The UFC guards its content jealously.
In an Internet where you can (illegally) stream everything from NFL football on Sundays to Manny Pacquiao's latest beatdown, it's Dana White who stands tall in the battle against online piracy.
The UFC has famously and recently gone after web pirates in the courts. Some might say it's a battle they can't win. I say it's a battle it's dumb to fight—the wrong way. Because doing so will lose them money.
MMA is one of the purest and most exciting forms of competition going. It tests its competitors physically, mentally and spiritually every day in training, and more importantly to me, when they step into the ring to fight.
It’s one of the few sports where its best marketing tool to the uninitiated is the product itself. It’s not for everybody, but if it’s for you, it’s really for you and you'll know it when you see it. But if the UFC continues to hide its content from the folks who would like to browse for it on the web, it’s shooting itself in the foot over its control-freak issues.
Another side of that same issue is that when an outsider’s only glimpse into MMA’s top fighters is to watch highlight reels littered with the most violent five-second highlights of their entire careers or even from a particular fight, it will confirm what they expected to see—a little bit of the old ultra-violence.
And while that’s exciting and everything, and draws a lot of fans, there’s just so much more to the sport that can't be captured in highlight reels. It's more than a freak show.
The UFC is blessed with some very charismatic fighters like Randy Couture, Anderson "Spider" Silva and Jon "Bones" Jones. They are unbelievably great ambassadors for the sport and represent MMA as well or better than the Peyton Mannings and LeBrons of the world in my opinion.
In contrast to Manning and LeBron, guys like Couture and Silva entered a sport where they weren’t guaranteed much more than pain and have taken things to a level they could not have imagined because they are the first to take it to that level. There’s something to be said for that.
But the UFC is also blessed with some less charismatic fighters, and some others who may not always be on their best behavior outside the sport, drawing negative attention to the sport.
But here’s the deal. At the end of the day, the UFC needs to choose what to protect and what to encourage.
Live pay-per-view is their great golden milk-cow that should be protected at all costs.
Reason is that fighting, even more than most sports, is a "RIGHT NOW" sport. A lot of the excitement and adrenaline comes from the fact that both competitors are, in a sense, “all-in” from the second the bell sounds. These are serious professional fighters with serious professional fists and limbs, and fights can explode, turn on a dime and end at any moment.
Fans fork out $54.95 to feel that "in the moment" excitement. It can’t be recaptured and therefore customers will never pay for highlight reels and/or releases of old events as much as they will buy the live events because the "moment" isn’t there with the tapes.
The highlights and "Best ofs" are neat and all that, and the die-hard fans will buy them, but if the UFC were to relax their copyright stances with regards to letting past fights be posted on YouTube, or even better, keep control of their content and stream it for free after 30 days right off of their own site and sell ads right there, I think that’s the best marketing they could do to grow their fan base.
Let potential customers see the fights that aren’t gonna make you that much money anymore anyway.
Or maybe the UFC doesn’t believe in it’s product. Maybe they feel potential customers will see an entire five rounds of Georges St-Pierre fight and think, why would I pay $54.95 for that?
But I don’t think that’s the case.
UFC—you need to relax your copyright stance with regards to events that have already taken place. It will win you fans—and more importantly—it will win you those sweet, big ass $54.95 pay-per-view buys.