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.
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.