DAZN and ESPN+ have begun an operating strategy that might fuel similar companies to follow their model. With the recent seven year contract between ESPN+ and the UFC, all of the mixed martial arts company’s pay-per-view events will be exclusively available via an ESPN+ membership subscription. Gone are the days of combing through obscure channels until finding the pay-per-view section as one will simply need to click onto an app. DAZN has already been charging members $9.99 for monthly subscription to view its Bellator and boxing events. Both DAZN and ESPN+ have developed partnerships with some of the premiere sports franchises and talents in the world, and it’s highly likely that their loyal fan bases will follow and subscribe. It makes sense for these mixed martial arts and combat sports companies to shift to partnerships with streaming service companies as consumers have become more selective about the content they consume. Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu are some of the streaming giants that have been able to rake in billions of dollars in revenue by providing on demand streaming. And, because of this wealth of options and commercial free viewing, cable subscriptions have fallen as millions of viewer have decided to cut the cable cord.
Another perk of providing pay-per-view through these streaming services is that viewers will be able to access the events they purchase on multiple streaming platforms including phone, television, pc, and tablet. As technology continues to advance it’s easy to foresee the amount of influence and resources that ESPN’s parent company Disney can leverage in the market. Currently, Disney is on track to develop its own streaming service that will provide all of its film and television content to subscribers. It has now added the world renowned UFC to its portfolio.
The average fight fan might not be prepared to commit to one specific membership for one pay-per-view event, however, if the event is big enough some viewers might subscribe, and ESPN+ might double their subscribers incrementally each month. This is all bolstered by the reality that DAZN has signed exclusive contracts with top boxing stars Gennady Golovkin, Canelo Alvarez, and Anthony Joshua, and maintains rights to Bellator’s martial arts events. ESPN+, on the other hand, has acquired the entire UFC roster, including arguably the most popular fighter in the world today, Conor McGregor.
Much remains to be seen in terms of service delivery and pay-per-view buys that will determine the partnerships’ success, however, the one thing that is certain is that membership is now key for pay-per-view access.