By the Numbers: The PPV sales are an abject failure for 2011

The Ultimate Fighting Championship(UFC) has traditionally been a Pay-Per-View (PPV) Company.

Since its inception in 1993, and subsequent purchase by Zuffa, LLC, the UFC has made its money in three main ways; PPV sales, ticket revenue and merchandising. Since 2005, the first season of The Ultimater Fighter (TUF), the UFC has increased revenues in every one of the aforementioned revenue streams. Even during the greatest financial collapse since The Great Depression, the UFC continued to set records for attendance in almost every venue they appeared, sold more PPV's than the previous year and sold more bad t-shirts than even Tom Attencio could envision.

But all of that has changed in 2011.

PPV numbers are down, WAY DOWN. Down by 44%, which in a "typical" sales job gets you a ticket to the curb.

There is a distinct possibility that the UFC will not have one PPV break the million-buy mark for the first time in almost 5 years. Only Brock's return from a second surgery for diverticulitis has a chance to even come close to the threshold.

The UFC spent alot of money to acquire a controlling interest in Strikeforce. The rumors range from $40 million to $75 million. That's a lot of money to spend for a company in which you have cherry picked 2 of the champions (Nick Diaz and Alistair Overeem), and two of the bigger personalities (Jason Miller and Cung Le) into your organization, leaving Strikeforce with only Gilbert Melendezas a semi-household name on its roster. Even if quality fighters remain under the Strikeforce banner, all devout fans know it is only a matter of time.

But all is not bleak in the land of Dana White's Ferraris. The UFC signed a landmark deal with FOX. The deal reportedly pays the UFC $60million annually for the next 7 years, with additional options to extend. FOX will show 4 cards, all of which should contain PPV worthy main events. Fx will show an additional 6 cards, with the remainder of the 36 live shows being on Fuel TV under the revamping of TUF. Why does this matter?

The UFC is no longer a PPV company and the numbers that follow show that trend. The UFC made a monumental business shift in 2011. From a PPV company that sometimes played in the back room of Gin Joints in 1993, to a Sports-Entertainment brand that will be in every home in America for the next 7 years.

Shows with only 300,00 buys don't seem like such a big deal anymore.

Don't even bother to jump if you don't like breaking down numbers. The rest is for the nerds. You know who you are.

The numbers start at 2008, and continue to the present day. UFC Brazill was a PPV failure and GSP got hurt contributing to lower than expected PPV sales again. Only the 12/30 card has a realistic chance of continuing the 5 straight years of the UFC having at least one PPV break 1,000,000 buys.

Year/ # of shows/ PPV Buys/ Gate Attendance/ Ticket Price/ TV Viewers

2008 12 527,083 $3,081,395 14,289 $206 none*
2009 13 616,923 $2,789,400 14,563 $189 1,366,667**
2010 15 614,333 $2,868,696 15,342 $198 1,363,636***
2011 13***** 392,308 $3,363,078 17,104 $202 1,264,846****

* No prelims were broadcast

** Only 3 prelims were broadcast

*** Only 11 of 15 PPV events had a broadcast

**** 2 of the 8 broadcasts were on ION television and the UFC started streaming fights on Facebook

***** The last time we discussed this, here, we had 8 PPVS, that averaged 60,000 more buys, $500,000 more in gate revenue on average and 1,700 more paying customers per event.

Notable Points of Interest:

  • Removing the 2011 Toronto card reduces the 2011 numbers to 358,333 buys; $2,619,955 gate; 12,655 attendance; and $183 per ticket.
  • Removing ION from the equation shows 2011 viewers on Spike to be 1,354,545.
  • 7 UFC cards have broken 1,000,000 buys. UFC's 66, 91, 92, 100, 114, 116, and 121. Brock Lesnar headlined 4 of them.
  • The UFC has not had 1,000,000 buys for a PPV since Brock Lesnar has been sidelined with surgery on diverticulitis.
  • The UFC 126 prelims were the highest rated and had the greatest number of average viewers at 2,000,000. The fights were of Paul Kelly vs. Donald Cerrone and Chad Mendes vs. Michihiro Omigawa, all of which had been on "free" cable television in the past. Cerrone, Kelly and Mendes multiple times.
  • The UFC 118 prelims were the lowest rated and had the lowest viewership pitting Nik Lentz vs Andre Winner and Joe Lauzonvs. Gabe Reudiger. At least until the UFC formed a partnership with FOX and Spike abandoned any type of advertising for the UFC prelims. The UFC 137pre-lims matched this atrocious number and the UFC 136 prelims did worse with only 1,000,000 viewers watching Anthony Pettis vs. Jeremy Stephens and Demian Maia vs. Jorge Santiago.

Those are the numbers. Now it is up to you to form an opinion on those numbers. Sound off Maniacs.

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