UFC set to launch Internet subscription service in 2014

USA TODAY Sports

The UFC is expected to announce shortly an Internet subscription channel that will be the exclusive home of a dozen live events, international seasons of The Ultimate Fighter as well as some preliminary matches from almost every show.

The UFC is soon expected to officially announce a new subscription Internet service that would be geared for the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand markets.

The key selling point of the service would be airing complete live shows, preliminary fights from major shows, as well as international seasons of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), all of which won't be available on broadcast television in these markets.

The name of the network and price point have not yet been established. The announcement of both should be imminent, given that the first major show will be the Jan. 4 event from Singapore, headlined by Tarec Saffiedine vs. Hyun Gyu Lim. The next two events that will air on the network are the March 1 show scheduled for Macau, which does not have a main event announced, and a show on March 8 from the O2 Arena in London, England, headlined by Alexander Gustafsson vs. Jimi Manuwa.

In 2014, between FOX, Fox Sport 1 and Fox Sports 2, UFC is scheduled to air 20 televised live events in the U.S. market. There are also 13 pay-per-view events scheduled. However, the company is looking at expanding its schedule with more of what would be considered regional shows in Brazil, Europe and Asia, with a schedule of 45 to 50 events next year and more the year after. This means a dozen or more events won't be on either television or pay-per-view in the aforementioned markets, which are UFC's four key pay-per-view countries.

The regional shows are geared for airing in their own markets for prime time television. The idea is to showcase fighters from those areas and create local stars, the best of which would graduate to the pay-per-view events. There will be established stars, like Gustafsson, in headline positions, as well as some North American-based fighters filling out the shows.

It's the beginning of a goal of almost separate regional promotions which will require UFC to greatly expand its roster, and have more televised events in prime time in different parts of the world.

The shows will air at unusual times for North American viewers. The Singapore show, for example, begins at 6:30 a.m. Eastern time and 3:30 a.m. Pacific time. European shows in prime time in those markets would air in the afternoon in the U.S. and Canada. Rio de Janeiro is three hours ahead of Eastern time, so prime time would be a late afternoon start on the East Coast and an afternoon start on the West Coast.

The network would give subscribers a chance to see all of these events live, or at their convenience with a video-on-demand component which would allow them to watch the show in its entirety, or pick specific fights from the show.
At this point it is planned for the network to also be the exclusive home for preliminary matches from virtually every UFC show, taking the place of what were formerly the Facebook fights.

There are different reasons it's going to only be available in those specific markets.

In Mexico and much of Latin America, UFC already has a 24 hour subscription station in place that will be airing all of the same content. Brazil has its own combat sports channel that UFC is a big part of. For Europe, the whole idea is to give channels in various countries regular prime time live programming, since the big events in North America air in the middle of the night.

The service was described as UFC's answer to Netflix or Amazon Prime, and would also include other exclusive programming, which will evolve over time. There are expected to be exclusive fight week features on location in the days preceding the shows.

There will also be a video-on-demand component that will allow subscribers to watch thousands of hours of archival programming from the UFC, as well as other videotape libraries the company owns, including Strikeforce, WEC, Pride and WFA.

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