January 23, 2017
Despite the downgrade of PPV buys for the July event, the UFC set a PPV record with 5 events in a calendar year going over 1 million PPV buys. Boxing had two years (1996 and 2011) where 3 PPVs topped 1 million buys.
UFC 196, UFC 200, UFC 202, UFC 205 and UFC 207 all went over the 1 million mark. Conversely, three shows (UFC 198, UFC 201 and UFC 206) drew less than 250,000 (see MMA Payout Blue Book).
The obvious concern for 2017 is without McGregor (for a portion of the year) or Rousey, where will the UFC find a PPV that could draw over 1 million PPV buys. Certainly, July’s International Fight Week should bring a show close to 1 million with the return of Jon Jones and perhaps a couple title fights. But, there does not seem to be another big card on the horizon. With the new owners having an earnings mandate of $275 million in EBITDA by June 30th to receive a contingency payment of $175 million. It will be hard to do this without any big events in the first quarter of 2017.
January 6, 2017
UFC 207 looks to have done well on PPV as initial estimates by The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer have the PPV at 1.1 million buys.
UFC 207 featured the return of Ronda Rousey as she faced Amanda Nunes for the UFC bantamweight title. Nunes stopped Rousey in the first round.
The 1.1 million PPV buys ties UFC 193 as the largest buy rate for a Ronda Rousey headlined event.
UFC 193 – 1.1M
UFC 190 – 900,000
UFC 184 – 600,000
UFC 170 – 350,000
UFC 157 – 450,000
The buy rates do not include the events where Rousey was the co-headliner with Chris Weidman (UFC 162 and UFC 168). UFC 168 drew 1.025M buys but was the return of Weidman-Silva. It was also Tate-Rousey. UFC 207 reflects the Rousey demo. The PPV was not hurt due to the PPV being on Friday night or the fact she did not do the regular media rounds to promote the fight. You probably cannot turn your back on the media all the time but the fact that Rousey was returning provided some extra interest for her fans. It also shows the niche that she has carved out and if she were to retire, would there be another woman fighter that could garner this much attention.
January 3, 2017
The UFC 207 Prelims on Friday night drew 1.511 million viewers on FS1 per Sports TV Ratings. It was the fourth highest PPV of 2016 and the sixth prelims telecast to go over 1 million viewers.
In addition, it drew 813,000 viewers in the adult 18-49 category. The featured fight on the prelims was Johny Hendricks versus Neil Magny. Magny earned a unanimous decision.
The average for 2016 was 1,097,000. In comparison, 2015 drew an average of 1,069,000.
In addition, the pre-fight broadcast on FS1 which preceded (4:00-5:00pm PT) the UFC Prelims drew 572,000 viewers and 281,000 in the A18-49 demo. The post-fight drew 404,000 viewers and 234,000 in the A18-49 demo. The post-fight event went from 9:50pm-11:07pm PT.
The ratings are very considering the prelims took place on Friday night. The big viewership number likely reflects a big PPV buy rate. All of the prelims except UFC 195 drew over 1 million PPV buys. With Rousey on the PPV card, expect a buy rate over 1 million.
December 26, 2016
The replay of selected fights from UFC 206 earlier this month drew 4.7 million viewers on Christmas Eve according to Television By Numbers. It also drew a 1.6 rating and a 6 share in the Adult 18-49 rating making it the second highest viewed UFC show on Fox since UFC on Fox 1.
The replay was the most-viewed show Saturday night and drew the biggest share among adults 18-49 across the board on the network.
The fights on the 2-hour replay Saturday included Lando Vannata versus John Makdessi, Cub Swanson versus Doo Ho Choi, Donald Cerrone versus Matt Brown and Max Holloway versus Anthony Pettis.
Nielsen reports that the peak viewership occurred during the Swanson-Choi fight which many consider a Fight of the Year frontrunner for 2016.
Only the November 2011 fight featuring Cain Velasquez-Junior dos Santos scored more viewers when the company’s debut on Fox drew 5.7 million viewers.
The obvious takeaway here is that the UFC has found a niche and its likely Fox will be open for this slot for next Christmas Eve. Even on a night when many people were doing holiday activities and spending time with family, many people tuned in. This is great for the UFC as the actual card only did 150,000 PPV buys.
December 23, 2016
Ronda Rousey returns to the Octagon on December 30th. Although this has yet to happen at the time of this post, it still makes the list as one of the top business stories for 2016.
The Rousey rise and fall is well-documented as she went from fan favorite to a polarizing figure among MMA fans and media. Her recent decision to not do any media in lead-up to her return at UFC 207 has stirred some resentment from MMA folks. This is likely due to the fact that she has allowed limited access for stories that shed positive light onto her comeback (i.e., Ellen and Ramona Shelburne at ESPN). It’s controlling the message and not becoming entangled in internet rumors. In the Shelburne piece, she explains that she had made too many people happy while leaving herself to deal with depression.
Clearly, Rousey hates to lose and her KO loss to Holm has set her into a self-imposed exile and she will resurface on December 30th. Like many ultra-competitive, pro athletes, Rousey hates to lose. Her methods to return and win are turning the fans against her, but like Conor McGregor when he did not want to do media for UFC 200 for a rematch against Nate Diaz, they do not want any distractions.
With that being said, the Rousey brand is still activating around her return to the Octagon. She is the star of a new ad campaign for the Procter & Gamble brand. This summer she was the star of Reebok’s #PerfectNever campaign which nodded at her loss to Holly Holm. Rousey also did was part of an ad campaign for Carl’s Jr. So, while Rousey is turning down the usual MMA media requests, her business interests are still working for her.
The UFC has advertised UFC 207 around Rousey’s return and has seemingly left out the champion Amanda Nunes in its marketing. But, to be realistic, it’s Rousey that is the star here and her proven record of bringing in PPV dollars is the reason why Rousey receives top billing and not the champion.
With UFC 207 being on a Friday night, you might expect a downturn in PPV buys considering the last time a UFC PPV aired on a Friday night it was UFC 141 in 2011. Brock Lesnar versus Alistair Overeem headlined that card but the event drew 535,000 PPV buys – a low considering Lesnar was featured. Notably, Nate Diaz-Donald Cerrone were the co-main event.
Rousey drew 900,000 PPV buys in her title defense against Bethe Correia at UFC 190 in August 2015 and her loss to Holly Holm at UFC 193 drew 1.1M PPV buys.
Rousey’s mainstream fans which include women should help bolster next Friday’s UFC 207. Also, the curious, casual fan will likely tune in to see Rousey fight. You might expect another buy rate around 1 million buys making 2016 the best year on PPV for the company with 5 UFC PPVs (196, 200, 202, 205 and possibly 207) over 1 million buys.
December 17, 2016
Early predictions from last Saturday’s UFC 206 PPV appear to be at just 150,000 buys. The event featured Max Holloway versus Anthony Pettis for the UFC interim Featherweight title.
— MMA Supremacy (@MMASupremacy) December 15, 2016
The original UFC main event was Daniel Cormier versus Anthony Johnson for the light heavyweight title. However, there was speculation that Georges St-Pierre was returning to the UFC for this card. But, as we know that did not happen.
There were indicators of this low mark for this year in UFC PPV. There were only 200,000 google searches for UFC 206 on Friday night. The searches are an indicator of interest. The UFC Prelims drew 771,000 viewers which was second-lowest of the year on FS1 to UFC 204. UFC 201 drew just 331,000 viewers but that broadcast was on FS2.
One cannot be too surprised with the estimated 150,000 buys as there was nothing special about the main card for casual fans to purchase. Obviously, Toronto fans proved that they were still interested in the card as it was another sell out for a UFC PPV. The fights on the card were excellent but there was just not enough fan interest to garner interest. Of course, with UFC 207 coming up later this month, some fans likely passed on this card and will wait for the end of the year card.
November 29, 2016
The Andre Ward-Sergey Kovalev PPV drew just 160,000 PPV buys as first reported by Kevin Iole. TheRing.tv also reported the PPV buy rate for last Saturday’s event.
Ward defeated Kovalev in somewhat of a controversial decision as unofficial scorers had the fight for Kovalev.
Hearing that the Kovalev-Ward PPV numbers are going to come in in the low 160s.
— Kevin Iole (@KevinI) November 28, 2016
The ratings are lower than the reported Pacquiao-Vargas PPV buy rate earlier this month which drew 300,000 PPV buys. It was the first time that Top Rank distributed its own PPV in some time. The Ward-Kovalev bout was distributed by HBO.
Boxing PPVs 2016
April 9, 2016 – Pacquiao-Bradley III: ~400K PPV buys
May 7, 2016 – Alvarez-Khan: ~450K-600K PPV buys
July 23, 2016 – Crawford-Postol: 50K-60K PPV buys
September 17, 2016 – Alvarez-Smith: >~300K PPV buys
November 5, 2016 – Pacquiao-Vargas: ~300K PPV buys
November 19, 2016 – Ward-Kovalev – 160,000 PPV buys
The PPV buy rate for Ward-Kovalev might have been impacted by the Pacquiao fight and UFC 205 as it would have been the third PPV this month for combat sports fans. The buy rate may reflect the casual boxing fan’s consumer interest. Among those in the boxing community, Ward-Kovalev was a matchup of two of the best pound for pound fighters in the sport today. Yet, it drew less than most UFC PPV events. The PPV buy rate ends a down year for boxing PPVs as it tries to move beyond Mayweather and Pacquiao on PPV.
November 16, 2016
USA Today reports that the November 5th fight between Manny Pacquiao and Jessie Vargas deliver “a little over 300,000” PPVs according to Bob Arum. The event was the first event in years without support without HBO as its PPV distributor.
Pacquiao defeated Vargas via unanimous decision and won a welterweight title in the process. Arum indicated that the buy rate was similar to Pacquiao-Bradley III last April. The initial report from ESPN on Pacquiao’s fight last April was between 400-500K PPV buys.
Pacquiao-Vargas: ~300K PPV buys
Pacquiao-Bradley III: ~400-500K PPV buys
Pacquiao-Mayweather: 4.4M PPV buys
Pacquiao-Algieri: ~300K PPV buys
Pacquiao-Bradley II: ~750-800K PPV buys
Arum intimated in the article that he will not need HBO as its PPV distributor based on the results of this event. If you saw the PPV, Arum is focusing on Asia for Pacquiao in terms of sponsorship and revenue. The card was stacked with Asian fighters and Chinese sportswear maker, Anta, was a visible sponsor for the event. We shall see if Top Rank can recoup some of its losses in the domestic market with international gains.
November 14, 2016
Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective. In this edition we take a look at UFC 205 taking place at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
McGregor wins lightweight title from Alvarez
Conor McGregor once again backed up his talk as he stopped Eddie Alvarez in the second round to win the UFC lightweight title. He now holds the featherweight and lightweight titles.
It was rather easy work for McGregor who displayed his power and showed no fear against Alvarez including dropping his hands and putting them behind his back.
McGregor cut a promo which included calling the UFC “cheap” for not providing him two belts immediately and apologizing to no one.
In all likelihood, McGregor’s next fight will be at 155 and he’ll likely have his choice of Tony Ferguson or Khabib Nurmogomenov.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 13, 2016
The champ champ pic.twitter.com/iprUKL0Ldx
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) November 13, 2016
Woodley, Wonderboy goes to a draw
Sometimes you have to wonder about coaching. Tyrone Woodley dominated Stephen Thompson in the first round on the ground and you could argue that his dominance deserved a 10-8 1st round. Yet, he neglected to attempt another takedown throughout the rest of the fight. Instead, Thompson was able to utilize his length and standup to stifle Woodley standing with the exception of a couple shots in the 4th round that almost stopped the fight.
An immediate rematch seems like the most logical thing although it seems unfair to a patient Demian Maia.
Jedrzejczyk dominates Kowalkiewicz
Joanna successfully defended her strawweight title with a 49-46 unanimous decision over Karolina Kowalkiewicz. It was a one-sided, 5 round fight with Kowalkiewicz winning a couple skirmishes but Jedrzejcyk earning 4 rounds.
Joanna Violence does not know who’s next but she plans to fight sometime mid-2017.
Attendance and Gate
UFC 205 eclipsed the previous record gate from UFC 129 in Toronto of $12 million. The Madison Square Garden debut drew $17.7 million with 20,427 in attendance according to a UFC official post-fight.
Conor McGregor, Yoel Romero, Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson earned the bonuses. McGregor and Romero won performances of the night and Woodley and Thompson won for Fight of the Night.
Promotion to the Fight
The UFC went all out for its debut including an ESPN Car Wash and various articles in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times. There was local as well as national coverage promoting the event.
The Embedded episodes gave us a glimpse of the fighters getting ready for the fights focusing on the 3 championship fights. You have to wonder with all of the episodes at hotels the UFC does not have a partnership with a hotel chain.
Budweiser sponsored the 6-episode Embedded series. It also had the fighter prep point. Notably, Twinzz.com and IconicFace.com were in the Octagon as well. Both made appearances at UFC 204 in England. Twinzz.com is a hat manufacturer while IconicFaceoff.com appears to be a fantasy sports web site.
Qalo, a wedding ring manufacturer that touts silicone rings for the active person was a sponsor in the Octagon last night. It worked with Chris Weidman in leadup to UFC 205.
In addition, Monster Energy Drink had the center as well sharing a corner with 7-Eleven. MetroPCS, Toyo Tires, Harley Davidson, Geico and Budweiser.
The upcoming movie, “Bleed for This,” the story of boxer Vinny Pazienza was featured during the PPV. The movie was introduced by Michael Bisping.
Tyron Woodley and Conor McGregor sported the Monster logo on their Reebok kits.
Reebok introduced New York-specific UFC 205 merchandise for this event. It also sold Conor McGregor-specific shirts including a “I Whoop People for Truckoads of Cash” shirt.
Odds and Ends
Probably the best UFC Prelims ever as the fights could be its own PPV. Look for it to eclipse the record-setting ratings of UFC 200.
Are MMA purists ok with the WWE-style promotion that McGregor has provided for this event? The fur coat and faking like he was going after Alvarez with a folding chair seems very much spectacle than reality.
Miesha Tate’s retirement seemed out of nowhere. She was still a top-ranked fighter but maybe she sees other opportunities on the horizon.
There should be a rule that all interpreters should not have man-buns as Yoel Romero’s did.
Kevin Gastelum did not make weight once again which eliminated his fight with Donald Cerrone from the card.
Despite the talk about blue chip sponsors partnering with the UFC, there were no big surprises. Budweiser the only real change although Bud Light has been a part of the UFC sponsorship.
One of the storylines from the newfound regulations in New York is the requirement that combat sports promoters needing to provide $1M coverage for brain injury for each fighter on the card. The UFC paid $1,675 per athlete which came out to $40,200 for UFC 205. Boxing promoters have been outspoken in speaking out against this measure which was a part of the law that would legalize MMA in the sport.
Apparently, Bruce Buffer knew he was reading the wrong decision in the Woodley -Thompson fight. However, he can only read what is on the judge’s scorecard. This is why he left the cage to confer with the judges.
No Trump at UFC 205, but there were other luminaries in the crowd including Demi Lovato and Odell Beckham, Jr. (the NY Giants WR also made a cameo in meeting Tyron Woodley on an episode of Embedded.)
Does McGregor really demand an ownership stake in the UFC, or is this just pure hype and bluster?
UFC 205 pulled over 2 million google searches on Saturday night which usually means a healthy PPV buy rate. Also over 1 million searches on Saturday were Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey. Rousey searches likely due to the unveiling of the very good promo for her return on Friday, December 30th.
This event should flirt with the PPV record of 1.6 million PPV buys. Certainly, college football and the fact that many fans purchase the event at UFC.com could detract from the overall number. However, with 3 title fights on the main card including the company’s biggest PPV star, Conor McGregor, we should see a PPV buy rate around 1.5-1.7 million PPV buys
November 4, 2016
For those not aware, Manny Pacquiao will be taking on Jessie Vargas at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on Saturday. Without much buzz, Pacquiao returns to the ring which makes one wonder how many in the US will buy the PPV?
There are several factors that contribute to the general disregard for this event.
First, this is the first event in some time in which HBO has not been a part. HBO PPV has been the primary distributor of Pacquiao events with just one detour to Showtime (2011’s fight against Shane Mosley). HBO’s shoulder programming, primarily its 24/7 shows have helped promote his fights. Despite the fact that the story lines for the shoulder programming became repetitive and stale, they were still vehicles to promote the fight. On the bright side, Bob Arum will not have to pay the 7.5% fee (per Yahoo! Sports) it paid to HBO.
Despite the fact that the undercard has some interesting fights including China’s Zou Shiming and former fighter of the year Nonito Donaire, most (at least those in the US) seem to be passing on the PPV.
HBO is transitioning from Pacquiao as it searches for its next boxing star. Later this month, HBO PPV will air Sergey Kovalev versus Andre Ward in as big a fight as there can be this fall. HBO indicated that its budget limited it to invest in only one of the November fights and it chose Kovalev-Ward. While this excuse seems sound, it’s clear that the Pacquiao fight was less appealing. If Pacquiao would have agreed to fight Terrance Crawford, it would have been realistic to think that HBO would have found the necessary budget to do 2 PPVs in a month.
Secondly, Pacquiao’s comments about same-sex relationships has turned a portion of his fan base against him. Pacquiao bases his viewpoints on his religion and tried to backtrack from his offensive remarks. Yet, the damage was done as he lost his longtime sponsor, Nike, and HBO distanced itself from Pacquiao. The casual boxing fan may have been turned off by these comments and will boycott Pacquiao as a result.
Finally, Pacquiao’s PPV star is fading. Pacquiao is no longer the fierce, exciting fighter he used to be. Perhaps the fourth fight (which was likely his last exciting fight in recent memory) with Juan Manuel Marquez where he was knocked unconscious took it out of him but he no longer has the traits of the old Manny Pacquiao. Instead, he is the old Manny Pacquiao. After JMM, he has knocked down an inferior Chris Algieri (UPDATED: he did knockdown Bradley twice in April) but has not threatened to stop an opponent since. Notwithstanding his fight with Mayweather, Pacquiao’s last 4 fights have failed to muster more than 500K PPV buys.
It might be unfair to criticize an aging boxer for not being as good as he once was but it feels as though Pacquiao is hanging on to his career for monetary need. Of course, that is the story of boxing. His purse for this fight will be far less than his prior guarantees and Top Rank is banking on the fight being more of an international success in China than it will in the United States. Pacquiao will continue to fight and he will still have a core fan base that will support him. But, it’s clear that the days of his wild popularity of past him.