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ESPN+ signs up 525,000 new customers Saturday for its first UFC event

UFC Fight Night Cejudo v Dillashaw Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The Henry Cejudo vs. T.J. Dillashaw fight Saturday night was a huge success for ESPN, and particular the ESPN+ streaming service.

ESPN+ signed up 525,000 new subscribers on Saturday, easily the biggest day in the service’s history. For a comparison purpose, that was significantly better than WWE has done for any single day WrestleMania or that UFC Fight Pass ever did with a live event. They had also signed up 43,000 subscribers on Friday, most of which has been attributed to the show.

In addition, the four prelim fights that aired on ESPN, headlined by Donald Cerrone vs. Alexander Hernandez, averaged a 1.4 rating in the major metered markets. That number would be ahead of what most FOX shows did for main cards in recent years. It would be the highest for prelims for non-pay-per-view show dating back at least five years. It would likely be a higher viewing audience than any main card on cable in three years, since the Dillashaw vs. Dominick Cruz FS 1 show on January 17, 2016 averaged 2.28 million viewers.

The final ratings should be available on Tuesday.

ESPN claimed 1.8 million unique visitors for MMA related content across ESPN’s digital platforms, the most for any weekend for MMA content. That itself was to be expected since ESPN had not been the destination site for an MMA event previously.

”All day, and across all platforms, we collectively demonstrated the promise of what we can do to fulfill our mission of serving a wider array of sports fans,” said ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro.

The ratings were helped significantly by coming right after the Duke vs Virginia game, which delayed the start of the UFC broadcast until 8:15 p.m. But the sign-ups for ESPN+ were specifically UFC-event driven, likely for the battle of the bantamweight vs. flyweight champion, for the latter title, which Cejudo retained in a stunning 32-second stoppage, as well as the highly publicized and controversial debut of Greg Hardy, and the publicity surrounding the Rachael Ostovich vs. Paige VanZant fight.

Between the terms UFC, Hardy and Cerrone, there were more than 1.6 million Google searches for the event, which would have been the third-most of any event in 2018, trailing only UFC 229 and 232. With the exception of Manny Pacquiao vs. Adrien Broner, which had two million searches, it would have been the best for the weekend in the U.S., sports or otherwise.

”Our first UFC Fight Night on ESPN+ was a thrilling evening of action and a great success, with a record-setting night that continued the momentum for ESPN+, delivered strong ratings on ESPN and marks a great start to our new agreement with the UFC,” said Kevin Mayer, Chairman, Direct-To-Consumer and International for The Walt Disney Company. “It was a milestone evening, with the success driven by outstanding joint efforst from the teams at DTCI and ESPN.”

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