With Disney Plus launching today, UFC will have their biggest chance since the Spike era of getting new eyes on the sport.
ESPN became the official UFC streaming partner back in March of this year. That’s when UFC PPV’s moved to the ESPN Plus platform exclusively. The main goal of the partnership was that both would benefit from each other’s branding. Disney needed a reason for people to shell out a few dollars a month for another streaming service, and the UFC hoped to gain legitimacy by being tied to “The King of Sports.” As of August 2019, ESPN Plus has over 2.4 million subscribers; up from 2 million back in February.
In April, Disney made the modest prediction of 12 million ESPN subscribers by 2024. This was before anyone knew how the Disney Plus streaming service would directly impact the growth potential of ESPN Plus. After Disney gained control of Hulu back in May, they announced the Disney Plus pricing plans beyond the $7 base. For $12.99 a month, you can bundle the Hulu, Disney, and ESPN streaming services. Basically for the price of Disney and ESPN Plus, you get Hulu for free.
Now this all means that through no effort on their part, the UFC has gained access to millions of new customers. The hard part will be if the UFC can actually evolve their marketing strategy. There is little doubt Disney will help because they want to as much of a return as possible. But the UFC has a habit of being behind the times.
Streaming services have some of the best algorithms in the world. They’re able to accurately determine things like age, gender, and in some cases sexual preferences, just based on what you watch. If you don’t believe it, go to Netflix and check out the display image for the same film of everyone on your account. See a difference?
This is information is used to make recommendations, and this could be the UFC’s in. At the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it makes sense to suggest some fights featuring GSP or Tim Kennedy. GSP has a role in the film and Tim Kennedy is a vet. Very simple moves like this can hook people in. Suggestive marketing will be easier on the Hulu platform since that’s where all of Disney’s R rated properties will go. But same principal applies.
Whether the platform incorporates UFC content like this remains to be seen. However the UFC stands to gain even more exposure thanks to the launch of the service, via bundled pricing. All without having had to lift a finger.