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UFC to continue enhancing Fight Pass in Brazil but not planning full DTC shift

MMA promotion says extra OTT efforts with Endeavor Streaming reflect viewing habits of Brazilian fans.

30 January 2023 Ed Dixon

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  • Fight Pass launched in Brazil this month
  • UFC says FTA deal with Bandeirantes vital to broaden reach
  • Promotion rules out imminent LATAM rollout for Fight Pass

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will continue to develop its Fight Pass over-the-top (OTT) product for the Brazilian market but does not expect a full-scale direct-to-consumer (DTC) shift in the country.

The mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion launched UFC Fights Pass this month to coincide with the UFC 283 event in Rio de Janeiro, marking its first return to Brazil since 2018. As well as airing live cards, Fight Pass includes original programming, localised Portuguese language content and a library of historical events.

The UFC also signed a broadcast partnership with Brazilian network Bandeirantes last August for free-to-air (FTA) distribution of select live fight nights and original content, but believes the DTC focus reflects the viewing preferences of consumers. According to the promotion, 96 per cent of its fans in Brazil watch its content via digital platforms.

“The Brazilian market is a more mature market, a very discerning and sophisticated market,” David Shaw, the UFC’s senior vice president, international and content, told SportsPro.

“We made this decision because we felt we needed to really progress our delivery of our content via technological means. So increased presence on social, increased delivery of content through digital platforms.

“And then, at the centerpiece of all this, is the delivery of our streaming service. We needed to bring to the market a more compelling price that was more competitive with other streaming services and what we believe was appropriate for the Brazilian fanbase.

“By launching UFC Fight Pass, it allows us to create not only a live event transmission and production that we control, but also tailor very specifically, using our own content, the proper stories that Brazilian fans want to consume.

“We wanted to really adapt to the times and the technological progression. Adoption of smartphones and social media and digital platforms in Brazil is almost as progressive as anywhere else around the world.”

Fight Pass in Brazil is priced at BRL$24.90 (US$5) per month and powered by Endeavor Streaming. The specialist division of Endeavor, the UFC’s parent company, already works on other OTT products covering the likes of cricket, triathlon and skiing.

“One of the big differences that you’ve got with combat sports is the pay-per-view element of it,” said Endeavor Streaming president Fred Santarpia.

“For this type of content, particularly for live fight nights, there’s much more of a hockey stick for traffic and subscriber growth for those big ticket events. The bigger names on the card, the bigger the talent, the more social promotion there is from the talent on the card, the bigger the event and the bigger the fight is going to be.

“From a partner standpoint, it’s being ready for that hockey stick of demand where you go from, say, 10,000 to 300,000 users in two minutes. That is something that we find very specific to combat sports in particular.”

The UFC claims to have 50 million fans in Brazil and the promotion is stacked with fighters from the country. Speaking in August, the UFC’s president Dana White said Fight Pass would “take our business to the next level”, highlighting Brazil as “one of our biggest and fastest growing markets”. The linear TV pact with Bandeirantes, however, remains crucial.

“I think wherever we are, we need a broad reach partner,” said Shaw. “We need a partner that’s going to invest in local programming when we’re not there and we need a partner that’s got a variety of different media assets.

“For [Bandeirantes], they’ve got a number of key sports properties. They’ve helped build Formula One in Brazil to be a truly marquee property across the country. That investment that they made in F1 made us confident and comfortable that we can work alongside them.

“Going 100 per cent direct-to-consumer might make some sense in some regions. But I really do feel like you need that institutional support.”

“In sports media, it’s not an either or decision anymore,” added Santarpia. “[Linear TV and streaming] are not mutually exclusive.

“The most savvy operators are looking at how they improve their overall average revenue per user by employing a variety of media models across a variety of distribution channels. Whether it’s traditional, direct-to-consumer [or] FAST, they’re putting those things together for a holistic media strategy.

“That’s how we see it generally playing out over the next couple of years.”

For all its Fight Pass ambitions in Brazil, the UFC is unlikely to take the product into other Latin American territories any time soon, preferring to continue working with its LATAM broadcast partners ESPN and Fox Sports.

“I think we’re more of an emerging sport throughout other areas in Latin America, probably more progressed in Mexico,” said Shaw. “One very important consideration is where you’re at in the development of the sport in that particular country.

“Brazil is much more mature than many of the other markets in Latin America. So, for the moment, it makes sense to get the broad reach that we get from ESPN and Fox Sports LATAM.”

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