The problem with PPV and why it could begin hurting the professional fighting industry
Pay-per-view productions have been a major part of the professional fighting industry ever since Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns first went toe to toe for the welterweight championship back in 1981.
At the time, the concept was a huge success, and since then, it has provided a lucrative revenue stream for promoters, broadcasters, and fighters. However, with climbing costs and questionable headliners, could the PPV concept soon begin to have a detrimental effect on combat sports at the highest level?
Indeed, it’s worth asking about what the future holds, given that there is certainly a very active interest in streaming professional fighting.
For instance, this current trend can be observed by looking at this sports streaming infographic by ExpressVPN which clarifies what drives US streaming. The results reveal that UFC is hugely popular for streaming and even rivals traditional sports in the US, like American football, basketball, and baseball. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the shows with Conor McGregor have attracted the biggest numbers since 2017.
The overall point is that an audience wants to watch fights, but how much longer will that last if the subscription rates keep going up? Let’s look at the numbers to get a better idea.
These days, PPV fights are priced between $50 and $100, which is not a small sum for many. This is especially true if you consider the number of bouts now available exclusively on PPV. Essentially, the soaring price of a one-off show means that only the most die-hard fight fans will be inclined to shell out for every event, while emerging spectators will likely be more discerning about the matches they buy.
THE MAC IS BACK #TUF31 pic.twitter.com/SjuhpAoHZJ
— UFC (@ufc) February 4, 2023
The lack of genuine competition
Aside from the cost, another key issue with PPV that should be highlighted is that it creates a situation where promoters and broadcasters are more interested in putting on fights that are guaranteed to generate a large number of buys, rather than spectacles that are genuinely compelling or competitive. As a result, fans are often left with lackluster matchups that fail to produce any genuine excitement.
Further proof of this can be seen in this Yahoo article on the farcical exhibition fights that see YouTubers square up to each other on what seems like a weekly basis.
It could be argued that these fights do a significant amount to bringing in a new audience. Still, at the same time, the energy put into making them has seen a section of supporters become disillusioned as world title fights fall by the wayside. At least, as of late February, Jake Paul will fight in his seventh career PPV match, while as Talksport carefully details here, Tyson Fury go head-to-head with Anthony Joshua or Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk.
Very soon The Truth will be determined. Who you got and how?
ESPN+ PPV and Cable & Satellite
Bell, Rogers, Shaw, SaskTel, Telus, https://t.co/m2eesZ3TKH
BT Sport Box Office
Main Event on Foxtel & Kayo
Sky Arena & Sky Sport#PaulFury pic.twitter.com/Cc3GgPuK9m
— Most Valuable Promotions (@MostVpromotions) February 1, 2023
As a result of the inaction to get the world’s best in the same ring, it is understandable that fans are left feeling shortchanged by the current PPV events on offer, and ultimately, the sport suffers as a whole.
The truth is that the lack of genuine competition and the high price of entry makes it harder to achieve growth, which will surely damage the professional fighting industry.