Sunday, 12 July 2009


Imagine you are the UFC. Your return to the shores of the UK was met with jubilation by British fans. Every show you announce sells out, and the fans are ravenous for news of the next UK visit. As the UFC however, you are aware that UK is very much still a growth market. Your fans in the UK are mostly people who have followed the UFC for a while, and you still need to market your brand to attract new fans. So far so good? BUT….OH NOES!!1! What has happened? Your television distributor in the UK, SENTANTA SPORTS, has gone under. Your need to choose a new channel. Your existing UK fans are concerned that they might not be able to watch the televised live shows anymore, and you realise that you still need to entice new fans in to the world of UFC. So what short of channel should you choose? *A free to view channel would encourage new fans to the sport, and make existing fans happy, but provide you with limited revenue. *An existing satellite /subscribed channel would encourage new fans who already own the channel, and would be mainstream enough for existing fans, whilst providing you a higher revenue. *Pay per view would provide the largest revenue but definitely excludes the new fans and will annoy a percentage of existing fans who don’t want to pay full price for shows generally taking place at 3am Hmmmmm. What to do? What to do? Well, we know what NOT to do. DO NOT put it on a brand new sports channel (ESPN) that costs everyone £9/£12 per month! You are excluding the growth of new fans, who are not going to subscribe to a new channel on the off chance of liking an unfamiliar sport. ESPN is (so far) not included in package deals so even people with existing satellite or subscribed channels will have to pay extra! This is a lot of money on top of existing subscription costs for just one extra channel. It was not so long ago that the UK fans had to make do with watching taped delayed shows, internet highlights, streams or downloading PPV torrents the following day. These days the DVDs of shows are available to buy after a month or so online, with preliminary fights and extras included for a little more than £12. A lot of UK fans may choose to return to their old ways of watching UFC, and use the money they save to buy hard copies of the shows later, which they can keep forever. This may not be the “right” thing to do, but I am sure it will be an option many UK fans will consider. At the UFC EXPO, UK MMA journalist Gareth A Davies spoke with Marshall Zelasnik, the UK UFC president. Gareth spoke of the concerns UK fans have regarding their future viewing of the sport. Mr Zelasnik said that there were currently two deals being considered, and that if they come to pass, the UK fans will be very happy. The ESPN channel deal has been revealed for over a week now. I don’t know if such a deal will come to fruition, or how long it would last, but the UFC need to seriously consider the impact on their UK fan demographic. My vote? Put it on live and next day delay broadcast, (the same way we had with Setanta) on a channel that is already widely available to people with widespread subscribed TV packages. Sky Sports 1-3 for example. MMA is becoming more popular year by year. The UFC need a platform in the UK that is both open to curious potential fans, and able to provide worthwhile revenue. Both Sky and Virgin Media customers have access to these channels within standard sports packages. I had thought my days of getting results spoiled by internet morons were over. Maybe not. I hope the new broadcasting deal makes the UFC accessible to all of you out there. One way or another.

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