BUSINESS & MEDIA: Why YouTube restrictions are bad for all of MMA

By Robert Vallejos, MMATorch contributoro

The UFC is not advertiser friendly. That is not a statement from a television executive in the mid-1990s, but from the world’s largest video sharing platform, YouTube.

While the UFC is a company that primarily relies on revenue generated from domestic pay-per-view events, the promotion should avoid having such a dubious distinction if they want to be perceived as a sport worthy of legitimization.

For those unaware, YouTube has recently made major changes to its algorithm rendering a glut of its content to be classified as “restricted,” thus lowering the number of views videos are likely to receive, and limiting the amount of revenue that can be generated per video.

YouTube has taken such action due to outcry from advertisers concerning ads that have run on videos with objectionably unsavory content.

While this may seem noble on the surface, YouTube does not have a human element monitoring content. Instead, YouTube relies on a computer algorithm to filter content; this has resulted in rather benign content being available only in “restricted” mode.

As far as the UFC is concerned, not a single video on their official YouTube page is available in “restricted” mode.

Now, some may argue that this is a non-issue, UFC is not exactly family-friendly entertainment. Fights are a visually violent affair which occasionally feature colorful language. Furthermore, UFC content generally receives a TV-14 rating on their television programming. As true as these arguments may be, they do not account for the fact that the standard for filtered content is seemingly applied unequally.

For instance, Bellator MMA has a major reduction and video content in “restricted” mode, but still has some content available for viewing. Even more baffling is the fact that the official UFC on FOX YouTube page has some content available.

MMA not having a symbiotic relationship with YouTube is a small travesty.

The two mediums have fit together so well over the last decade. MMA is viral in nature and YouTube is the perfect platform to share such virality. (Think, Kimbo Slice in the mid-2000s)

Additionally, the UFC has an outstanding YouTube channel. Boasting 3.7 million subscribers, the UFC’s YouTube channel features so much content that this column has argued that the promotion should scale back some of their offerings in order to assist in UFC Fight Pass subscribership.

So why does any of this matter? Why should any other small time content creator on the internet shed a tear for massive corporation? Well, the answer is simple: If a company with the influence that UFC has is categorized alongside those espousing the ethos of white supremacy and religious extremism, what chance does an earnest upstart have?

Thankfully, content produced by the leading MMA-media websites has not been categorized as “restricted” viewing, but their inventory is greatly limited.

All this falls under the auspice of the fight for MMA to be legitimized.

While the UFC and media entities that cover them should not aspire to share the same interests, they are strange bedfellows in the quest for MMA to be considered on par with other mainstream sports properties.

For the UFC, they aspire to maximize profits and exposure. They have shown a proclivity to be friendlier with media organizations that have a vast reach. Being featured on mainstream outlets such as ESPN is part of the legitimization process. However, restricted content does not jive with the Disney brand. With a new television deal looming, the UFC needs to appear to be ingrained in the American sports mainstream. Consider the juggernaut that is the NFL as a template.

The NFL rivals the UFC in terms of violence, and can surpass the UFC in the category of bad headlines. However, the NFL has no restrictions on its YouTube content. Objectively, is the NFL so much more advertiser-friendly than the UFC?

At the same time, MMA-media outlets need this legitimization to validate their purpose.

To illustrate why, think of MMA’s cousin, professional wrestling. Pro wrestling has been able to avoid intense scrutiny at various periods of history due to its aura of illegitimacy. Outside of niche watchdogs like Pro Wrestling Torch or the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, the genre’s unsavory side has been able to be concealed from public consumption.

Issues of fighter pay, head trauma, performance-enhancing drugs, weigh cutting, and sanctioning are prone to remain in the shadows if those perpetrating such activities are considered outside of the respectable realm of sports

While YouTube restrictions do not reclassify MMA as “human cockfighting,” they are a barrier of entry and categorization that negatively separates them from the mainstream.

The UFC may not lose a great deal of direct income from YouTube “censorship,” but it can be in their best interest to shed such a label. Taking such action can be beneficial to the entire MMA ecosystem.

NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: MEDIA & BUSINESS: Takeaways from “The 2017 MMA Journalism Report” including how journalists feel about their field, salaries, objectiveness

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