UFC Fight Night 34 was the Ultimate Fighting Championship's first event in the promotion’s 2014 campaign, and it took to a different platform to produce the card. Announced right at the end of 2013, UFC Fight Pass is the company's digital platform, designed to make its content readily available to the masses. And now, having completed the first show made available to fight fans through this medium, it will be interesting to see where the UFC’s new venture goes throughout this year, and in future years.
The UFC has long had intentions of developing a platform that would allow it to push its content to the masses through Internet channels. In addition to UFC.tv, its utilization of popular websites like Facebook and YouTube were the first steps in that direction, leading to the Fight Pass platform that we see today.
The UFC intends for the UFC Fight Pass to be an important vessel for viewing the wide array of content that the Ultimate Fighting Championship produces. The most important changes are that preliminary card fights which used to be viewed on Facebook and YouTube will now be viewed exclusively on Fight Pass. In addition, Fight Night events that occur overseas will only be broadcast through this platform, and will air live. These types of events, which previously aired on Fox Sports 2 and FUEL TV, will now only be available to those with Internet access and Fight Pass memberships. Beyond the live content, the promotion's fight library will also be accessible, including not only past UFC events, but WEC, Strikeforce, and PRIDE events as well. This will be of great value to fans who are looking to watch past contests to learn more about today's top fighters before they were stars. Other UFC original content, like international editions of The Ultimate Fighter, as well as other television shows, will also be available through this application.
Detractors of the platform have complained about its cost Although the Fight Pass is currently available as part of a free trial until the end of February, from that point on, the subscription will cost $9.99 per month. These critics believe that expecting an additional $9.99 on top of the monthly cost of pay-per-view and cable to watch the sport is asking too much. Even worse, they argue, the UFC has increased the cost of its pay-per-view product. In a 30-day time period, an individual could easily have to pay more than $100 to watch two UFC PPV events and the fights aired via the Fight Pass platform.
It will be interesting to track the success of this platform during 2014. There is certainly value to be had in Fight Pass when it comes to all of the content that will be available. If the platform proves successful, do not be surprised if the platform expands, and includes a subscription plan that would include pay-per-view events. This might address the concerns of critics regarding the high monthly cost. It also could allow the UFC to cut its costs in distributing events through the cable companies, and focus instead on selling subscriptions directly to customers. World Wrestling Entertainment is developing a similar platform for many of its monthly PPV events, and a successful transition away from the PPV model to a subscription model might be worth mimicking.
The Internet has consistently changed the way people consume media, expanding options for reading, listening to, and viewing content that had previously only been available through traditional outlets. As outlets such as YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu continue to alter the media landscape, one of the major stories of 2014 will be the extent to which the UFC Fight Pass can do the same thing for MMA, and develop into a bold new way for the UFC to continue its plan for world domination, as it distributes its product to the masses.