Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on March 24, 2019. With UFC’s first pay-per-view exclusively on ESPN+ taking place Saturday night, we thought we’d republish this article.
On March 12, 2019, Dana White cryptically tweeted out three smiley face emoji. At the time I was wondering if Fedor Emelianenko got knocked out again and I didn’t know about it. What was Dana talking about?
Eight Days later, we got an answer. ESPN+ now exclusive rights to UFC pay-per-view events in the United States. It will also air prelims as well as host several of its own non-PPV events.
What does this mean to the Average Joe? Let’s break it down.
I currently have UFC Fight Pass, which I paid a year in advance for. At the time it was the home of exclusive prelims and certain UFC events. It also hosts archives, exclusive programming, and other fight promotions. Cost – around $10 a month. With the ESPN+ deal, it is pretty obsolete for me.
For years now I have been purchasing my pay-per-views from DirectTV and have been perfectly content with its service. I have hosted numerous fight parties throughout the years, with perfect viewing, no interruptions, and is an easy experience. Cost of PPVs in the satellite/cable era – $54.99 for Standard Definition, $64.99 for High Definition.
Now enter the ESPN era. To watch most UFC Events these days, a cable or satellite channel is no longer enough. Most upcoming UFC cards will now have to be streamed. This means the reliability of your cable or satellite signal is no longer a factor. Oh, and by the way now you are paying $4.99 a month for the privilege of not only watching most of the UFC fights, but you are also paying $4.99 for the privilege of dropping an extra $60 to watch the pay-per-views.
Here’s the problem. Besides the $4.99 a month you are paying to watch most of the UFC cards, and the surcharge for the privilege of ordering a Pay Per View, you must also be able to stream the event.
First, the equipment. There are many people in the world these days that own smart TVs. Unfortunately, many of these TV’s don’t have the ability to stream ESPN+. A lot of people stream from Blu Ray players, which also don’t have the ability to stream ESPN+. Believe it or not, there are still people in the world relatively oblivious to digitally streaming their programming, especially in rural areas.
On ESPN+’s website they list the following ways you can stream:
Fire TV or Tablet
Android Phone, Tablet, or TV
iPhone or iPad
Samsung Smart TV
If you don’t own any of these things, you could be looking at an additional cost of $39 for a streaming device, to several hundred dollars for a TV.
What about the app itself? I find the app to be clunky and hard to navigate. If I want to listen to this week’s ‘Ariel and the Bad Guy,’ it takes me forever to find it. When I stream a live event on my Roku, it often has moments when the screen freezes up, even though the audio is fine. I find I have to exit out of the app and reload it. Very frustrating. I’m also finding I’m paying $4.99 a month to watch a lot of commercials, and a lot less camera time on the fighters’ corners between rounds.
What about your internet signal? Much of the country has no issue accessing reliable high-speed internet for their streaming devices. I am not one of those people. Is it because I can’t afford it? No. I simply live in a rural area where I’m limited on the speed I can purchase. When it works, it works well, but sometimes I am susceptible to outages. Not to mention I have four sons that like to play Fartnight (I know what I said).
Believe it or not, there are UFC fans out there that do not have access to a high-speed internet signal to watch events. Fans, just like me who like to have some of their favorite people over to watch fights. What do they do? What about people that lose internet signal due to whether conditions? Do they hope they have enough phone signal to gather around an iPhone? That doesn’t sound like a party to me.
Let’s hope the UFC keeps in mind the fans, the OG’s, the average joe’s that made UFC great and will be loyal to the end.