UFC Draws as Many Viewers to Facebook as Some Promotions Draw on TV

March 28, 2012

UFC Octagon Logo UFC president Dana White rarely reveals hard numbers on just about anything that isn’t public record, but he did so recently when talking about streaming undercard fights on Facebook.

“I think the most we’ve ever had watching on Facebook was something like 140,000 people. That’s a good number,” revealed White following Tuesday’s UFC 146 press conference in Las Vegas.

“If you look at some of the numbers that some of these other organizations have pulled whether it’s on HDNet, MTV2, or whatever it might be, to pull 140,000 is a good number.”

By comparison, the UFC drew over 200,000 viewers for UFC on Fuel TV 1, where the network’s reach is approximately 36 million homes, and consistently draws over a million, sometimes into several millions, for events on FX or Fox, and did the same when it was on Spike TV.

Bellator has been drawing between 100,000 and 200,000 viewers per episode during its current season on MTV2. Bellator 62 drew 175,000 viewers last week.

So drawing 140,000 viewers to a website to watch undercard fights streaming isn’t insignificant.

It does come at a cost, however. White didn’t put any numbers to dollar signs, but he did say that cost was a factor when they recently opted not to stream just a single fight on Facebook when there wasn’t space for it on television.

That has happened twice when the UFC has aired an event on FX and broadcast the majority of the undercard on Fuel TV. When one fight is left off of TV, the UFC has deemed it cost prohibitive to stream a single fight, instead opting to leave it as a dark match, meaning that it isn’t broadcast.

“It’s not cheap. You’d see everybody throwing fights on Facebook if it was cheap,” said White. “To beam it and do all the (stuff) we need to do. That was why we didn’t do it.”

Facebook is a marketing tool for the promotion. When the UFC streams fights on Facebook, it’s to give fans something that they couldn’t otherwise get, and they get it for free. Of course, the UFC is hoping that it converts to loyalty, and eventually to pay-per-view buys, but they’re streaming on Facebook without knowing exactly how much they’ll get in return.

“We don’t know (how many people from Facebook buy the pay-per-views). Maybe you get one or two percent of those people jumping and buying pay-per-view,” he said, indicating there just isn’t any way to accurately track the conversion rate. “We have people from all over the world watching Facebook, not just people in the United States who have access to cable, too.”

White seemed to be content with the success of Facebook and having drawn 140,000 viewers at a high point.

Streaming fights to Facebook is definitely something the UFC intends to continue doing, just so long as it’s more than a single fight at a time.

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