be worried about the PPV broadcast rather the show. “He’s hurting his bread and butter [the fans in attendance].”
Go Fight Live
One of the reasons why small companies use iPPV is to promote its brand and expand its footprint. It offers a chance for those that cannot attend a local event to see it. For fans of the organization that cannot make it, its a chance to watch it at home.
Go Fight Live (“GFL”) is a web site which airs iPPVs for MMA promotions, boxing, muay thai, professional wrestling and other types of combat sports. It started in 2008 and has had over 2000 shows according to GFL’s president David Klarman.
“We’ve sold and had viewership in 199 countries,” stated Klarman. “Our biggest buckets are the U.S., Canada and the UK.”
GFL offers a revenue share of 50/50 for an organization to use GFL to stream an event. It also includes GFL marketing, promotion, customer and tech support for the event. GFL charges the organization if it needs production (e.g., cameras, lighting, etc.)
GFL indicated that a 3 camera shoot with replay technology, audio technology and a commentator area would be at least $1,800 plus travel expenses. A single camera shot would be only $300. However, a one camera shoot may not look and feel as professional as having different camera angles.
GFL’s demographics is 70% male in the 18-45 age range. Klarman indicated that 70% of GFL uses Apple TV, iPTV, iPads, tablets and mobile devices.
GFL has an internal process to ensure that live streaming occurs without any flaws. Klarman stated that GFL has internal diagnostics to figure out issues. GFL has staff to investigate the issue and determine if its a bandwidth issue or something else.
“Its far more complex than that cable that goes in the wall,” said Klarman. GFL has customer service to address streaming issues and can let customers know if its experiencing issues. In the alternative, if a customer could not access a stream they paid for, GFL would refund money.
Although iPPV and online streaming is still a new technology to most, there are signs of where it will be going.
Klarman sees a shift over the next generation that cable TV will change how it interfaces with the consumer. Based on the viewership, more people may be turning to mobile devices.
“Live video streaming will absolutely expand to other platforms,” said Levy. “ We’ve already seen a significant increase in mobile viewing over the past 6 months and we predict that mobile viewing will be as high as 60-65% by the end of the year. Live video streaming will continue to become available to everyone through multiple devices such as smart TV’s, mobile devices, and tablets.”