THE UFC TELEVISION PARADOX
While it is hardly surprising that a UFC Fight Night card headlined by John Lineker and John Dodson drew the worst primetime UFC television rating of 2016, it may serve as a microcosm of the overall decline in sports television viewing.
Long thought to be immune to time shift viewing and digital erosion, sports programming in 2016 has largely been in a ratings decline.
However, when institutions such as the NFL and the Olympics see a verifiable ratings decline, an entity like the UFC would appear to stand no chance of staying above water.
In the business of sports, television has become king, so much so that the NCAA spent the last decade uprooting its conference ecosystem to maximize television money.
The UFC absolutely wants their piece of the television pie, but unlike other major sports, the pinnacle of the sport is never intentionally presented on cable or network television.
Nor should it be.
Declining television ratings may conjure up the temptation to enhance cards on “free TV” with more star power, but recent pay-per-view numbers indicate that, aside from television ratings, the current model is working.
The UFC may be oversaturated on television, but true premium content can still only be found behind the paywall of pay-per-view.
At their best, UFC Fight Night cards are entertaining infomercials for upcoming pay-per-view events, which feature a good mix of ascending and descending fighters; at their worst, they are still first-run live programming that networks still crave despite recent concerns.
At a time where the Federal Reserve is questioning the earning potential of the UFC, putting on pay-per-view suppercards like UFC 205 will remain the utmost priority of the promotion.
Surely, the UFC and WME-IMG would love to boast rights fees on par with the NFL, but unless the sport undergoes a massive facelift, MMA will never quite be tidied up for network television in the same way.
Holding on to television is important to the future of MMA, but so long as over a million people are willing to pay over 50 dollars a few times a year, the UFC does not need to be solely tied to television networks.
A DIFFERENT MMA DOC
On Sept. 2, CNN’s episode of “This Is Life with Lisa Ling” was an MMA-centric special focusing on amateur female MMA fighters titled “Women Who Fight.”
Lisa Ling embeds herself with two opposing female fighters and an adolescent girl MMA practitioner.
Despite Ling’s admission that she does not like fighting, the hour long documentary does not come across like as an MMA “hit piece” of years past.
The women featured in this piece are the real story, showcasing the balancing of family life, work, and training to fight in a very violent sport.
Additionally, revealing the little known world of youth MMA sheds some light on a youth sport that the public is largely unaware of.
While the entire piece may not be overly interesting to MMA fans, the casual observer will not be absolutely appalled by what they see.
REMEMBERING JOSH SAMMAN
As the MMA world mourns the death of Josh Samman, several heartfelt tributes have emerged in the wake of his passing from various MMA media outlets.
Here is a listing of some of them:
–The MMA Beat: Episode 124 (The first 13:48 is a discussion of Samman’s life.)
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S “MEDIA & BUSINESS” COLUMN: Who’s calling the shots in UFC: The fighters or the promotion? Who’s bigger star: Rousey or McGregor?
(Robert Vallejos writes a new Specialist column for MMATorch titled “Media & Business” focused on, you guessed it, the media coverage of MMA and the business side of MMA. He is fascinated by the presentation, business decisions, media strategy, and press coverage of both UFC and MMA as a whole, and will bring that curiosity to explore and delve into that side of MMA to his weekly Specialist column here at MMATorch. He explains his approach: “As a sport in its relative infancy, MMA does not receive the same level of scrutiny and informed analysis from the sports media as other more established entities. This is why it is vital for independent outlets such MMATorch to grow, while featuring a variety of voices. Unlike mainstream outlets, MMATorch is not beholden to any organization. Therefore I believe it is essential for individuals such as myself to explain not only the ‘what’ but also the ‘why’ of MMA.”)