In 2017, pay-per-view experienced a sharp decline in sales compared to recent years. Pay-per-view used to be an enticing and sellable point for many business and hotels, but not nearly so much anymore. The rise of the internet has brought many millennials to pay for online streaming services, such as Netflix, but not many are willing to invest big money in a single fight. And with the MMA having some exciting upcoming fights, it begs the question — is there a better way for MMA and the fighting industry to sell viewership?
Is Pay-Per-View Working?
It’s no secret that pay-per-view still brings in big numbers for high dollar matchups. Conor McGregor Vs Khabib Nurmagomedov brought in $17.2 million dollars alone. And pay-per-view does have its perks. It’s instant, good quality, and has its own personalized channel. Paired with a sharp and detailed television, it can be very entertaining viewing. But the problem remains that paying close to $100 for a single match seems a bit excessive, especially with the advent of the internet. And pay-per-view only works with big-name matchups, which can only happen so frequently. Not to mention you have to have a cable or satellite provider to stream pay-per-view.
Pirating is a big problem for pay-per-view. They try as best they can to prevent illegal streams, but at such a high cost, hundreds of thousands of people are itching to get free viewing that others take advantage of in interesting and unique ways. Take the example of a streamer who pretended he was playing a UFC game while streaming UFC 218 on twitch. The point being that MMA is possibly missing out on other opportunities for income by only allowing people with $100 extra money to invest to watch.
Could Free Streaming Be The Answer?
There is a lot of money to be made on sites like YouTube and Twitch. As an example, many streamers earn millions per year by streaming their content, for free, on sites like twitch and YouTube. What counts here is viewership and ad revenue. More viewers mean more companies interested in advertising with you. So while your viewers pay nothing to watch, the streamers still earn large sums of money. And this is very popular with millennials. WWE does this very thing and has become a media powerhouse, largely because of its YouTube channel.
MMA could effectively build a large following doing the same. There’s certainly a market for it. The highest subscribed person on YouTube now has over 70 million subscribers. But the real benefit here is that they could stream every fight, consistently, without needing big matchups to bring in the money. Having a large follower base, instead of depending on people to pay hundreds of dollars for one night of fighting, naturally brings in a large number of observers. And they can watch from any computer, without needing a television or provider.
MMA and pay-per-view probably aren’t going to part ways anytime soon. They still make enough money to be satisfied, but they’re missing potentially bigger avenues for success by depending on their big bouts. It’s a high-risk/high-reward payoff, and it’s bound to hurt their success in the future. If they take the modern route and garner an international following using social media, and maybe implementing different streaming services, they would benefit from it quickly.