As the UFC’s TV contract with FOX nears its end, the promotion has been looking to find new ways to distribute their content.
This goes beyond simply finding a network and extends straight into the realm of digital streaming services that have changed the way people view content.
TV and movies have already taken advantage of these platforms. With pay-per-view sales dwindling in general across most sports and forms of entertainment, it was only a matter of time before they followed suit as well.
The rumors have been confirmed, as it was recently reported that Amazon will sell the next UFC pay-per-view. Though the company doesn’t have the exclusive rights to air the show, they will feature it on their Amazon Prime Video service.
Amazon’s Prime service has been one of the most successful and creative customer loyalty programs of the digital age. Not only does it provide cash back on some purchases and free two-day shipping on many items, but it gives members access to vast content libraries.
Music, TV shows, and movies (including exclusives) are all available to Prime members, giving them access to popular favorites and even new releases at discount rates. The UFC’s management had previously expressed interest in creating a similar type of platform, both because of its increasing popularity and the affordability it offers.
While the UFC does have Fight Pass, an exclusive network that offers plenty of fights, interviews, and special features, pay-per-views aren’t included.
WWE showed such a model could be viable. The WWE Network features content from various pro wrestling promotions and a number of exclusive shows. The company also moved all their pay-per-view events to the network exclusively, helping them gain more control over the distribution and production of their shows.
The UFC may still want to hold out on making their pay-per-views an added perk of a network subscription, but the efficiency of a company like Amazon could help them make their cards more affordable to the average buyer.
The promotion has faced complaints in recent years that the increased frequency of cards has come at the expense of quality. Pay-per-views without a lot of star power have become the norm, and in some cases have caused management to scramble after one of their headliners was forced to pull out.
The first card to be available on Amazon Prime Video will be UFC 222. Frankie Edgar will face undefeated Brian Ortega, who came in as a late replacement for the injured champion Max Holloway. Champion Cris Cyborg will also defend her featherweight crown against Yana Kunitskaya.
People won’t need to sign up for a Prime membership in order to buy the card. It will still be available for $64.99, and the additional terms of the Amazon deal remain unclear for now.
The UFC may be experimenting with other distribution methods before their competitors do. But they may already be behind – Bellator MMA, though a solid second-place in the industry, recently aired fights on Paramount Network’s online service.