UFC 185: Payout Perspective

March 17, 2015

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take a look at UFC 185 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas where two UFC titles were on the line.

RDA wins Lightweight Title

Rafael dos Anjos earned his unanimous decision against Anthony Pettis.  It was total domination by the challenger as he topped Pettis with his striking and grappling.  It was an impressive win considering the complete manhandling of Pettis and the post-fight news that he had a knee injury coming into the fight.

Up next for RDA is the winner of Khabib Nurmagomedov and Donald Cerrone this May.  But with RDA’s knee injury, we may not see this fight until December.

UFC 185

Joanna J destroys Cookie Monster

It was a mismatch. And the Champion looked to be in trouble from the start.  Joanna Jedrzejcyzk controlled Carla Esparza and the “Cookie Monster” did not look like a Champion defending her title. Jedrzejcyk’s Muay Thai background defeated Esparza’s wrestling and it was an easy win for the fighter from Poland.

In the end, the referee was looking for a way to stop the fight in the 2nd round.  Jedrzejczyk has the personality to promote fights in her division.  But, will there be anyone in her division that can match her?

Attendance and Gate

Attendance at the America Airlines Center drew a reported 17,160 fans for a gate of $2.155 million as announced at the post-fight press conference.  Despite the good number, it was still the lowest of the three PPVs held at the venue.

Previous Attendance for UFC PPVs at American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX (via MMA Payout Blue Book)

UFC 103 – September 9, 2009 – Rich Franklin-Vitor Belfort Attendance 17,428, Gate: $2.4M

UFC 171 – March 15, 2014 – Johny Hendricks-Robbie Lawler Attendance 19,324, Gate: $2.6M

Bonuses

For the second PPV in a row, there was no Fight of the Nights.  The four Performances of the Night went to RDA, Jedrzejcyk, Ross Pearson and Beneil Darush.  Each received $50,000 bonuses.  There were a lot of stoppages to choose from but one would have to concur that these four stood out.

Sponsorships

For the second straight PPV in a row Monster Energy Drink had the center of the Octagon moving Bud Light to the Octagon bumpers.  In addition, MetroPCS, Harley Davidson, Corn Nuts, DraftKings, Fram, MusclePharm and Toyo Tires.

Fram also had the fighter checkpoint.

Notably, Pettis was sponsored by Reebok, Corn Nuts, Monster Headphones and Monster Energy Drinks.  Interesting enough, no Wheaties logo worn by Pettis or in the Octagon.

Reebok sold Showtime’s gear prior to the event at UFC 185.  Wonder how sales are post-fight.

Monster Headphones also had a campaign centered on Pettis.

Post-Fight Headlines:

-The UFC saw the crowning of two new champions. Who will have the longest title run? Moreover, who will the UFC be able to sell to fans?

-Does Hendricks get another shot at the title? With the win over Matt Brown, should Hendricks get the winner of Lawler-MacDonald?

-Henry Cejudo made weight and won a unanimous decision over Chris Cariaso. Could he be on the fast track to a 125 pound title shot?

Odds and ends

-Ben Askren and CM Punk were in the corner for Anthony Pettis.

-Interesting enough, Erik Koch made a cameo during the first UFC Embedded which one might think unusual if you read “Thrown.”

-Carla Esparza wore a wrestling singlet which was a nice touch. Both Esparza and Jedrzejcyzk were sponsored by Alienware.

-Alienware, a UFC sponsor, has been active of late with its activation with the UFC.  There is a lot more visibility in sponsoring fighters as well as sponsoring the UFC Embedded online episodes.

-For the first time that I recall, the Embedded episodes had a sponsor, Alienware (“Powered by Alienware”). It was the umpteenth time we saw an Embedded episode where someone was at a barbershop getting their hair cut. This time it was Showtime at his barber shop.

-With Monster Energy as a new UFC sponsor, it appears we will see the return of awkwardly holding a soda can in the Octagon after a fight.

-UFC Prelims was on FX due to college basketball. We shall see whether the network change will affect ratings.

-There were over 100,000 Google searches for the UFC on Saturday which was far less than UFC 184 and Ronda Rousey during the same time frame.

-Texas did not do any “out of competition” drug testing for this event.

Conclusion

Prior to the PPV, we wrote whether Anthony Pettis could be the next big PPV draw for the UFC. If he does, it will be in pursuit of the belt he just lost. The card seemed like one more for the solid base of UFC fans that usually purchase PPVs. Yet, with the solid success of UFC PPVs this year, could we see another good PPV buy rate from the company. There was less buzz for this event than the previous three this year. This could reflect in PPV buys as I would assume that we get a PPV buy rate of around 325,000-350,000.

Preliminary reports indicate a strong UFC 184 buy rate

March 11, 2015

The Wrestling Observer indicates that UFC 184 drew an estimated 500,000 to 600,000 PPV buys.  The preliminary report underscores the great start the UFC has had this year as well as the drawing power of Ronda Rousey.

UPDATED:  In its 3/12 podcast, Meltzer indicated that the numbers reflect that UFC 184 will do more PPV buys than UFC 183.

Dave Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez first discussed the initial numbers during their March 5, 2015 podcast (subscription recommended).

It appears that the estimate is based on anecdotal information from DirecTV as well Google trend searches.

If the initial buys for UFC 184 which featured Ronda Rousey versus Cat Zingano in the main event, the UFC will have one of the best starts of a year in PPV.

UFC 182:  800,000 PPV buys

UFC 183: ~600,000-700,000 PPV buys

UFC 184: ~500,000-600,000 PPV buys

The average for 2015 at this point is around 684,000 PPV buys which far exceeds what the UFC has been seeing.  Last year it averaged just 256,000 PPV buys and in 2013 it averaged 468,000.  Realistically, the UFC cannot keep producing these buys throughout the year.  But, it’s built up three good buy rates for 2015.  Added the fact it PPVs are now at $60, the UFC is making up PPV revenue from 2014’s atrocious numbers.

Whether it’s the booking or promotion, the 2015 PPV strategy for the UFC is holding up despite the drug problems.  Also, UFC 184 initially included Vitor Belfort- Chris Weidman as the co-main event.

The other part of the news is that the UFC Prelims have had much higher ratings this year in comparison to where it was last year.

UFC 182 Prelims – 1.03M viewers

UFC 183 Prelims – 1.546M viewers

UFC 184 Prelims – 1.205M viewers

Meltzer speculated that Rousey was one of the reasons why the UFC 184 Prelims drew the high ratings.  This argument may also support the fact that women’s MMA is generally accepted and may be on a roll as of late.  Note, Miesha Tate’s fight against Sarah Kaufman at the UFC 183 Prelims almost drew 2 million viewers on FS1.  This was a boon for Tate’s sponsors as she actually lobbied that she be on FS1 rather than on the PPV card.

Payout Perspective:

UFC 184 was all Ronda Rousey and it’s a good sign for the UFC ast the organization has found another PPV star.  The card under Rousey-Zingano was not strong considering that Belfort-Weidman dropped out.  Thus, the entire buzz was based on Rousey.  After her quick fight on Saturday, many mainstream sports outlets picked up on Rousey and gravitated toward the comparisons to Mike Tyson in his prime.  The potential bad news here is that there are not many interesting fights for Rousey coming up (unless Cyborg is able to make weight).  Also, Rousey’s star power outside of the Octagon is gaining momentum.  She is already taking time away from the Octagon to do a movie and the more offers she receives from Hollywood, the more we may not see her in the Octagon.

Can the UFC continue its momentum this Saturday with UFC 185?  We shall see.

UFC 184: Payout Perspective

March 4, 2015

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take a look at UFC 184 from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. In the main event, Ronda Rousey fought Cat Zingano.

Gone in 14 seconds

Zero strikes but a scramble that had Cat Zingano’s arm caught by Ronda Rousey and a straight armbar ended the night very early for the challenger.

It’s too bad considering the Zingano backstory.  Even though she was a huge underdog, you would have like to see more of a fight.

For Rousey, she has received mainstream approval and sports people asking if she’s good for the sport.  Obviously, the fact that people are talking about Rousey is good for the UFC.  The question of who should see fight next is a good question.  With Rousey taking time off to do a movie, it will be interesting to see who will be set up as her next opponent.  Beth Corriea? Jessica Eye?  One fighter not mentioned was Cris Cyborg who fought on the Invicta card the night before.

ufc 184 poster

Holm defeats Rocky

It was not the strongest of debuts for “The Preacher’s Daughter” but she sustained a very good Raquel Pennington for the decision.  Holm was one of the most talked about women’s fighters not in the UFC prior to her debut.  Now, she seems destined to challenge for Rousey’s belt.  Based on Saturday, she’s not ready yet.

Attendance and Gate

According to the post-fight press conference UFC 184 at the Staples Center drew a reported 17,654 fans for a gate of $2.675 million.  Of the UFC events held at the Staples Center, only UFC 60 which featured Matt Hughes taking on Royce Gracie did better (14,802 for $2.9 million).  The Staples Center capacity ranges from 18,000-21,000 depending on the event.

Payouts

Cat Zingano ($100K) actually had a higher base salary than Ronda Rousey ($65K) although it was reported by Larry Pugmire of the LA Times that Rousey would probably clear $1 million with her cut of PPV revenues.  Also, Rousey was sponsored by Reebok, Monster and Monster Headphones.  All are UFC sponsors (presumably Monster Energy Drink has signed with the UFC).

Rousey did make $65K and $65K plus a Performance of the Night bonus to earn a total of $180,000.

In addition, Jake Ellenberger made $68K and $68K plus a Performance of the Night bonus to earn a total of $186,000.

Tony Ferguson and Tim Means earned the other $50K Performances of the Night.  There was no Fight of the Night.

The rest of the payouts are here.

Promotion of the Fight

The episodes of UFC Embedded were once again entertaining although I would argue that this time around the portion of the UFC Countdown show focusing on Cat Zingano had to be the best

The pre-weigh-in staredowns included the main eventers wearing evening gowns.

Rousey made the usual media rounds including an appearance on Jim Rome.  Something that people picked up on was a dispute between Rousey and Arianny Celeste.

Sponsors

Probably the biggest sponsor for Saturday was the “M” in the middle of the Octagon which replaced the usual Bud Light sponsor.  It appears that Monster Energy Drink has signed on as a sponsor for the UFC.  The former Bellator sponsor was shown prominently in the center of the Octagon as well as ring posts.

In addition, DraftKings announced a new sponsorship deal this week and was also on the Octagon mat.

Rounding out the sponsors on the Octagon mat included, Bud Light, MetroPCS, MusclePharm, Toyo Tires, Harley Davidson, Air Force Reserve and the movie Run All Night.  Harley Davidson had the prep point.

Holly Holm had no sponsors except UFC on her ring gear.  Raquel Pennington had a pretty nice “Colorado Rocky” shirt.

Ronda Rousey had Monster, Reebok and the UFC on her ring gear.  She also donned Monster headphones upon heading to the Octagon.  Rousey also had her jeans sponsor Buffalo on her fighter poster.  Maybe Nissan of Omaha was the best sponsor for Cat Zingano as it was clearly seen as she was being submitted.  Other notable Zingano sponsors included Sepec and Kalapaki Joe’s.

Odds and Ends

The UFC indicated that the social media campaign around Ronda Rousey did well:

Big search numbers for Ronda Rousey:

Darren Rovell took an ad hoc poll on the popularity of the UFC. The fact that Rovell is gaging his followers on its popularity shows that Rousey sparked his interest in the UFC.

Other ends…

Sponsor Mike’s Seafood on Derrick Lewis’ backside was either a good idea or a bad one.

The top three cities on Google Trends that searched for “Ronda Rousey” were Quezon City, Philippines, Los Angeles and New York in that order.

UFC 184 was in theaters once again. There were anecdotal reports of packed sports bars watching the fight.

Mark Munoz did not look good on Saturday. He failed to make weight on his first try at the weigh-ins although he subsequently made it. I would have hoped that he would make it to the Philippines card and then retire. It might be best for him to retire now.

InvictaFC had a card the night before in LA with Cyborg in the main event. Yet no real mention of her after the Rousey fight.

Essentially, the PPV ended at 9:00pm PT due to the quick main event and prelim matches were shown to fill-in time.

Conclusion

Ronda Rousey is one of the big draws of the UFC and based on searches and media coverage she is someone that casual viewers would tune into watch. The fact that ESPN talking head shows and other sports media were talking about her 14 second win on Monday reflects her popularity. But does that mean it equates to people paying $60 to watch her fight? We shall see. The last time Rousey headlined (without another co-main) was UFC 170 which drew 350,000 PPV buys. My guestimate would be somewhere around that mark and perhaps a little more 350,000-375,000 PPV buys.

UFC officially raises its PPV prices

January 29, 2015

MMA Junkie reports that the UFC has permanently raised its pay-per-view prices $5 due to what the company calls “rising costs in producing live events.”  For most, the usual $54.99 HD PPV fans have been accustomed to pay will increase to $59.99.

For those that purchase their PPVs in SD, the price will increase from $44.99 to $49.99.

Prior to this official statement to Junkie, it was thought that the first three UFC PPVs of this year would be $59.99 due to the special nature of the events.  In December 2013, UFC 168 increased its PPV price point by $5 as well.

Payout Perspective:

As we discussed earlier in the year, White had previously stated that PPV prices would never go up.  The UFC then raised the price for UFC 168.  With the relative success of UFC 182, one had to know that the price increase was going to stay permanent.  While it may be true that rising production costs may have forced the company to pass along those costs to its fans, the way it has introduced the new prices seems a little disappointing.  It’s not that the prices were raised (at least in my opinion), but how it was done.  The issue of raising PPV prices had been thought to be happening and there had been no answer from the company, until now, that the UFC would raise prices.  Instead, it appeared that the prices would be raised for special events – a form of dynamic pricing.  It now will permanently keep the price adjustment and consumers are now upset.  While boxing has seen its PPV prices rise as well, there are fewer events to choose from.  Still, charging $65 and $75 for Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather still has fight consumers upset.

From the UFC perspective, the slight increase in pricing helps its bottom line.  A part of the reason why Standard & Poor’s lowered its credit rating and financial outlook were due to 2014’s poor PPV numbers.  The additional revenue it may receive from the price increase should mitigate its increasing production costs and help with its overall financial outlook in 2015.

UFC Increases PPV Price in 2015

January 13, 2015

As MMAPayout previously reported, the UFC started to charge consumers an estimated $59.99 HD/$49.99 SD for all PPVs scheduled in 2015, which  at the time included UFC 182: Jones vs Cormier, UFC 183: Silva vs Diaz and UFC 184: Weidman vs Belfort.

UFC185_60usd

There was some talk that this increase was just for “The Time Is Now” promoted events and that the price point would be lowered to what it was before.  That assumption looks to have been an incorrect one, as it appears the UFC will permanently increase their PPV price point this year to $59.99 HD/$49.99 SD as shown on UFC.TV.

 

Payout Perspective:

Why is the PPV price increase to UFC 185 such a big deal compared to UFC 182-184? Well, for starters, this event is being headlined by Anthony Pettis vs Rafael Dos Anjos for the lightweight title. Neither are what you would consider PPV draws. In fact, you could make an argument that the UFC could get away with that price hike for UFC 182-184 due to 182’s big grudge match, 183’s big fight between Silva vs Diaz, and 183’s big fights between Weidman vs Belfort and Rousey vs Zingano.  All those cards include UFC’s biggest stars who have done their biggest PPV numbers in the past couple of years.  Well, that’s just not the case looking at how UFC 185 is shaping up.  UFC 185’s co-main event will now be Johny Hendricks vs Matt Brown, which should be a really good fight, but are those two fights in addition to Nelson vs Overeem good enough to justify it? That’s a question consumers will answer on March 14th with their wallets.  What this really means is that the UFC has permanently increased the PPV price in 2015 since lowering their price would only make certain cards stand out as being lesser in value.

As we stated before:

UFC President Dana White went on record (MMAFighting) years ago, stating that PPV prices would never be raised and would stay at their regular price of $54.95/$44.95 SD. That tune changed for UFC 168 in December of 2013, when the PPV price was raised to $59.95 HD/$49.95 SD. Dana White went on the record once again and stated that the PPV price hike was “just for UFC 168″, since it was justified by placing some of UFC’s biggest stars in highly anticipated match-ups (Weidman, Silva, Rousey, Tate).  White stated PPV prices would go back down to their regular price after UFC 168’s one-off price adjustment.

Essentially, the UFC is applying ad-hoc variable PPV pricing to their product, which is something the UFC has criticized and has tried to stay away from since their parent company, Zuffa, took over.  Fans have demanded variable PPV pricing for years as justification for not purchasing cards that were not as “stacked” as others yet cost the same amount. The UFC’s belief, however, has always been that consumers are buying the UFC experience via PPV, regardless of who is fighting on the card for the most part.  The UFC never wanted to admit in the past that some cards have less worth than others, which is a perception that has been shattered the past few years.  If the UFC wants to keep that perception that all PPV events have the same value, a uniform PPV price hike may be the next logical step in this experiment, but for a company who has struggled so much recently with their PPV business model, increasing the price on a product that many fans feel is over-saturated and watered-downed may prove to be quite the risky move.

UFC 182: Payout Perspective

January 5, 2015

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take a look at the much anticipated fight between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier.

HQ_UFC_182

Jones dominates Cormier

In one of the most anticipated fights in some time, Jon Jones dominated Daniel Cormier.  It was clear that as the fight progressed, Cormier looked like he lost confidence and Jones had broke his will.  Say what you want about the crotch chop at the end, Jones is the best there is right now and he knows it.

This guy may be next for Jones:

Then again, there are rumblings that Jones may face Cormier’s training partner and friend Cain Velasquez. Although Cain is a heavyweight, Jones looked huge compared to Cormier.

Cerrone decisions Jury

One might have thought that this fight would have been a great lead-in to the main event.  Cerrone is a guaranteed “bonus” of the night, right?  Well, not so much tonight.  Except for a bunch of meaningless kicks by Cerrone to Jury, this was a forgettable fight.  Cerrone was disappointed despite winning.

Attendance and Gate

MMA junkie reports the attendance at the MGM Grand at 11,575 for a gate of $3.7 million.  There was no news on comps although the UFC were giving away tickets for the event. The gate failed to crack the top 5 of UFC events at the MGM Grand.  Notably, UFC 168, which occurred at about the same time last year, drew 15,650 for a gate of over $6.2 million.

Despite the low attendance, Dana White was bullish about the PPV buys as he indicated that the 750K PPV buys he predicted pre-event were trending to exceed his expectations at the post-fight press conference.  Although this cannot be confirmed, there were multiple reports that movie theaters and sports bars were full or near capacity.  This will not help contribute to the PPV buys but shows the amount of interest.

Bonuses

Bonuses for UFC 182 went to Paul Felder, Shawn Jordan, Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier.  Arguably, Felder was the most impressive fighter of the night (next to Jones of course) with his spinning back fist KO of Danny Castillo.

For you gamblers, Felder was the biggest underdog to win at +190 according to the MGM Grand.

Cody Garbrandt was shut out of receiving a bonus despite a strong UFC debut against Marcus Brimage.  Garbrandt was a +130 underdog.

Pre-Fight Promotion

While it was not as expected, the media day brawl back in August was the best thing to promote this fight.  Perhaps it would have picked up more steam if the fight actually happened in September than now.  Still, the promos for this fight were outstanding.  It centered on Jones and Cormier’s brawl and the subsequent ESPN dust-up caught on camera.

The UFC Embedded episodes included Jones attending a high school wrestling practice and Cerrone’s action sports (snowmobiling, car racing and flying).  It also included a backstage altercation between Jones and Cormier.

Tyson Griffin also captured the animosity on his Instagram as the two camps passed each other here and here.

The UFC special Bad Blood featured the Jones-Cormier feud.  Although this episode which aired on FS1 and replayed FX drew praise and hype from MMA folks, in my opinion, it amounted to a regular HBO 24/7 episode.  There was also a countdown show and an “All Angles” show featuring Cerrone.  Essentially, the episode was a “getting to know” Donald Cerrone show.

In addition to the television commercials, there were extensive radio buys which do not usually occur for a standard UFC PPV.

UFC 182 was shown in movie theatres across the country. From surveying social media, it appears that many people actually went to see the event at theatres. 

Also, bars across the country seemed to be packed for this event.

Sponsorships

The octagon had UFC sponsors, MusclePharm, Fram, MetroPCS, Harley Davidson, Cimemax’s Banshee, Toyo Tires and Bud Light in the center.  There was also signage for UFC 183 featuring an image of Anderson Silva sitting in a “spider” position.  Banshee also had the fighter prep point. There was also a commercial on the Cinemax show during the event.   

Cerrone was sponsored by Budweiser and attempted to giveaway beer on the Las Vegas Strip on New Year’s Eve until the UFC stopped the promotion.  Prior to the fight, it was announced that he had signed a sponsorship with Fram.  

Cormier had “Break Bones” t-shirts for the event which were made by his sponsor, CageFighter.

Jones sported his new Reebok sponsorship.  Jones’ trunks appear to be what his official uniform may be. He also has his own share of shirts from UFC.com.

Odds and Ends

  • To the dismay of some people, the UFC increased prices of its PPVs to $59.99 HD for the first three events of 2015.
  • The PPV was short on time which is odd since there have been at least two times in recent memory where a UFC PPV has exceeded 3 hours. UFC 181 had five hours squared away instead of the normal four hour block on PPV.  One would think if people were going to pay $5 more, the UFC would pay for an overrun to get some in-ring interviews of the co-main and main eventers.  Regardless, look for big ratings for the FS1 post-fight wrapup.
  • CM Punk was on the FS1 pre-fight show and did a Q&A before the weigh-ins. The company is getting the most out of Punk already and putting him out there for 182 made sense.  How much will they use him before he actually fights?
  • The commission threatened the fight purses of Jones and Cormier if there was any dustup at the weigh-ins. Thus, the awkward weigh-in staredown.
  • Steven Seagal was in attendance and “aided” Daniel Cormier prior to the fight as shown in an “Embedded” episode. Doesn’t look like it helped.
  • UFC Heavyweight newcomer Jared Cannonier utilized crowdfunding site GoFundMe to raise money for his training camp. He exceeded his goal of $5,000 by raising $6,100.  Unfortunately, he was KO’d by Shawn Jordan.
  • Speaking of training camps, Cerrone indicated he paid $20,000 to bring in fighters to spar with him. He is set to make slightly over $100,000 for the fight.
  • The UFC announced big additions to its Fight Library with the acquisition of libraries from several promotions.
  • We already know, but Conor McGregor is getting a huge promotional push by the company.
  • Is the UFC using the “boxing strategy” as many suggest that they highlight one fight to sell for its PPV? This can be done if there is a heated feud, but probably hard to sell as frequent as its PPVs are due to lack of build.

Conclusion

After the event, Dana White indicated that PPV buys were above the 750,000 he predicted pre-event.  There were 500,000 Google searches as of Friday which would indicate a big PPV buy rate.  However, the cautionary tale of relying on Google searches is that Pacquiao-Algieri fight in November drew 500,000 searches yet only drew a reported 300,000-400,000 PPV buys.  But, the promotion of the Jones-Cormier feud alone seemed to create the kind of buzz that got fans that pick and choose purchasing PPV events to buy this one.  Any buy rate number hitting 600,000 (or above) will be a great start for 2015 for the UFC.

UFC Increases PPV price for announced 2015 events

January 3, 2015

According to UFC.TV and multiple PPV providers such as DirecTV and Time Warner, the UFC will charge consumers an estimated $59.99 HD/$49.99 SD for all PPVs scheduled in 2015 so far, which include UFC 182: Jones vs Cormier, UFC 183: Silva vs Diaz and UFC 184: Weidman vs Belfort.

UFC_182_price_incr

 

Payout Perspective:

UFC President Dana White went on record (MMAFighting) years ago, stating that PPV prices would never be raised and would stay at their regular price of $54.95/$44.95 SD. That tune changed for UFC 168 in December of 2013, when the PPV price was raised to $59.95 HD/$49.95 SD. Dana White went on the record once again and stated that the PPV price hike was “just for UFC 168″, since it was justified by placing some of UFC’s biggest stars in highly anticipated match-ups (Weidman, Silva, Rousey, Tate).  White stated PPV prices would go back down to their regular price after UFC 168’s one-off price adjustment.

That brings us to 2015, which is just over a year after the UFC 168 PPV price hike experiment took place. To kick-off the new year, the UFC has scheduled it’s first three events of the year (UFC 182, UFC 183, and UFC 184) with an increased PPV price of  $59.99 HD/$49.99 SD ($64.95 HD/$54.95 SD for Verizon customers). Another one-off experiment cannot be the culprit this time around. So, what could have caused the PPV price hike this time around? Well, you don’t have to look any further than how mightily the UFC struggled in 2014 on the PPV front, which may seem a bit counter intuitive.

Last year’s down PPV business forced Standard & Poors to lower Zuffa’s outlook and threatened to lower their credit rating if things didn’t turn around by the end of Q1 2015.  Now having said that, it makes sense as to why Q1 2015 has been scheduled with some of UFC’s biggest stars and match-ups. As for the price hike, looking back at UFC 168, it did an estimated 1.025M PPV buys with the hiked PPV price, so it doesn’t appear to have been much of a deterrent. It’s pretty much a safe bet to say that the UFC’s takeaway from the UF 168 experiment was that their customers have no problem paying extra for a major event.  In 2015, it looks like they are taking that experiment a bit further by scheduling the first three events of the year with the price hike.

Essentially, the UFC is applying ad-hoc variable PPV pricing to their product, which is something the UFC has criticized and has tried to stay away from since their parent company, Zuffa, took over.  Fans have demanded variable PPV pricing for years as justification for not purchasing cards that were not as “stacked” as others yet cost the same amount. The UFC’s belief, however, has always been that consumers are buying the UFC experience via PPV, regardless of who is fighting on the card for the most part.  The UFC never wanted to admit in the past that some cards have less worth than others, which is a perception that has been shattered the past few years.  If the UFC wants to keep that perception that all PPV events have the same value, a uniform PPV price hike may be the next logical step in this experiment, but for a company who has struggled so much recently with their PPV business model, increasing the price on a product that many fans feel is over-saturated and watered-downed may prove to be quite the risky move.

White predicts 750K PPV buys for UFC 182

January 2, 2015

MMA Fighting reports that Dana White predicts Saturday’s UFC 182 to hit 750,000 PPV buys.  White’s proclamation comes despite word that the event is yet to sell out as of Friday night.

It appears that White is shrugging off last year’s bad PPV year with this prediction.  If UFC 182 hits 750,000 PPV buys it would be the biggest event since December 2013 when UFC 168 drew an estimated 1,025,000 PPV buys.

Last year, UFC buys drew an average of only 256,000 buys per event.  It also had to cancel an event which made it the second time in history the UFC had to scrap a PPV.  Notably, UFC 175 was the biggest draw (540,000 PPV buys) but no other PPV in 2014 drew over 400,000 buys.

There are an abundance of tickets in various areas on Ticketmaster as of 6:00 p.m. on Friday night on the west coast.

The MMA Fighting article provided a couple reasons for the sluggish ticket sales including three fights in Vegas in such a short time span and Phoenix having its own event last month

Payout Perspective:

We should all remember that White is a promoter.  Maybe he has some information we do not have that projects the buy rate.  Or, its wishful thinking.  Certainly, the UFC has spent a lot of money in the promotion of this fight and are banking that the Jones-Cormier feud will propel this card.  But, Jones’ PPV buy rate average hovers around 480,000 buys and it is the first time that Cormier is in the main event of a UFC PPV.  It will be asking a lot for the PPV to hit 750,000 buys as the Jones-Cormier main is supported by an ok fight between Donald Cerrone and Myles Jury.  If the PPV hits north of 500,000 buys it will be a testament to the promotion of the feud between Jones and Cormier and gain some momentum for the company to start 2015.

14 for 14: No. 9 UFC PPVs down

December 27, 2014

UFC PPV buy rates are down from 2013 as an increase in the number of events, injuries and lack of star power have contributed to find the company’s prime business in decline.  This year’s average is at a lowly 256,000.

Standard & Poor’s downgraded Zuffa’s credit rating and its financial outlook this past fall citing in part the PPV business decline as a reason.  Dana White acknowledged the decline of PPV business in 2014 at the NeuLion Sports Media Technology Conference in November.  While the PPV model is a big part of the UFC business model, White stressed in November that the UFC was “much more” than PPV.  The promoter that he is, White stated that when “big events happen, the pay-per-view numbers will come back.”

As all of the PPVs for 2014 have occurred, the biggest event this year was UFC 175 in July which drew 540,000 PPV buys.  There were 4 events in 2013 that exceeded 540,000 PPV buys.  The previous high was UFC 168 in December 2013 with 1,025,000 PPV buys.  Outside of UFC 175, no 2014 PPV drew over 400,000 PPV buys.  It also had to cancel UFC 176 in August due to injuries.  Although there is a lot of hope for UFC 182 in January, it’s unlikely that event would eclipse UFC 168’s number or even UFC 175.

UFC PPVs in 2014 (main event in parentheses)

UFC 169 (Barao vs. Faber II) 230,000

UFC 170 (Rousey vs. McMann) 340,000

UFC 171 (Hendricks vs. Lawler) 300,000

UFC 172 (Jones vs. Teixeira) 350,000

UFC 173 (Barao vs. Dillashaw) 215,000

UFC 174 (Johnson vs. Bagautinov) 115,000

UFC 175 (Weidman vs. Machida) 545,000

UFC 177 (Dillashaw vs. Soto) 125,000

UFC 178 (Johnson vs. Cariaso) 205,000

UFC 179 (Also vs. Mendes II) 160,000

UFC 180 (Werdum vs. Hunt) 185,000

UFC 181 (Hendricks vs. Lawler II) 380,000

UFC 2014 PPVs

UFC PPVs averaged 256,000 PPV buys which is off from 2013’s PPV buy rate average of 468,000.  2013 did see two appearances by UFC PPV bell cow Georges St. Pierre.  It also benefited from UFC 168 which featured the dual main event of Rousey-Tate and Silva-Weidman II.  2013 had one more PPV due to the cancelled one this year.

UFC 2013 PPVs

2014 did not do as well as 2012 (448K PPV avg over 13 events) or 2011 (413K PPV avg over 14 events).

Payout Perspective:

 One may argue what’s been the cause for the poor PPV buy rates this past year.  On the one hand, there is the amount of UFC events which allows the fight fan to pick and choose which PPV events to purchase.  On the other, there are the many injuries which cause fighters and fights to be re-shuffled.  Then, there’s the lack of star power (i.e. GSP).  There’s not an easy answer to the PPV issues unless the UFC decides to pull back on the number of PPV events (which does not look likely).   With three big PPV events in 2015, we will see if the PPV buy rates increase from 2014’s dismal average.

UFC 181 estimated between 375K-400K PPV buys

December 18, 2014

MMA Fighting reports that UFC 181 held on December 6th drew between 375,000-400,000.  In addition, Dave Meltzer in his latest Wrestling Observer (subscription recommended) revealed the PPV numbers from UFC 178-180.

UFC PPV estimates UFC 178-181 and its respective main events

UFC 181:  ~375K-400K (Hendricks-Lawler/Pettis-Melendez)

UFC 180:  ~185K-200K (Werdum-Hunt)

UFC 179:  ~160K-200K (Aldo-Mendes)

UFC 178:  205K (Mighty Mouse-Cariaso)

UFC 181 was the highest output in terms of PPV buys since July’s UFC 175.  It had a strong card which included two title fights:  Hendricks-Lawler and Pettis-Melendez.  The other notable PPV number was UFC 180 which suffered from multiple issues including the injury to Cain Velasquez which changed the main event and the fact Bellator had a show on Spike TV.

Payout Perspective:

To show how far UFC PPVs have dropped in 2014, UFC 181 was the second largest PPV buy this year coming in second to UFC 175 (540,000).  UFC 181 is likely the most-watched PPV since UFC 175 as this card was also available in movie theatres.  Certainly, one would have thought this card could have done more but in a year where UFC PPVs have been off, this was a good (not great) result.  These numbers might also temper expectations for January 3rd’s UFC 182 between Jones-Cormier.

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