LAS VEGAS – The UFC today announced the next step in its evolution.
The promotion unveiled the details for the new “UFC Fight Pass,” a long-rumored digital network that will feature live streaming fights, unique special content, original programming and the entirety of the Zuffa video vault.
In a presentation prior to tonight’s UFC 168 pay-per-view at MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta, President Dana White and Chief Content Officer Marshall Zelaznik announced the product’s launch.
UFC Fight Pass will have a free trial through Feb. 28. The regular price of the service will be $9.99 U.S. per month.
Fertitta said the product was borne out of a demand for the UFC product outside of the North American market – and a belief internally that the UFC wasn’t sufficiently meeting that demand for international audiences.
“We’ve done 38 events outside North America, and all have been incredibly successful, and for the most part, all sold out,” Fertitta said. “We’ve created a significant amount of demand in Europe, in South America, Asia, the Middle East. We have not been doing a good enough job meeting the demand of our customer base in those markets. We decided we’re going to add shows into these markets. We added six shows in Asia and six in Europe to meet that demand.
“If you think about the fan base in those markets, we need to bring great fights in prime time into these markets so we can broadcast those fights on big networks in prime time in those markets. Now we have to figure out how to distribute these products in the United States, in Canada – in this time zone.”
In the past, some UFC events in international markets would have start times geared for an appropriate prime-time television start in the U.S. – but that might mean a card for in-person fans at the arena that started in the morning on a Sunday.
That no longer will have to be the case. Those fight cards won’t have a live TV broadcast – but will stream live on the Fight Pass network.
In addition to the live events in 2014 – which White said will be more than 150 live fights – the service will feature a full library of PRIDE, WEC, Strikeforce, Affliction, EliteXC and WFA fights. UFC shoulder programming, special programming, and exclusive content also will be available.
According to a release from the promotion, the platform also will be the only place to watch live preliminary-card fights not planned for TV on “Fight Night” cards and pay-per-views.
Additionally, the release said planned new content includes behind-the-scenes reports, fighter diaries, “UFC Upfront,” “UFC By the Numbers,” “UFC Fight Camp Insider” and training tips. Additionally, international editions of “The Ultimate Fighter,” including next year’s “TUF: Brazil 3? coached by Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva,” will be seen on “Fight Pass.” Outside of Brazil, that will be the only place to see that edition of the show.
Next week’s UFC card in Singapore, UFC Fight Night 34, will be the first to stream live on the platform. That card features some fighters that may not be known outside Asia, and White said the “Fight Night” cards on the digital network will be a mix of levels of stars – just like the company has now.
“There’s going to big fights on this network, and there’s going to be fights with up-and-coming talent,” White told MMAjunkie. “You think a few years ago, anyone knew who Jon Jones was? You think every card is going to be headlined with huge superstars? Guys have to fight to become huge superstars.”
White said the digital network is essentially a first-of-its-kind for any sports league, or any sports team. There are plans soon after launch for the service to be available on iOS and Android platforms, as well as through set-top services like Apple TV and Roku.
But what may be as big a driver is the UFC staying ahead from a technology standpoint.
“Essentially what we’ve created here is Netflix for the fight fan,” Fertitta said. “We have three tiers of product – on the bottom end is ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ on the top end is a high-end pay-per-view, and in the middle we have our ‘Fight Night’ product. We’re taking that brand and extending it into these different international markets because we feel like we’re not meeting that demand.”
For more on the “UFC Fight Pass” and information on the two-month free trial, visit www.ufc.tv/page/fightpass.
For the latest on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.
(Pictured: Lorenzo Fertitta)