Zuffa settles piracy lawsuit with individual that shared 141 PPVs

September 14, 2014

Zuffa has settled with PPV pirate Steven Mussina according to company press release sent out Saturday.  Although terms of the settlement agreement were not disclosed, Mussina, who was accused of pirating at least 141 UFC PPVs, will comply with the wishes of Zuffa and provide information on how he circumvented the pay per view system.

Via UFC press release:

Steven Messina, through his attorney, Michael Heitmann, confessed to his illegal behavior and apologized for his actions that resulted in the illegal sharing of UFC content. As part of the settlement, Messina was penalized by the UFC for an undisclosed amount and forced to surrender his computer hardware and software to UFC representatives. Additionally, Messina will turn over all records and information pertaining to piracy of UFC content and information related to other potential infringers. He must also cooperate with the UFC organization and law enforcement authorities in an effort to prevent others from stealing intellectual property.

When asked about the settlement, Messina said, “I apologize to the UFC for any damages incurred as a result of my actions in illegally distributing copyrighted UFC broadcasts. As a result of my confession for piracy of UFC’s protected content, I fully accept the terms of the settlement with the UFC.”

Messina also states, “I now realize the harm caused by my actions. It is my hope that I can use this difficult period as a learning experience as I move on with my life. I would also like to tell anyone pirating UFC broadcasts, either through illegal downloading or non-authorized streaming, that it is illegal and not worth the risk.”

As part of the settlement, Messina will provide details of his procedures that led to the unauthorized distribution of an estimated 200 hours of UFC content and will offer his records to the UFC to further prevent illegal usage or sharing of the company’s broadcasts.

Payout Perspective:

The settlement is the best possible outcome for the UFC.  Let’s face it, while the initial claim that Zuffa was seeking $32 million from Messina seemed intimidating, it would have never happened.  Messina did not have the money (and who does, unless you just beat Marcos Maidana for the second time).  Even if you obtained a judgment against Messina, one can surmise he does not have any assets that would satisfy the damage Zuffa claims (even if it’s less than $32M).  Here, Zuffa gets an on the record ‘crime doesn’t pay’ statement from Messina plus information on how he was able to obtain UFC PPVs without paying.  This may provide some insight for Zuffa to see how it may better crack down on piracy.

UFC Fight Night 51 attendance and bonuses

September 13, 2014

MMA Junkie reports the attendance and bonuses from Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 51 taking place from Brasilla, Brazil.  The numbers were announced during the post-fight press conference.

The attendance reveals that there were 8,822 fans in attendance with 1,173 of those comped tickets.  According to the Junkie report, the UFC “does not typically reveal live gate figures for its Brazilian events.” Thus, there were 7,649 that paid. For those wondering, the Nilson Nelson Gymnasium (where the event was held) holds 16,000 spectators.

The bonuses for the event were as follows:

FOTN:  Piotr Hallman-Greyson Tibau

Performance bonuses:  Godofredo Pepey, Andrei Arlovski

Payout Perspective:

The most notable bonus here is Arlovski who upset Bigfoot Silva.  Arlovski did not look good in his return fight to the UFC this past June at UFC 174, so this KO was a pleasant surprise.  It’s interesting that the article indicates that live gate figures are not released for Brazil shows although no reason was given.

Nick Diaz arrested on suspicion of DUI

September 12, 2014

MMA Junkie reports that Nick Diaz was arrested earlier this month on suspicion of DUI among other charges.  Diaz is slated to face Anderson Silva at UFC 183 on January 31, 2015.

According to the article, Diaz was “very polite and cordial” to the police officers.  However, he did attempt to vomit after taking a breathalyzer test.

The UFC released a statement on the Diaz arrest.

“We are aware of the situation and are in the process of gathering the facts,” the statement read. “We understand that there is a legal process that will now take place and that Nick Diaz will have the opportunity to address the situation in the near future.”

Payout Perspective:

This probably was not the type of news the UFC wanted to hear especially with Diaz returning to the UFC early next year for what is likely one of the biggest for 2015.  Obviously there are facts out there that are needed and we will see how Diaz pleads.  In the end, Diaz’s legal troubles may be minimal as compared to those of athletes currently in the news.  Still, the UFC has to decide on whether to punish Diaz for the arrest.  It looks like the UFC may have to review its UFC Code of Conduct.   At a time when athletes are in the news for a host of crimes, the UFC does not want to be in that police blotter.

Was Silva re-signing bad timing or just bad?

September 11, 2014

Recently the UFC re-signed Thiago Silva after charges against him for domestic violence were dropped.  The NFL fumbled the handling of Ray Rice and its subsequent fallout reveals that the UFC is not the only sports organization that has a problem with domestic violence and the subsequent handling of the issue.

Rice has been suspended indefinitely from the NFL and essentially banished from football including the Canadian Football league which indicated it will uphold the NFL’s suspension and will not sign Rice.  Rice has lost sponsors and has even been eliminated from the annual EA Madden video game.

When questioned on Fox Sports Live on Wednesday about the Rice issue in comparison to Silva, Dana White indicated that Silva had been cleared of the domestic violence issue.  This was due to Silva’s wife moving back to Brazil and her unwillingness to assist in the investigation.  The memo obtained by MMA Junkie reveals the horrid details and although there was no videotape like in the Rice case, it is just (if not more) disgusting.  The memo states he had put a gun in his wife’s mouth and threatened to kill her and later on threatened to kill people within the BJJ gym where she trained.

Yet, the day after charges were dropped, the UFC re-signed Silva.  Just as swiftly as the UFC fired Silva for his arrest after the standoff with Florida police stemming from the domestic abuse accusations, he was scooped up by the organization once the charges were dropped.

Silva denies wrongdoing for the domestic assault which he claims never happened in an interview on The MMA Hour.  This is no revelation that he would deny the charges.  It may be surprising that Silva was willing to conduct an interview to attempt to clear his name.

Despite White’s defense of his recall of Silva, it looks like a terrible move in light of the ongoing Rice scrutiny.  The latest videotape and discovery that the NFL may have had the information before levying a penalty to Rice will come under critical media and internal investigation in the weeks to come.  This NFL scandal should be something that the UFC should take note and prepare itself in the future.

Payout Perspective:

This is the fight game and there are many unfortunate instances of domestic violence issues occurring from MMA fighters (e.g., War Machine and Josh Grispi come to mind) and boxers.  One need only look at Floyd Mayweather, Jr.’s past to know that despite domestic issues, fighters go on with their careers.  But does that mean it’s correct?  Of course not, but it happens.

A recent SI article concludes that the Silva signing is bad business for the UFC. He’s not a main event fighter like a Mayweather, who will once again garner a hefty pay day partly off of $75 PPV buys.  In fact, Silva’s presence in the Octagon will only have people recall his past transgressions.  Then again, will people have a selective memory about Silva after a couple fights?  Anyone recall ex-NFL player’s Warren Moon’s domestic issues?

So, why was the UFC willing to take a chance on Silva so soon after the charges were dropped.  Was Bellator or WSOF chomping at the bit to sign him?  Silva was an interesting fighter with a distinct look and fight style that may have had a following of fans.  But if you are a sponsor, would you want Silva to sport your logo on his trunks or on his fight banner?  What kind of following will he have now? Would you want to put Silva on a Fox show?

White said the right things in response to questions about the Rice video on Fox Sports Live.  That was easy.  What will be hard is addressing the domestic violence issues for the UFC going forward.  While it’s understandable to assess each case separately, there must be a bright line rule when it comes to a sensitive issue as men hitting women.

The Ultimate Fighter 20 Ep 1: 536,000 viewers

September 11, 2014

MMA Payout has learned from a Nielsen source that the debut episode of The Ultimate Fighter 20: Team Pettis vs. Team Melendez scored an average viewership of 536,000 on FS1. The ratings are almost 10% down from last season’s premiere.

The first episode for adults 18-49 drew 0.4 and 0.59 for males 18-49.  In comparison, TNA’s Impact Wrestling (9:00pm-11:00pm) on Spike TV drew over 1 million viewers according to Television By Numbers.  TUF 20 aired at 10:00pm-12:00am (7:00pm-9:00pm on the west coast).

In comparing to Season 19, the season average was 476,000.  The season premiere for Season 19 drew 595,000 viewers (861,000 for Live + 3).

Payout Perspective:

New coaches, new tournament format but same ratings.  Despite all of the social media and PR buzz and even a red carpet event, TUF only mustered 536,000 viewers for its debut.  The decision to do more background on the fighters and then just one fight instead of starting the season with all fights might have hurt viewership.  But one would think that this would set up the characters for the season.  As we’ve written previously, Fox execs are viewing TUF differently with respect to its live viewership versus how it does overall on the network (i.e., reruns, DVR numbers).  But, the initial rating has to be disappointing considering the amount of hype the season was given.

More ratings info from UFC Fight Night 50

September 9, 2014

MMA Payout has received more info per Nielsen on UFC Fight Night 50 on FS1.  The peak viewership drew 1,068,000 viewers during the main event in which Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza defeated Gegard Mousasi.

The peak audience occurred during the 11:30-11:45pm time period per Nielsen.

The main event card drew a 0.73 household rating and averaged 911,000 viewers which is up from the UFC Fight Night average on FS1 which is 814,000.

Among the valuable adults 18-49 demographic, the main card was higher than the average viewership of the demo for UFC Fight Nights.  UFC Fight Night drew 589,000 viewers in the 18-49 adult demo versus the average of 504,000 viewers.

According to a Nielsen source, UFC Fight Night 50 had a “halo effect” of FS1’s news programming.  Fox Sports Live averaged 299,000 total viewers and 202,000 in the adult 18-49 demo.  The ratings were a dramatic increase from viewership a year ago.

Payout Perspective:

The big takeaway from these additional numbers is that FS1 values UFC programming.  It appears that it helps with the adult demo as well.  The most interesting number here is the bump that other FS1 programming gets when live fights are on the air.

Zuffa, New York file final round of briefs in summary judgment motions

September 8, 2014

Late last week, the last round of briefing in its motions for summary judgment have been filed by the parties in the Zuffa lawsuit in New York.  Both sides made its final arguments to the Court in hopes of prevailing on summary judgment. The parties filed its reply briefs which address arguments made by the opposing side which rebut the initial summary judgment motions made by the parties.

To refresh your memory, New York is seeking to dismiss Zuffa’s lawsuit in total.  It has already dismissed 6 of the 7 claims made by Zuffa in the lawsuit to legalize pro MMA in the state.  Zuffa is attempting to strike down the law with its motion.

Zuffa’s Reply Brief

Zuffa reiterates some key points in its final briefing before the Court’s review.  The emphasis is that the statute banning pro MMA (sec. 8905-a) is unconstitutionally vague (which is the remaining legal claim).

First, it notes that there are two independent reasons why a statute is vague:  1) lack of notice; and 2) the statute’s arbitrary or discriminatory enforcement.  Zuffa states that the first prong is sufficient for the court to grant summary judgment in favor of Zuffa.  In explaining its position, Zuffa states the standard that “a person of ordinary intelligence” would have reasonable opportunity to know what is prohibited.  Here, it argues that no one could know what is prohibited based on this statute.

The overarching theme for Zuffa is that the statute is so confusing that even state officials are not able to interpret it. It hammers home this point through the example of the state’s Attorney General agreeing at oral argument that an exempt organization can sanction a pro MMA event. Thus, how can the law be enforced.

In addition, it refutes an argument made by New York in its opposition brief that exempt organizations can sanction to only “single discipline” “traditional” “long recognized” martial arts.  Zuffa points out in its legal argument that New York misinterprets and/or misreads the statute in its favor.  Essentially, New York attempts to cite legislative history when one need only look to the plain meaning of the statute.  Nowhere in the statute does it preclude pro MMA from being sanctioned by an exempt organization.  Yet, Zuffa argues that New York tries to read into the statute. Zuffa also argues that the state’s enforcement has been arbitrary or discriminatory.  In this argument, it states that after discovery in the case, it became clear that state officials lacked clear guidance in enforcing the statute.  Here, Zuffa points out inconsistencies obtained through the discovery process (i.e., written interrogatories and/or depositions).

Zuffa's Reply

New York Reply Brief

New York argues for the dismissal of Zuffa’s case and in so doing it reiterates its strategy that the plaintiffs lack legal standing to bring this claim in federal court.  It also argued that due to the fact that the statute is one of state law, a state court should render the opinion here. In supporting its lack of legal standing argument, it suggests that Zuffa had a mere “oral understanding” with an exempt organization (here the World Kickboxing Association) when Zuffa argued that it had an agreement with the WKA to sanction an event in the state.  If it is found that there was an agreement, it would satisfy the legal standards of standing as there would be a recognizable injury (i.e., New York is preventing Zuffa from conducting an event through the WKA).

However, New York points out there was no written contract, details or anything else that has surfaced as evidence.  New York also notes that the declarations in support do not indicate when the agreement between Zuffa and WKA took place.  It also intimates that the claim that Zuffa and WKA had an agreement to sanction an event did not happen until after the filing of this lawsuit. It also argues that a state statute should be interpreted by a state court and that Federal jurisdiction should abstain from ruling until the state has interpreted the law.  Here, it appears that a state court has yet to generate an opinion on the statute. In addition to its briefing, there is also the motion to strike brought by New York regarding some of the evidence cited by Zuffa in its briefing.  If the court were to grant New York’s motion, a huge chunk of Zuffa’s argument would go away.

AG Reply

Payout Perspective:

It does not appear that the court has determined whether there will be an oral argument in this case.  The court, in its discretion, may review the pleadings and decide at that point whether an oral argument will help it make its decision.  Once again, Zuffa provides solid legal arguments.  The question is whether the arguments would satisfy the Summary Judgment standard which is whether there are no genuine issues of material fact, summary judgment is proper.  As for New York, it is giving the court “an out” with its arguments (lack standing, state court proper forum). MMA Payout will continue to keep you posted.

UFC Fight Night: 911K; Bellator 123: 667K

September 8, 2014

The overnight audience numbers from Friday’s UFC and Bellator shows have come in and are in line with the initial ratings we brought to you on Saturday.  The UFC drew 911,000 viewers for its main card while Bellator MMA drew 667,000 viewers.

In addition, the 3 hour UFC Prelims preceding the UFC Fight Night 50 main card drew 485,000 viewers.

According to a Nielsen source both main cards went head to head from 10-10:45pm (7-7:45pm on west coast) with the UFC main card on FS1 edging out Bellator on SpikeTV 834,000 to 781,000.  Jason Floyd of The MMA Report tweeted the total number of viewers watching UFC or Bellator were 1.6 million viewers.

UFC FN ratings inc 50

Payout Perspective:

For those wondering, the WWE’s taped programming of Smackdown scored 2.7 million viewers on the SyFy channel.  If you are Bellator, you can see the ratings as a positive from the perspective that when it went head to head against the UFC, it was not too far off the UFC viewership.  Still, in the end, the UFC prevailed on FS1.  We will see if Bellator will be able to keep up the momentum in viewers this week.  As for UFC Fight Night 50, the ratings are up from the 689,000 viewers of UFC Fight Night 49.


UFC offers discount for stream issues

September 7, 2014

UFC Fight Pass experienced streaming issues on Saturday night during the Invicta 8 live event.  As a result, the UFC is offering a 10% discount on any 2014 PPV if you order via UFC.tv.

It was the first time that UFC Fight Pass streamed a live fight event for Invicta.  Recently, Fight Pas began streaming monthly meetings from the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

The UFC acknowledged the problems with the live stream.

According to Bloody Elbow, the UFC sent notice to Fight Pass subscribers that it would extend a 10% discount on one live PPV before the end of 2014.  The offer is only open to those purchasing a PPV through UFC.tv.

Payout Perspective:

The live stream problems were unfortunate for Invicta since it has been a constant in its attempts to offer its product via live stream.  Notably, it had issues on Ustream in attempts to set up a pay wall for its events.  In addition, wrestling promotion Ring of Honor, had problems with its iPPV on Saturday night according to Dave Meltzer’s coverage.  ROH had issues with streaming on Ustream in the past as well.

As for the “make good,” is it a good “make good?”  10% is a de minimus amount and funnels subscribers to the UFC’s own site to order a PPV.  While the 10% might be a fair discount considering not every subscriber was watching the Invicta show, the offer can only be realized if subscribers order through the UFC site and not through traditional cable/satellite operators.

UFC edges Bellator on Friday night

September 6, 2014

MMA Payout has learned from Nielsen sources that the main card for UFC Fight Night 50 outdrew Bellator 123’s main card this past Friday.  The two promotions held events in Connecticut and were virtually competing head to head against each other on their respective home networks.

UFC Fight Night 50 drew 0.54 rating on FS1 while Bellator 123’s main card drew a 0.43. These are the early estimates and more numbers including the average numbers of viewers will come on Monday.  For those wondering, the rating is the estimated percentage of all of TV households tuned to a program.

In addition to the main cards, Bellator had two hours of shoulder programming preceding the main card. The UFC had its normal three hour block of prelims.

The main card main event for the UFC was Ronaldo Souza taking on Gegard Mousasi and Bellator had Patricio “Pitbull”  fighting Pat Curran.

Payout Perspective:

It was an interesting night of fights with each organization putting on televised events on the same night in the same state.  Each card had its share of good fights and it appears that the preliminary indications have the UFC as the winner this round.

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