Brazil has now become the most valued international market for the UFC. The company made $40 million in rights from an estimated 37 million fans. There are two media companies, Combate and Globo, will also pay the UFC $32.1 million through 2018. Globo is the largest broadcast network in Brazil and Combate is a premium channel.
Nielsen Sports and Scarborough estimated that there were 260 million UFC fans in the world but that only 15% of them were in the United States. However, the 15% of American UFC fans generated 87% of the revenue for 2015.
The UFC has thrived off of United States millennials who have the exposable income to spend money on monthly PPV programming. Whether millennials in other emerging market countries have the same type of exposable income or the willingness to spend money on premium content is yet to be seen.
According to the report by MMA Junkie:
“…emerging markets such as Russia, China and EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa)… the promotion extracted just $500,000 in TV revenue in Russia from 13 million fans, and $5.4 million from 37 million in China.
Of course, not all media markets are created equal, as the UFC has found. The promotion isn’t necessarily embraced every time the octagon travels to a new international city. Amid concerns of violence, politicians have opposed events. Countries with government-owned media have been hesitant to embrace the sport, or they’ve been unwilling to come to the table.”
One of the original goals for the UFC when first taken over by the Fertitta brothers and Dana White was to make the UFC a mainstream sport in the United States and to make it a global sport. The UFC is quickly approaching mainstream status in the states but expansion overseas is still a work in progress.
The UFC has put offices in the United Kingdom and Canada but haven’t been able to bring in the same revenue as South America. Recently, WME-IMG has created a subsidiary in China to help push their global content strategy.
With WME-IMG’s experience negotiating broadcast rights for international organizations such as the EPL and the agency’s connections to Asia’s business leaders there is a chance that the UFC’s most valuable markets are overseas. In new countries the UFC may be continually repeating the same struggles they had trying to gain legitimacy in the US. Educating consumers will be more important than ever.