The latest in the problem facing UFC 186 on Saturday night is that Dish Network will not be carrying the broadcast. Dish Network is one of the three major television pay-per-view platforms in the U.S., along with inDemand, which services the most homes as the pay-per-view channel for the major cable companies, and DirecTV.
Dish Network has about 14 million U.S. subscribers, which would be about 15 percent of the country's total homes with pay-per-view capability. UFC released a statement on Wednesday night blaming contractual issues for the problem, and encouraged its fans who are affected by this to order the show either as an Internet pay-per-view through the UFC.tv web site, their local cable company or to go to a licensed live showing at different venues such as sports bars.
These type of contractual impasses are rare. Both sides usually split the total revenue somewhere between a 40/60 and 50/50 level. If UFC 186 was to do 100,000 buys and 15 percent came from Dish at a $60 average, that's approximately $900,000 in revenue to be split up. UFC would not lose its share completely, because most fans who will want to see the show will find a way, and thus UFC is not likely to be hurt that badly. But Dish will lose their entire split.
For that reason, impasses that lead to a show from a major pay-per-view promotion being pulled are rare. But they have happened in the past with other promotions. Generally they are contract issues regarding how much of a cut each side gets from the total revenue. Neither side has stated what the issue in this case is..
"Unfortunately, DISH and UFC have been unable to come to an agreement to deliver UFC 186 to DISH customers via pay-per-view," said a statement by the Dish Network. "DISH and UFC continue to discuss carrying future events."
The issue with Dish Network is just the latest in bad karma for Saturday's show. The date itself is difficult, one week before the Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao fight that is expected to be both the biggest and most expensive pay-per-view event ever in the U.S. While MMA and boxing have largely different audiences, Mayweather vs. Pacquiao is the biggest fight of the era and draws from every audience base. Even serious UFC fans on any kind of a budget, if forced to choose, will choose a major night in sports history over even a normal UFC show.
This is UFC's weakest pay-per-view offering thus far in 2015 from a star power standpoint. In addition, when it comes to cable promotion, a larger percentage of the advertising budget and commercials provided would be for the boxing match, so UFC won't get anywhere near its usual amount of promotional inventory.
Saturday's show was already hurt when the main event fell through when the original main event fell out, when bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw suffered a rib injury and his defense against Renan Barao was moved back to July 25 in Chicago.
The show did get a boost on Tuesday with the appellate court ruling in New Jersey that allowed Rampage Jackson to fight on the show. From a name value standpoint, Jackson was by far the biggest name fighter on the Montreal show, which is headlined by Demetrious Johnson vs. Kyoji Horiguchi for the flyweight title. With the lineup, the show would be expected to struggle on pay-per-view, doing whatever UFC's current baseline level is, even without it coming a week before the boxing match and the latest issue.
"While all other providers in the U.S. have come to an agreement on renewal terms, DISH Network has elected not to renew its distribution agreement with UFC," said a UFC statement on the matter. "We have enjoyed a strong and productive relationship with DISH over the years, and while we're disappointed with their decision, we are confident that our fans will be able to enjoy this weekend's card through several other viewing options."
The loss of DISH, which theoretically should cut 15 percent of the total U.S. buys from the show, will likely not hurt to anywhere near that level. Some fans double up with Dish and cable, and can order that way. Others will order via the Internet or order it via cable or DirecTV at a friend's house.
The most recent example of Dish not carrying a show that the other major carriers did was World Wrestling Entertainment's 2014 Elimination Chamber show. That show, without Dish carrying it, did 159,000 buys in North America, a number that actually exceeded all but one WWE "B" level show over the previous two years. It's impossible to ascertain how much, if any, that the loss of Dish meant, but that number would have been considered a significant success even if Dish had carried it. The only "B" show in the previous few years that beat the number was headlined by the only "B" show match of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in more than a decade, where he faced C.M. Punk, on the 2013 version of the same show, that did 181,000 buys.
For a comparison, the 2012 version of the same show, which didn't include Johnson, but had DISH clearance, did 138,000 North American buys.