Ring Of Sports Marketing

Date archives November 2017

Boxing / UFC

Dana White Says UFC Could Begin Promoting Boxing

On the same podcast that Dana White said that the future of the UFC’s broadcast rights could be on a digital platform, the President of the UFC also said that one day boxing could be under the umbrella of the UFC.

Rumors first began that Dana White was going to expand into boxing last summer.  While promoting Mayweather-McGregor, White wore a shirt that said “Zuffa Boxing.”  White said that he has no plans to leave the UFC because it is his passion.  He also says that he is still under contract and can’t leave per the rules in the contract for WME-IMG acquiring the UFC.

Ringside Analysis

Dana White is a former amateur boxer, boxing trainer, and boxing fan.  When he partnered with the Fertitta brothers to take over the UFC and push it to its $4 billion sale he thought he could make a fight promotion company that avoided the mistakes boxing did.  He has already begun to obtain a promoter’s license.

Some believe that this is a sign that White and the UFC think that the market is softening on MMA and it is time to expand into something that is going to be more lucrative.  I view the expansion into boxing as a way to promote fighters in forms of martial arts they have mastered and also into new revenue streams.  While MMA may be a more long-term mainstream sport, the UFC could also expand into niches like boxing or muay thai.  Mayweather-McGregor has shown that there is a strong desire for cross-over competition if the personalities are right.  In a way, the UFC could really be moving back to its roots of matching wrestlers with kung fu masters.

The UFC is expanding into its first fight in mainland China at the end of this month, is looking for a big increase in revenue for their next broadcast rights, and are getting more international sponsors than they have before.  What the UFC is today could be a fraction of what it is in the next 10 years.

Entertainment Business / UFC

Next UFC Broadcast Deal Could Be a Digital Platform

On The Unnamed Podvideocast with Jason Gay, Dana White said that instead of going with a traditional network for the UFC’s next broadcast deal the MMA company could instead use a digital platform.  White says that with the declining subscriptions to ESPN and seeing his own kids prefer digital devices to television that the future is with digital, over the top (OTT) platforms.

Dana White says:

“I think where you really see it is, look at ESPN… Look at how powerful ESPN was five years ago, what they were getting per sub. Their subs are dropping. They’re scrambling to figure it out right now.”

“There’s no doubt that the internet and OTT is where it’s all going. So, it’ll be interesting to see when the smoke clears who’s still around and who’s not.”

ESPN once considered buying the media rights to the UFC and was rumored to be interested in buying the UFC before WME-IMG, but decided to pass.  The World Wide Leader in Sports has also been aggressively pushing its own app with a streaming service starting in 2018.  The ESPN streaming service will feature Top Rank Boxing.

The UFC already has an OTT service called Fight Pass but this new service would be much more comprehensive in terms of live events.

A distinction between the UFC and other organizations like the NFL is made on the podcast.  The NFL doesn’t produce its own events.  Networks like FOX and CBS produce the events for broadcast.  The UFC produces all of its own events regardless of whether a given event is for PPV or if it is for Spike.

Ringside Analysis:

Every sports organization from the MLB to the NFL to NCAA Football is looking for ways to speed up games and make them fit into a smaller, more convenient time frame.  Very few people have enough time for three and a half hour football and baseball games.  Dana White says that the UFC is one of the best positioned sports for the future:

“Fighting, it works everywhere, all across the planet,” White said. “Now with technology, we’re getting to the point I always dreamed about. I always used to say, ‘We’ll take this thing all around the world, build a fanbase, build some talent in every country around the world and then we’ll get to a point in time where everybody can watch it at the same time — on the same platform.’ We’re getting to that day.”

The UFC may look to split up broadcast rights to traditional distribution channels, like television, and digital streaming.

 

Ratings / UFC

Stephen Espinoza and Showtime Show Interest In Partnering with the UFC

Showtime Sports Executive VP and GM says that he will be reaching out to the UFC about being broadcast partners.  The UFC’s broadcast agreement with FOX is coming to a close and if the network and the UFC cannot reach an agreement on a new broadcast deal then companies like CBS, Showtime, HBO, or NBC may bid high enough to be the main broadcaster in the future.

Dana White was critical of Showtime with how it handled Strikeforce but praised the network after the UFC and Showtime worked together on the Mayweather-McGregor fight.

Ringside Analysis:

Showtime and HBO use boxing to get subscribers.  The new subscribers who want to watch a fight hopefully end up finding a new favorite TV show or the movies that the network airs and eventually become full-time subscribers.  However, while Showtime and HBO pay the promoter for the rights to each fight, making for an easy revenue stream for the promoters, it limits the exposure of the fights and fighters.  Because people have to pay extra to watch a fight it is likely that most will opt to watch a basketball or baseball game on ESPN, a channel they already get, instead of paying a monthly fee for a new, premium channel.  Maybe Showtime will get the more popular fights on their network, but that would probably require a hefty price tag.  CBS would be a big player to help promote the UFC but access to the network may not be in the cards for this broadcast agreement.

UFC

Conor McGregor Won’t Fight Again In UFC Unless He’s Co-Promoter

UFC Lightweight Champion Conor McGregor has not stated whether his next fight will be a MMA match or a boxing match, but before he does another fight in the UFC he demands to be a co-promoter.  At the debut of his biopic, McGregor was asked about his next fight.  He said that Tony Ferguson was a likely opponent in the UFC but also that a few boxing matches were possible and that discussions were open.

Conor McGregor said:

I was promoter on the Mayweather fight, and we’re in current negotiations… I ain’t stepping in that octagon again unless I’m part owner of the whole setup – I’m a promoter.”

“We’re in the contract negotiation stage. It’s got to, they’ve got to entice me now because, I came from a billion-dollar fight. I want equity, I want pay-per-view. I want to be a true partner. You have to entice me now. I want to be a partner. I want to be a promoter and I want to be a fighter for me to continue.”

Conor McGregor has asked for part ownership in the UFC before.  When the UFC was first sold to WME-IMG he wondered why he was excluded from any ownership in the company while WME-IMG sold off shares to celebrities in other sports and entertainment, like Tom Brady.

McGregor was technically a co-promoter in his fight against Mayweather but Zuffa later was legally required to be listed as a promoter in the fight so that they could pay Conor McGregor.

Dana White responded saying:

Dana White basically says that Conor McGregor is such an international draw that they are going to make some exceptions for him.  White also says that Conor McGregor is easy to do deals with and is also a huge asset to the company because he is willing to fight anyone at nearly any time.

Ringside Analysis:

I don’t think in an ideal world that the UFC would ever have a co-promoter because they don’t want to put any other company on par with the UFC.  The UFC has placed a lot of emphasis, especially since Zuffa first bought the company, about establishing the UFC brand.  The UFC is nearly synonymous with MMA but acts more as the NFL.  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that one of his responsibilities is to “protect the shield” and the previous owners, with White, defended the UFC passionately.

The UFC has made exceptions for Conor McGregor before.  In the past the UFC hasn’t let fighters compete outside of the UFC in other sports but they let McGregor fight Mayweather.  McGregor made a lot of money for himself, WME-IMG, and also did a lot of promoting for the UFC.  The UFC had a rule against fighters holding belts in two different weight classes.  Conor McGregor won the UFC Lightweight Championship while simultaneously holding the UFC Featherweight Championship.

Part of me is wondering if the UFC is killing the golden goose by giving so much power to McGregor.  It is unlikely, but certainly possible, that the UFC is giving Conor McGregor what he wants because now McGregor knows how much money he could be making boxing or fighting as an independent MMA fighter and running his own shows, taking fighters from other MMA promotional companies.  The UFC has been behind in revenue goals for the last year and I hope that the short term money they’re chasing now, which remind me of some of the mistakes boxing made in its decline, don’t hurt the long-term success of the UFC.

Sponsorships / UFC

UFC Signs First Official Airline Partner with AirAsia

The UFC has announced a new partnership with AirAsia.  The sponsorship agreement is for multiple territories, leaving open the possibility for other airline partnerships in different parts of the world.  AirAsia will do their first activation on November 25th when the UFC has their first event on mainland China.

AirAsia was founded in 1996 and is a low-cost carrier based in Malaysia.

UFC Vice President of Asia-Pacific Kevin Chang said in the press release:

“This deal is an indication of how much UFC and the sport of mixed martial arts have grown in Asia and around the world… AirAsia is an innovative and fast-growing brand, we thank them for the support and we’re looking forward to creating engaging branded content for fight fans and AirAsia customers to enjoy.”

Continue reading