They say you only get one chance to make a first impression. If that's the case, then the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) may have to ask for second chance.
There were a lot of questions about the UFC's newly launched digital network called "Fight Pass." Speaking honestly, a lot of those questions tended to be negative, with many believing the promotion would fail in its first live stream.
"Fight Pass" is the delivery system for the UFC's European and Asian events. It also will serve as a digital archive for the promotion's entire video archive that also includes fights from PRIDE, Affliction, Strikeforce, EliteXC, and World Extreme Cage Fighting (WEC). In the week since the launch, it's proven to be a very incomplete service.
More specifically, it feels rushed.
The advertised video library just isn't available at this time. Fights that have aired on Fox Sports 1 and Fox are blacked out in the United States, most likely due to television licenses. Entire cards are missing from the aforementioned promotions. Even major UFC events haven't been uploaded yet.
It's proven to be a service with its heart in the right place, but without anything else. A lot of the features fans have come to expect of digital services such as playlists and links to additional fights just aren't there. And the user interface really isn't that intuitive.
That's not to say it's a failure by any means.
There's just going to be a lot of growing pains moving forward. MMA Junkie's John Morgan said that what fans are receiving right now isn't actually "Fight Pass." It's a beta product that the UFC hopes will one day be a reliable delivery outlet for its pay-per-view (PPV) cards.
Saturday morning's (Jan. 4, 2014) UFC Fight Night 34: "Saffiedine vs. Lim" card served as a "soft opening" of sorts. It allowed the UFC to test its servers and service with a card that didn't really receive much media attention. The 6:30 a.m. ET start time definitely helped with relieving server stress as well.
From what I saw, today should be considered a flawed success. The video stream was solid throughout the event but it wasn't perfect. There were times when quality dropped despite my very high upload and download speeds. The UFC advertised that fans would be able to follow the action from the fighters' corners, two options that weren't available for the card.
There was also a bit of confusion as to where to find the actual stream. Groggily loading up "Fight Pass," I wasn't able to find the fights. I clicked on the front page but all it showed was a video preview package. I had to ask a friend, which apparently happened to a few people that I've spoken to this morning.
"Fight Pass" could prove to be a success in the future but at the moment, it feels like a rushed product. It will be interesting to see if the UFC makes enough improvements to make it another viable option for those who live in a "cable-free" world.
Today was a success. It just wasn't a perfect one.