The UFC recently shifted their pay-per-view (PPV) broadcasts to streaming service ESPN+. Brendan Schaub appears to be one of the staunchest critics of it.
It’s been a move that has been met with mixed reviews, to put it lightly. The fact that customers now have to go through two paywalls to get to the PPV broadcast is at the center of the complaints. Fans must first pay $4.99 to subscribe to ESPN+ then pay $59.99 plus tax for the PPV. But that was far from the only complaint about the change.
Several streaming issues arose when the first PPV streamed on ESPN+ with last weekend’s UFC 236 from Atlanta. Many purchasers complained of poor streams and technical difficulties, which Dana White acknowledged.
According to former UFC fighter Schaub, this is going to cost the UFC. He said on his ‘Below the Belt’ podcast (via Bloody Elbow) that he had family over, and the experience did not go smoothly to buy the PPV:
“Did anyone else have problems with ESPN+? So, I have all the family around. We got food and everything. Everyone ready? Here we go. Click. It goes, ‘This service does not work on this device.’ I’m like, ‘Ok, well, that’s not good.’ Try doing it again. Nothing. Try doing it from my phone. Nothing.
Schaub said it got so bad that he was going to take extreme measures and stream it in a different fashion:
“ESPN, UFC, I’m trying to give you $80. And then finally I went, ‘Yo, if I don’t figure this out in five minutes… I’m going to turn to the dark side and have to illegally stream this.’ I must’ve got 2,000 DMs with different links. When I clicked on that link, that thing was better quality than I had on my f—ng… Than ever!”
The knock on the shift to ESPN+ is that casual fans will not go to the lengths required to buy the PPV. In turn, that will limit the amount of exposure great up-and-coming fighters like Israel Adesanya, Dustin Poirier, and Max Holloway will get at an event like UFC 236:
“What’s best for the fighters, what’s best for ‘Stylebender’ and Kelvin Gastelum and Max Holloway and Dustin Poirier is getting as many eyeballs on this thing as possible,” he said. “Not limiting, making people pay behind two paywalls so you’re getting this very small number of diehards that are going to tune into this thing. That’s not the best thing for the fighters.”
Schaub ended with a somber prediction for the UFC’s future if the difficulty with buying the PPV keeps up:
“You’ve just lost so many casual fans. Cause you know what my dad did when I couldn’t figure it out? He went, ‘Who cares? Oh, it’s too much. I’m out.’”
He makes a fair point as many were more than annoyed with the experience last weekend. However, the UFC has signed an exclusive deal with ESPN+ that essentially guarantees a revenue level comparable to 500,000 buys. That’s a good bottom line to start with, so they may not care how many people get mad at the streaming service. Strange business model, but the truth.
The ratings for the event did go down compared to last month’s UFC 235 PPV. The UFC 236 preliminary card got 893,000 viewers and a 0.39 rating, down significantly down from the 1.48 million viewers and 0.63 rating of UFC 235.
Do you believe the UFC will have a legitimate issue on their hands because of ESPN+?