Will a network deal really help the UFC?

I'm probably in the minority in my opinion, but a network deal is probably not going to help generate more PPV interest.  

Let me start by saying Network TV shows are not what they once were for making money.  The advent of the DVR has drastically changed the amount of advertising dollars that a network show can generate.  So PPV remains the major revenue driver for Zuffa.  There's a cautionary tale that the UFC should look at with some weight... the WWE.

Back in the 80's it wasn't uncommon to see Pro Wrestling shows on the weekend or late at night.  We were introduced to larger than life characters like Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Andre the Giant etc.  Then it dried up, wrestling could only be seen on the newly minted cable channels and PPVs.

Fast forward a couple of years and we finally see the WWE back on public network tv in the form of Smackdown.  At this point the WWE has a pretty routine schedule for shows and PPV events.  The main draw of the network shows were to build story lines that would end in culmination at the PPV.  Makes sense.  Use the lesser revenue generators to drive PPV sales.  They even had cross show story lines (Smackdown VS Raw) to help drive viewership to each show even though they were on different networks (public broadcast v cable).

  • More eyes on their free events: check
  • Cross promotion across different products: check
  • Use "Free" events to help drive PPV buys: check

Wow, sounds like a fantastic model!  They must be house hold names and completely mainstream!


Well, sorta. I'll be the first one to admit that I haven't kept up with the goings on of the WWE since the 90's, but the one thing I know for sure is that Smackdown is no longer on public TV. (It's on Syfy, weird I know) Additionally, there's now talk of a WWE channel in the rumor mill (sound familiar *cough* UFC buys G4 *cough*)

Going back to my overly simplistic check list above, the UFC only gets point 1, more eyes on their events.  Point 2, cross promotion between shows/products.  Yeah, not seeing any of this happening unless the UFC creates some new programing. Point 3... the one thing the UFC doesn't/can't do is create and drive a narrative to push people to get engaged and want to buy the PPV to see what happens.  The closest they've gotten is Sonnen running his smack (que all sorts of comparisons to pro wrestling) and some TUF story lines, ie Bisping/Hendo, Evans/Jackson.

This is a good point to throw in everyone favorite combat comparison, boxing.

The 80's had it's share of network boxing programs, only for it to devolve into alphabet soup and becoming PPV centric programing (ie PPV shows and their lead ins, like count down shows).  
Ironically, this is where the UFC is now (aside from the alphabet soup mess, at least in American and some other countries)

The UFC is at a cross roads.  While a network deal could generate a more eye balls on the sport and increase general acceptance, does it drive more business and for how long?  The lack of true storyline and narrative weakens their ability to create "drama" as a hook for "I have to know what happens next".  If we look at it as a sport that proves the "best"... well that's a whole other can of worms that some fighters *Fitch and on the flip side Hardy* knows about.

At the end of the day, the UFC and it's major stars depends on the PPV model to drive their revenue.    There MUST be some type of business model in their announcement that address this.  It could be in the form of new shows that help show case fighters and people would like to "follow" or maybe all count down shows being on the public network to get the most eyes on them. etc.

If the network deal doesn't lead to more PPVs buys, did Zuffa really come out on top?


-Thanks for reading my first attempt at a fanpost!

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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