The gate for UFC 150 offered the sobering realization that the UFC coming to your town with a title fight no longer guarantees a million dollar-plus gate. And now we're getting some word that the pay-per-view buys for the event also weren't exactly off-the-charts.
Via Dave Meltzer:
After the show, White also noted that they were expecting to take a hit on PPV. He received word that DirecTV went down all night so people with that provider were unable to purchase the show. Since he was at the show, he was probably only getting sketchy details. I was able to get the show on DirecTV with no problem. But there was an issue. Apparently if you automatically ordered through your remote in much of the country, there was no issue. However, if you tried to order by phone or by computer, there was a problem with the system that made it impossible, although the issue was apparently fixed in time for the replay show. We received a lot of feedback from DirecTV subscribers, split almost 50-50 between those who were able to see the show, and those who couldn't, and many wanted to see it and gave up, not buying the replay. It was significant enough that it cost them a fairly significant number of buys that they would have gotten. But probably not enough to change it from a low number to even close to an average number.
Very early numbers indicate about 190,000 North American buys (this is not a direct buy number or even a strong estimate but just a very preliminary figure). While nobody going in expected big numbers, that
would still be below most expectations. As we always say, there is significant potential margin of error this early, but suffice to say this show probably did not do well. We'll have a better read on this in two weeks. But other indicators were down. Google searches, which usually have a decent correlation to where buys are usually not far from double searches, fell from 1 million for UFC 148 (which makes that correlation look bad but half of those were searches related to watching Anderson Silva shoulder Chael Sonnen at the weigh-ins, and for the show itself it was 500,000, which comes close enough to the correlation) and 100,000 for UFC 149 while this show was just over 50,000. But that shows DirecTV issues or not, the interest level in this show was well below normal.
I'm not quite ready to go all doom and gloom on this number even if there had been no DirecTV issues, as I explain after the jump.
Anyone with a working brain always knew that the UFC's buys were going to level off and, at some point, probably dip. I'm not a huge believer in national economics affecting PPV buying habits in major ways, but when you're putting on as many shows as the UFC is, there is naturally going to be a large number of households that can't afford (in time or money) the investment in seeing them all.
Let's assume that the 190k buy figure is accurate, and let's also assume a $55 price point (splitting the cost between SD and HD) and a 60% cut going to the provider. That's well over $4,000,000 in revenue off the PPV. Combine that with the $650,000 gate and any other sales, subtract the production costs, employee costs and the fighter purses and I'm willing to bet the UFC still walked away with a profit.
The UFC model right now would seem to be to put on a lot of shows, knowing that only the "major" shows are going to sell in huge numbers. A promoter aims to turn a profit, when the UFC stops turning a profit that makes it worth it to continue this path, they'll change.
Would the UFC have preferred to have sold 500,000 PPV's? Absolutely.
Could the UFC do a better job of building stars which would, in turn, sell more PPVs? You'll find no one who agrees with that statement more than I do.
But they're finding a promotional niche. Hardcore fans buying 200,000 for the "smaller" PPVs and clearing 750,000-1,000,000 for the 3-5 "mega-shows" a year while building the brand on Fox (which they also could do better at) is working fine.
Not making AS BIG of a profit as before does not mean failing or not making any profit.
Bloody Elbow will have more on the numbers in the coming days and weeks as they adjust closer to reality.
I have also reached out to DirecTV for a statement on the number of orders affected.