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PPV Execs Don’t Fear UFC Fights on Fox

Industry executives say they’re
not concerned about losing key pay-per-view
events from the Ultimate Fighting Championship
in light of its recent television deal
with Fox Sports.

UFC is expected to maintain its monthly
output of PPV events in 2012, even as it looks
to broaden its reach on television through its
groundbreaking seven-year, $700 million deal
with Fox that will put four live matches a year
from the mixed-martial-arts outfit on the Fox
broadcasting network.

Fox’s first live broadcast on Nov. 12, in which
challenger Junior dos Santos took heavyweight
champion Cain Velasquez’s crown with a oneminute
knockout, drew 5.7 million watchers, according
to Nielsen.

It was the most-watched UFC event ever and
the most-watched professional fight of any
kind since HBO’s June 21, 2003, heavyweight
title boxing match between Lennox Lewis and
Vitali Klitschko averaged 7.0 million watchers
on HBO.

The fight — which aired head-to-head with
the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez
PPV boxing match — delivered a 4.3 rating
among the UFC target audience of males 18-34.
That bested all college-football telecasts this
season on any network with the exception of
CBS’s Nov. 5 LSU-Alabama game, matching up
what were then the two top-ranked teams.

UFC PPV events generate consistent revenue
for the programmer and multichannel distributors.
UFC PPV fight cards typically generate
500,000 TV customers, or about a $25 million
gross, according to The New York Times.

Representatives from the UFC could not be
reached for comment.

Given the unpredictability of marquee PPV
boxing cards on a year-to-year basis — no PPV
boxing events have been scheduled for 2012, although
Floyd Mayweather reserved May 5 for a
fight — and the possibility of some WWE PPV
events moving to the proposed
WWE Network when the service
debuts in 2012, the industry
is banking on a consistent flow
of UFC events to fill PPV coffers.

“We’re preparing for a consistent
number of pay-per-view
events going forward as we had
this year and the previous year,”
In Demand senior vice president
of programming and business
development Mark Boccardi
said. “I don’t think the Fox deal
is going to lead to fewer pay-perviews.”

Boccardi did express concern
that the quality of UFC PPV matches could suffer
as UFC looks to offer marquee fighters for the
Fox telecasts as well as six live telecasts on cable
network FX. But he also said added cable and
broadcast exposure enhances the UFC brand.

“I think it’s good for the pay-per-view industry
and will create more awareness: if there’s a great
fight, it can drive people to the pay-per-views,”
he said. “The UFC has every incentive to put its
big events on pay-per-view.”

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.