Report: UFC 174 lowest buy rate since 2005

July 10, 2014

MMA Fighting reports that last month’s UFC 174 from Vancouver received a lowly PPV buy rate between 95,000 to 115,000 buys.  The buy rate is the lowest

Yahoo! Sports reported that the show featuring Demetrious Johnson and Ali Baugitinov received 125,000 PPV buys. Regardless, the PPV buy rate is the lowest in the “modern era” of the UFC.  You would have to go back to June 2005 and UFC 53 to find the last UFC PPV with such a low buy rate.  UFC 53 which featured Andre Arlovski in the main event drew just 90,000 PPV buys.

Via MMA Fighting:

On Saturday night after UFC 175, Dana White talked about how UFC business is changing to being a worldwide promotion, and that people are going to not be watching every show and he’s accepting of that. He said that the Johnson vs. Bagautinov fight did exactly what they projected and they were not unhappy with the number, saying that the featherweight division is new, praising Johnson as champion and saying he would have no qualms about headlining another pay-per-view show with him.

It marks the third straight June that a UFC PPV has drawn the lowest buy rate of the year.

If not this was bad news for the company, Johnson’s challenger, Bagautinov was found to have taken EPO by the BC Athletic Commission today.

Payout Perspective:

The overarching issue here is that the UFC appears to have resigned itself that there will be PPVs like this.  While it’s not ideal for the company, with its strategy for growth, there will be low PPV buy events.

As the MMA Fighting article points out, the UFC has given every chance for Johnson to become a star.  He’s been featured on 3 different cards on Fox as well as its shoulder programming to promote the card.  Not only did Johnson win those fights, he was dominant in each.  Yet, if we are to go by strict PPV returns, Johnson’s in-Octagon success is not translating to a PPV attraction.   This goes back to the fact that not one fighter below 170 pounds is a PPV draw (maybe we Rousey is but the point is most are not).  It’s not clear what can be done for fighters like Johnson as he’s one of the top fighters in the company but he lacks the following.

PPV History – Looking at UFC 175 headliners Weidman and Rousey

July 4, 2014

As we await Saturday’s UFC 175, let’s take a look at the headliners and their PPV history.

Chris Weidman

Despite Ronda Rousey’s popularity, it’s Weidman that is on top of the marquee Saturday when he faces Lyoto Machida.  Weidman’s PPV and gate numbers have been impressive in his last two outings.  Of course, those two fights were against Anderson Silva.  Still, the advance appears to be strong and could be one of the biggest of not just this year, but of all time.

UFC        175        v. Lyoto Machida – ?

UFC        168        v. Anderson Silva – 1,025,000 PPV buys

UFC        162        v. Anderson Silva – 550,000 PPV buys

There’s quite a difference between 162 and 168.  Obviously, 168 had a better card but it was the rematch versus Silva that everyone was interested in seeing.  At 162, many believed that Weidman did not have a chance against Silva.  No one knew that Silva would act like he did.  Still, Weidman took advantage and the championship.  This card may help in determining how big a star he is.  While Rousey may help some, Weidman is the main attraction here.

Ronda Rousey

UFC 175               v. Alexis Davis – ?

UFC 170               v. Sarah McMann – 340,000 PPV buys

UFC 168               v. Miesha Tate – 1,025,000 PPV buys

UFC 157               v. Liz Carmouche – 450,000 PPV buys

UFC 170 was disappointing for Rousey as the PPV numbers were lower than her previous two events and the gate at the Mandalay Bay was less than expected.  It’s likely that 175 will outshine 170 in PPV buys and gate.  But, no one believes that she will lose against Davis.  Will the fact that she is an overwhelming favorite hurt buys?

Payout Perspective:

Weidman and Rousey are two of the biggest active UFC stars today.  Certainly, having Sonnen-Silva (or Belfort) would have helped this card.  How many more buys would it have pulled?  Who knows, but it would have brought a lot more buzz to the card.  Still, with all of the hype surrounding International Fight Week and the main and co-main event for 175, it’s likely that this card will produce a respectable buy rate.  Will it do as well as last July’s event where Weidman won the title?  Are the lower PPV buy rates with its bigger stars a concern for the UFC?  With tickets being the most expensive this year the UFC should be happy with the attendance and gate.  But, it’s the PPV buy rate that most look to when it comes to the success of an event.  The PPV business has been down and if the reports that UFC 174 did 125,000 PPVs at best, one would think the expectation for 175 have been reined in.

Cotto-Martinez: 300-315K PPV buys

June 26, 2014

SI.com is reporting that the Miguel Cotto-Sergio Martinez Top Rank PPV event that took place on June 7th only drew between 300-315K PPV buys which is well under the expected 500K anticipated.

After putting Martinez down three times in the first round, Cotto scored a 10th round KO of Martinez.  It was a much anticipated fight fans and well promoted on HBO.

SI’s Chris Mannix writes that multiple sources working with the promotion confirmed the number.  Mannix goes on to attribute the disappointing buy rate to a multiple of factors including the Belmont Stakes and the Stanley Cup which went into double overtime that night and well into the PPV.

In addition, UFC Fight Night 42 from New Mexico took place that night as well with Benson Henderson taking on Rustam Khabilov in the main event.  It was the third most-watched Fight Night on FS1 so far.

Bob Arum admitted to ESPN’s Dan Rafael that, “[t]he numbers were not great.”  He attributed this to “too many” PPVs.

Via ESPN:

“Pay-per-view was always designed, as was closed circuit back in the day, for true super fights, not just very good fights. There have been pay-per-views every month and people resent the fact that they’re asked to pay extra for anything halfway decent. Boxing pay-per-view numbers are down. Look at the (recent) numbers for the (Floyd) Mayweather and (Manny) Pacquiao fights. The UFC pay-per-view numbers are also down.”

Despite the rough numbers for PPV, Arum told ESPN that the gate drew $4.7 million.

Payout Perspective:

Arum essentially blames the low numbers on MMA fans’ favorite word when it comes to ratings: oversaturation.  In fact, Yahoo! Sports Kevin Iole wrote a controversial piece on whether saturation is good for the UFC.  With Canelo Alvarez facing Erislandy Lara in a couple weeks, boxing will have another PPV this year that caters to the steady boxing fan.  Alvarez is still not a top draw and Lara is not known to anyone that does not follow boxing. So, are there too many boxing PPVs at this point?  There will definitely be more this year than last and at a price point between $60-$75, its likely fans will be picking and choosing which to buy.  Perhaps, many combat sports fans will implement a “one week rule,” which is to wait a week for the PPV fight to air on HBO/Showtime.  Even if you were to pay for HBO-Showtime, your cable bill for those premium channels could rival that of you purchasing all the boxing PPVs.  Plus, you would get all of the boxing shows on the networks…and of course the rest of what those premium shows have to offer.

Looking at the fight specifically, it was an under the radar good fight on paper.  Certainly, the Puerto Rican fan base came out for Cotto.   The same for the Argentinian fans of Martinez.  But, was it something that the broader, casual fan would purchase, or wait to see on HBO a week later?

Bellator 120 to air on Spike TV

June 25, 2014

Bellator MMA officially announced that it will replay its inaugural PPV from May on Friday, July 18th according to a press release.

Via Bellator press release:

Spike TV will telecast an encore presentation of one of MMA’s most memorable events of 2014, “BELLATOR MMA: RAMPAGE vs KING MO” on Friday, July 18 at 9:00pm ET/PT.

For the first time on free television, fans that missed Bellator’s first-ever pay-per-view event can witness the highly-anticipated grudge match between Rampage Jackson and King Mo plus epic upset victories for Will Brooks and Tito Ortiz.

Fans can also decide for themselves whether the judges had it right in the controversial decision victories that went to Rampage and Brooks. Also featured will be the Russian heavyweight clash between Alexander Volkov and Blagoi Ivanov and an exciting and entertaining performance from rising star Michael Page.

Payout Perspective:

Commercials for the replay aired during the Glory prelim on Spike TV Saturday night.  The replay gives those that passed on the PPV a chance to see it and it sells the product in time for the following week’s event on July 25th.

UFC 173: 200K-215K PPV buys

June 18, 2014

MMA Fighting reports the PPV buys for UFC 173 is in the 200K to 215K range.  UFC 173 was the Memorial Day weekend show which saw TJ Dillashaw upset Renan Barao.

According to Dave Meltzer’s report, the PPV buy rates are based on independent sources.

Last 5 Memorial Day Weekend UFC PPVs

5/29/10 – UFC 114: Evans vs. Rampage 1,000,000

5/28/11 – UFC 130: Rampage vs. Hamill 325,000

5/26/12 – UFC 146: Dos Santos vs. Mir 560,000

5/25/13 – UFC 160: Cain vs. Bigfoot II 380,000

5/24/14 – UFC 173: Dillashaw vs. Barao 200,00-215,000

PPV buys via MMA Payout Blue Book

Payout Perspective:

The UFC 173 PPV buy rate number was to be expected.  A combination of factors contributed to this number but the lack of star power and the fact that weight classes under 155 do not draw PPV buys are the two main reasons.  Obviously a lot has changed since 2010 in the UFC.  There are a lot more cards and a lot more MMA on television.  Fans can pick and choose when they want to pay $55 for fights.  But, the PPV buy trend reflects the decreasing buy rates.  Not only was this year low, but UFC 160 did less than the prior year.

Alvarez-Lara PPV also in theaters July 12

June 16, 2014

The July 12th PPV between Canelo Alvarez and Erislandy Lara will be shown in movie theaters as well as on Showtime PPV.  In conjunction with Fathom Events, the Showtime/Golden Boy card will be in over 200 theaters across the country.

Fathom Events is the company that has worked with putting UFC PPV events in theaters in the past.  Tickets in my area are going for $18 per ticket.  It provides fans another option to ordering another $60 PPV.

Canelo-Lara

Payout Perspective:

The move to put this PPV in theaters reflects an effort to promote Canelo Alvarez as the top star in its stable.  Alvarez-Lara does not sound like a huge selling PPV event to the casual boxing fan despite the popularity of Alvarez.  However, giving Alvarez as much exposure as possible is the likely reason for the extra investment.  With more boxing PPVs this year, the theater option gives some fans an option in watching this fight.

UFC 174: Payout Perspective

June 16, 2014

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective.  This time we take a look at UFC 174 from Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada where Demetrious Johnson showed why he is the pound for pound best fighter in the UFC.

Mighty Mouse outclasses  Bagautinov

Rousey may be the biggest draw, Jones may be the face, Weidman may be the most liked, Cain may be the most devastating but Demetrious Johnson has to be considered the best pound for pound fighter in the UFC.  Johnson showed his technical acumen and lightning quick speed in shutting out Ali Bagautinov in the 5 round main event.  Johnson’s array of moves and speed were too much for the fourth-ranked fighter in the Flyweight division.

Johnson has cleaned out all the proven contenders in his division and maybe a rematch with John Dodson is next for Mighty Mouse.  However, would a move up the 135 be something to look at down the road?  Johnson’s only UFC defeated came at 135 at the hands of Dominick Cruz in October 2011.

UFC_174_event_poster

MacDonald impressive over Woodley

There are times that Rory MacDonald looks disinterested in his fights, and there are times where he looks like the guy who wants to be champ by 25.  On Saturday MacDonald looked like a contender by dominating Tyron Woodley.  It was a dominating victory over a fighter that had the momentum to be considered for a title shot with an impressive win over the hometown MacDonald.

MacDonald likely will stand in line while waiting for a welterweight title shot behind the winner of the Matt Brown-Robbie Lawler matchup.

Attendance and gate

Although we do not know the exact configurations for Saturday’s UFC event, the Rogers Center holds 18,630.  UFC 174 drew 13,506 for a gate of $1.14 million.  This is noticeably down from UFC 131, the last time the organization came to the Rogers Arena.  That event had 14,685 for a gate of $2.8 million.  Prior to that, in 2010, UFC 115 at GM Place had 17,669 fans for over $4.2 million.  UFC director of Canadian operations Tom Wright was quoted in the Vancover Sun on Sunday that the UFC was happy with coming to Vancouver and would be back.

According to SeatGeek, there was a lack of demand for the event as it saw seats on the secondary market selling below face value.  The average resale for a ticket was $175.

Bonuses

The $50K bonuses were as follows:

Tae Hyun Bang: $100K for Fight of the Night and Performance of the Night

Kiichi Kunimoto: $50K Performance of the Night

Kajan Johnson: $50K Fight of the Night.

Johnson and Bang were awarded FOTN.  Kunimoto pulled off an upset of Daniel Sarafian during the prelims portion of the card.  Arguably, MacDonald and OSP could have been in the running for POTN as well as Letourneau-Phillips for FOTN.

Promotion for the Fight

The UFC Embedded series once again complemented the UFC Countdown show.  The Embedded series is just like the 24/7/All-Access series the UFC had done in the past except this one is shorter and likely cheaper.  While the online series focuses on White and then the featured fighters instead of vice versa, it’s still an interesting look behind the scenes of fight week.

White also spoke to the Vancouver Board of Trade. 

There was coverage of the UFC in the local press.  As well as a post-fight review by a columnist in the Vancouver Sun expressing her displeasure for the sport.  While we try to be unbiased in reading opposing views to this sport, this column does a disservice to its readers by painting a picture with purported evidence which, if you dig into, does not support the writer’s initial thesis.

Since it was close to his hometown, Demetrious Johnson took the UFC belt over to the Seattle Seahawks training facility to meet some other world champions.  He met All-Pro Safety Earl Thomas and it made the Seahawk Facebook page.  He also made appearances in Seattle the week before fight week to promote the fight.

via Seattle Seahawks Facebook Page

via Seattle Seahawks Facebook Page

Sponsors

The octagon sponsors included Fram, Las Vegas.com, Xyience, Boston Pizza, XboxOne, EA Sports’ UFC video game, UFC Fit and Bud Light in the center.  EA Sports also had the fighter prep point.  Its interesting to note that some of the usual Octagon sponsors did not have signage in the octagon tonight although most of the usual sponsors had other parts of the PPV (e.g., Harley Davidson, MetroPCS, etc…)

Las Vegas seems to be doing more promotion in lieu of International Fight Week.  Boston Pizza is a UFC sponsor that is big in Canada.  Xbox One is the one and only sponsor of Demetrious Johnson.

The biggest recognition for a sponsor for the night has to go to Tyron Woodley and his sponsor, Dude Wipes.  DudeProducts.com make a wipe that doesn’t make dudes smell.  The good news, the logo was placed directly on Woodley’s rear end and received a lot of response so much so that it was trending on twitter.  The bad news is that Woodley lost.

Odds and Ends

The Prelims were on FX instead of FS1 which adds to the fact that this event might be one of the lowest viewed in a while.

Although this happened a couple weeks ago USA TaeKwonDo had its logo on the Octagon mat at the New Mexico Fight Night.  Benson Henderson has a black belt in TKD which may be one of the reasons for its sponsorship.

Remember when Tim Tebow was a well-liked football player?  Tebow was in attendance to little fan-fare from the Canadian crowd.

Who had the worse looking eye on Saturday night?  Valerie Letourneau or Boxer Chris Algieri.

Feijao had a sponsor blacked out at weigh-ins.  With his performance on Saturday, that sponsor is likely happy it had its name blacked out.

Conclusion

Going into this event, it did not seem like this would be a good viewing weekend.  The last three years, June PPVs have been one of the weakest of the year.  UFC 174 will carry this trend.  While Johnson is one of the best around, he’s not a draw and there was nothing else on the card that would compel a casual viewer to pay to watch this card.  Although not necessarily a correlation of the buy rate, the attendance for this event was lower than in 2011.  A buy rate of 150,000 would not be out of the realm of possibility.

Mayweather-Maidana does 900K PPV buys

May 29, 2014

Sports Illustrated reports that the Floyd Mayweather-Marcos Maidana fight on May 3rd received 900,000 PPV buys.  According to the Chris Mannix article, the PPV buy rate is from multiple industry sources.

ESPN Dan Rafael had previously reported that the fight sold between 800-900K PPV buys.  Thus, the estimate was right on track.  The SI article points to the lack of promotion for “The Moment” as opposed to “The One,” the September 2013 fight with Canelo Alvarez which drew 2.2 million PPV buys.  This time around, there was no press tour which was due in part to the fact that Maidana was not a known boxing name for the casual viewer.  If a rematch were to happen this September, we could expect more promotion surrounding a second fight now that fans know of Maidana and his style.

Payout Perspective:

900,000 PPV buys is nothing to be upset about but Mayweather fights have an expectation of lofty PPV buys.  It could be the lack of known opponents that is hurting the Mayweather PPVs.  Canelo Alvarez is a widely popular star in Mexico and thus his drawing power plus the promotion for their September 2013 fight equated to the huge buy rate.  So, the question is who out there is a big enough star that fans would pay $75 to see fight Mayweather.

Bellator PPV exceeds 100K PPV buys

May 28, 2014

MMA Fighting reports that Bellator 120’s PPV has surpassed 100,000 buys. Despite losing its main event, Bellator exceeded most expectations with the amount of buys.

Greg Savage of Sherdog first reported the buy rate.  The initial buy rate floated out there was 65,000 buys according to Dave Meltzer on his Wrestling Observer podcast with Bryan Alvarez on Tuesday. According to the Sherdog article, the buy rate will be available in Viacom’s SEC filings later this year.

Bjorn Rebney told MMA Fighting:

I won’t be discussing specific PPV buy rates, but what I can say is that with one of our main events falling out just seven days before our first PPV, a six figure plus buy rate is a good starting point.  But, it’s just that, a starting point.  My focus is to continue working with our partners at Spike to create the type of big event experience that we created on the 17th.

Payout Perspective:

The news of a 100K plus PPV buy rate after Eddie Alvarez had to pull out is a great achievement by Bellator.  It is really good considering it competed with HBO Boxing that night with Juan Manuel Marquez-Mike Alvarado.

What propelled the 100K plus buys?  Rampage Jackson-King Mo?  Tito Ortiz?  Whatever it was, the buy rate means that Bellator will definitely plan additional PPVs in the future.  Certainly, Rampage-Tito, Alvarez-Chandler or Brooks would be good choices to headline the next Bellator PPV.

The UFC is the standard for MMA PPV with few others attempting it.  As MMA Fighting notes, only Affliction’s PPV in July 2008 (Fedor v. Sylvia – 100K buys) has put on a PPV with a buy rate hitting 100K.  WEC also had a PPV (Aldo v. Faber) in April 2010 which did 175K PPV buys.  However, the UFC owned WEC at the time.

UFC 173: Payout Perspective

May 26, 2014

Welcome to another edition of Payout Perspective. This time around we take a look at UFC 173 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada where T.J. Dillashaw pulled off the upset of Bantamweight Champion Renan Barao.

Dillashaw upsets Barao

Renan Barao was thought of as one of the best pound for pound fighters in the UFC.  He had his way in the Bantamweight division and going through Dillashaw seemed like a sure thing especially with most odds having the former TUF cast member as an 8 to 1 underdog.  However, Dillashaw controlled the whole fight from the first round and left no doubt by finishing Barao in the fifth.

I would say Serra-GSP still is the top upset in the UFC simply because Serra had to win a reality show to get the title shot.  Dillashaw was an injury replacement but was still on the radar in the division.

The good news here is that the UFC now has a marketable U.S. Champion.  No offense to Barao, but one of the unfortunate knocks on him was that he was from Brazil and his lack of English limited his ability to reach out to the U.S. fans. Now, the UFC can rally around the underdog story of Dillashaw and maybe revive the division.

UFC 173

Cormier dominates Hendo 

Daniel Cormier served notice that he will be a formidable opponent for Jon Jones when and if Bones gets past his rematch with Alexander Gustaffson.  Henderson fought without TRT but that would not have mattered as Cormier totally dominated Henderson.  After winning, Cormier called out Jon Jones in a tasteful, pro-wrestling style way.

Attendance and gate

At the post-fight press conference it was announced that the attendance at the MGM Grand was at 11,036 for a gate of $1.7 million (via MMA Junkie). The number will be confirmed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission later in the week.

As we reported on Saturday, ticket demand on the secondary market was sparse.  Since 2011, it was the second least expensive ticket ($239) for a UFC event at the MGM Grand Arena.  Thus, not much demand from people that couldn’t buy (or did not want to buy) a ticket through the box office or Ticketmaster.  For those wondering, the least expensive ticket ($168) since 2011 was UFC 141 which featured Brock Lesnar versus Alistair Overeem. You may recall that it was on a Friday due to New Year’s Eve.

Bonuses

The bonuses were $50,000 each and Dillashaw received two for Fight of the Night with (Barao) and Performance Bonus of the Night.  Mitch Clarke won the other bonus with his submission over Al Iaquinta.

Pre-Fight Promotion

The UFC started new shoulder programming taking viewers behind the scenes with a series called, “Embedded.”  The series is in the same vein as HBO’s 24/7 or ESPN’s “The Life” for those that remember that show in the 2000s.  I am a fan of these behind the scene shows so I thought they were interesting although I can understand folks that think them a little tedious.

In addition, FS1 aired its usual “UFC Countdown” show along with “UFC All Angles” which was another behind-the-scenes show featuring Daniel Cormier.

Dana White was a recipient of a UFC friendly feature in the Washington Post.

Sponsors

The octagon sponsors included MusclePharm, Alienware, MetroPCS, Ultimate Poker, Air Force Reserve, Toyo Tires, EA Sports’ UFC video game (which comes out in June), Harley Davidson, the video game by Ubisoft, “Watch Dogs,” and Bud Light had the center.

Ultimate Poker had the fighter prep point.

People Finder and The Memory Tag were notable sponsors for T.J. Dillashaw as he won the Bantamweight Championship.

Odds and Ends

Popeyes Chicken crept into UFC 173 talk with the light-hearted dig at DC’s favorite fast food stop.  One of the behind-the-scenes UFC spots had Hendo delivering Popeyes to DC during a training session.  DC took it as a joke and did not seem to take real offense to Hendo’s “gesture.”  For his part, Hendo seemed to do it as a joke and less of an insult on DC’s chicken habit. There was debate as to whether the subtle undertones of racism could be scene (and used) by opponents of MMA (i.e., Culinary Union).  This seems unlikely as Cormier did not seem offended and he had admitted to liking Popeyes.

KFC, a UFC sponsor on TUF, cannot be happy with Popeyes being talked about without even having to pay.

Chico Camos sported Nike Foamposites at the weigh-ins.  It’s the second PPV in a row someone has sported the sneaks at weigh-ins.

Dana White had the most unfortunate auto-correct in a twitter debate when trying to explain that Renan Barao finishes people.  His tweet read “fishes” people. Of course, this was picked up on quickly.

It looked like slicker inset promos during the PPV hyping future events especially UFC 175.

According to Google Trends, Canada, Brazil and the United States were the top regions (in that order) searching for UFC 173.  On another note, TI-Mayweather was generating more hits than any UFC search term on Sunday.

Great scene after with Duane Ludwig and T.J. Dillashaw embracing after Dillashaw ended Barao.

Conclusion

The Memorial Day Weekend show for the UFC had been one of the company’s bigger shows of the year.  Even with last year’s big Heavyweight fights, it did not live up to expectations.  In fact, last year was down in attendance and PPV buys.  One might expect the same here.  Barao-Dillashaw was not a marquee fight going in despite the great action that occurred and Cormier-Hendo is not a main draw.  So what for the PPV buys?  It’s hard to say but 200,000 buys would be a good estimation here.

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