The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is upping its social media game, making some preliminary bouts available for streaming to fans that have “liked” the mixed martial arts (MMA) league on its Facebook fan page. While the strategy should help appeal to the teeming masses of fans who use the social network, it’s unlikely to replace the UFC’s huge pay-per-view business.
This Saturday, January 22 at 5:00 p.m. PDT/8:00 p.m. EDT, the UFC will make a live stream of preliminary matches between Cody McKenzie and Yves Edwards, as well DaMarques Johnson and Mike “The Joker” Guymon, available for free to fans that go to its fan page at Facebook.com/UFC. That decision will open up access to the bouts for fans that were previously unable to watch preliminary matches live.
The UFC in the past has been notorious for its treatment of pirated live streams of its content, but it might find that it can attract more flies with honey than with vinegar. Last year subpoenaing the IP addresses of Ustream and Justin.tv users that had fed video of its pay-per-view events onto those free services. But making the preliminary matches available free is one way to build goodwill with fans and get them engaged with the brand — if you can’t beat the pirates making your streams available for free online, you might as well join them.
Not just that, but the UFC is wildly popular on Facebook, with more than 4.5 million fans already. You can expect that number to grow substantially over the next few days, as word spreads that fans will get a chance to watch the matches for free by just choosing to “Like” the MMA league. As social media agency Digital Royalty notes in its post on working with the UFC, “[o]ffering VIP perks in return for a simple act of loyalty (a ‘like’) demonstrates that the UFC is committed to offering value to fans when, where and how they want to receive it.”
All that said, the matches in questions are mostly just a warmup to its “Fight for the Troops 2” event, which will be broadcast live by Spike later that evening. That event will also be available for streaming live online at UFC.com.
While UFC is making the preliminary matches available for free, it’s unlikely to extend the model to larger events like its “Fight For the Troops” feed. Pay-per-view events are a huge event for the UFC and for parent company Zuffa LLC, which prices its matches at about $50 each.
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