Who would have thought that one line in a BuzzFeed News article would have got the attention of so many UFC observers? That is exactly what happened when Twitter COO and CFO Anthony Noto commented on the possibility of featuring live UFC content on the social media platform.
While having the UFC available to such a wide audience seems like a no brainer, the mechanics of the situation are hazy.
As noted by MMATorch contributor Mike Hiscoe, a relationship between the UFC and Twitter could present challenges of scheduling, broadcasting, and attendance for non-traditional days of the week.
On one hand, these challenges could appear to be to massive for the UFC to endure. On the other hand, the optics of the Twitter theoretically replacing the NFL with the UFC is very enticing.
It seems unlikely that full length fight cards could work on Twitter, but the two entities could have a very lucrative relationship.
Here are some suggestions for the UFC/Twitter tag team without strictly diverting large quantities of Octagon action away from television or pay-per-view.
•Provide a second screen experience
For the UFC, a key component to any social media supplemental content is to not subvert pay-per-view revenue. However, Noto did mention that Twitter garners a large audience during UFC pay-per-views.
Perhaps Twitter could further enhance the pay-per-view experience. Aside from hashtag engagement, a live video feed could provide alternate commentary, alternate camera views of coaches or rival fighters, pop-up facts, real-time analysis, etc.
As a template for this concept ESPN has utilized their many platforms to provide a variety of different viewing experiences for the College Football Playoff. Content control is a hallmark of modern media consumption. Providing this type of content customizes the viewing experience, while keeping the attention on the actual event.
•Select a random pay-per-view fight for Twitter
The UFC has done a brilliant job of utilizing free content to entice viewers to make purchases. The UFC Prelims can provide an inexpensive glimpse into a UFC pay-per-view. What if that experience could be duplicated with an actual pay-per-view fight.
To be clear, it would be foolish for the UFC to put a headlining fight for free on Twitter, but what about putting on an early pay-per-view fight on Twitter?
Admittedly this would be a gamble, but it could pay off big if the fight delivers. While some who have already purchased the event may feel cheated, those same viewers will receive much more content. Perhaps this concept would be best executed by not advertising what fight would be featured on Twitter. Instead the casual Twitter user would find a “Free pay-per-view fight,” be enticed by the action, and proceeded to purchase the entire event.
(These next two suggestions would require some technical sophistication on the part of Twitter.)
•Have television or pay-per-view credentials validated on Twitter
Live streaming on Twitter is perfect for the mobile viewer. While UFC programming is very accessible to the UFC consumer, Twitter could provide a one stop destination for UFC content.
Instead of providing free content on Twitter, the cable subscriber could validate their subscribership via Twitter and obtain a live stream of applicable UFC events, with accompanying curated Tweets.
As it stands, many ESPN and FOX subscribers have access to live content via their respective apps. This would be a similar concept for all UFC content on Twitter. Both the UFC and Twitter would benefit without directly sacrificing paying customers.
•Create a Twitter paywall for UFC pay-per-views
This would be a longshot, but imagine a scenario where a UFC pay-per-view could be purchased on Twitter. Like the UFC’s agreement with YouTube, a Twitter user could pay full price for a pay-per-view and have it streamed on Twitter.
The difference here would be the direct interaction with the curated Tweets. If this scenario were to come to fruition, it would be a great opportunity for the UFC or WME-IMG to utilize their talent as social media influencers and interact with their paying audience.
A barrier to this scenario could be Twitter’s resistance to present premium content. Currently, Twitter is in a position previously occupied by cable television. They can profit off advertising without a tangible cost to the consumer. However, extra revenue behind a paywall could be a boon for the platform.
MMA survives rough week at ESPN
The above-mentioned emphasis on digital content has hurt cable networks to a painful degree. Recently, ESPN laid off around 100 staffers including many familiar faces. Fortunately for MMA fans, ESPN seems to have spared those who produce MMA content. Reporter and podcaster Brett Okamoto and MMA editor Greg Rosenstein appear to have survived the bloodbath.
This is a good sign for MMA coverage, but a harsh reminder of the current media landscape. For a look at how these layoffs could be a signifier of the future of MMA check out this interesting piece by Beau Dure of bloodyelbow.com.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S ARTICLE: BUSINESS & MEDIA: Why YouTube restrictions are bad for all of MMA