The UFC on Fox: It’s All About the Benjamins, Baby

If you’re curious about the “why” (as in, “Why would they do it?”) and “how” (as in, “How will they benefit?”) of Fox’s side of the new UFC/Fox marriage, then look no further than this article – “Advertisers Will Pour In For Fox UFC Package” – posted today on Adweek.  Adweek caters to both advertising industry types and members of the general public interested in tracking trends in consumer-dollar flow.  A short summary of the piece can be summed up by these sagely words from the great philosopher Sean Combs: “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby.” 

And now the long version, which begins with this bit from the Adweek article:

Given the bloodshed and controlled violence that are hallmarks of mixed martial arts events, advertisers understandably have been skittish about aligning themselves with the Ultimate Fighting Championship.  But in the run-up to the UFC’s national broadcast TV debut, media buyers say demand for Fox’s new sports property should be fast and furious.

The UFC’s main revenue stream has traditionally been pay-per-view sales, with additional monies coming in from merchandise sales, the gate (i.e., ticket sales) at live events, sponsorships (like Burger King, Harley Davidson, etc.), and even the nice licensing fee networks like SpikeTV and Fox pay to air UFC programming.  But for those on the other end of the equation, who are providing the platform by which the UFC reaches the masses, the revenue comes from selling air time for commercials aimed at whatever demographic the programming is supposed to attract.  In the UFC’s case, that demographic is the coveted 18-to-34-year-old male, a consumer with disposal income and the desire to spend it.  As you probably have guessed, the sport of MMA – of which the UFC is king – attracts denizens of that demographic like flies to TapouT-clothed, big-chested women made of honey.   

But what about the inherent violence of the sport?  Won’t a product that consists of two men beating the dickens out of each other turn off potential ad buyers? 

“Most buyers said that while mainstream sponsors may be unnerved by the UFC’s brand of bone-snapping pugilism, the lure of that hard-to-reach 18-to-34-year-old male audience should be enough to dispel any final misgivings.  “It’s not going to work for everyone,” said one entertainment buyer.  “Some clients are more skittish than others.  But we have good relationships with the Fox Sports guys, and we trust that they won’t burn us if we decide to test the waters.”

Also appealing to ad buyers is the idea that the sport will continue to grow, and take Fox’s FX network, which will air the vast majority of UFC programming, with it.  It’s a symbiotic relationship that both sides have faith in – especially FX president John Landgraf.

Landgraf sees the sport growing alongside FX, and while men will always represent the bulk of the MMA audience, he expects greater numbers of women will begin tuning in as well.  “We’ve had a number of original series that began as very male-centric, shows like Rescue Me and The Shield and [It’s Always] Sunny [in Philadelphia],” Landgraf said.  “As more young men started watching these shows, they began recruiting their girlfriends and wives.  Fox will bring an enormous amount of promotional muscle to bear… and as the audience for this sport grows, I’d like to see MMA occupy a greater place in the culture as a whole.”

There you have it.  We all know what the UFC is getting out of the deal (exponentially greater exposure, mainstream acceptance, a hefty licensing fee that will eventually enable Lorenzo Fertitta to buy the nation of Madagascar) and now we know what Fox is getting out of it and why they’d be inclined to get in bed with the UFC.  There’s a ton of revenue to be made by the ad sales UFC programming will undoubtedly generate, and at the end of the day, it’s all about the Benjamins, baby.

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