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McGregor vs. Cerrone becomes first streaming pay-per-view to hit one million buys

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The Jan. 18 fight between Conor McGregor and Donald Cerrone became the first event in history to hit approximately one million streaming buys, according to Robert Iger, the Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company.

Iger brought up the number on Tuesday at the company’s quarterly conference call. The subject came up when talking about the growth of subscribers, to ESPN+, which he said hit 7.6 million as of Monday, up from 6.6 million on Dec. 31.

The growth was because of two key factors: The new $12.99 bundle where you can get ESPN+, Hulu and Disney+, and the 500,000 new subscribers to ESPN+ that the McGregor fight brought in. Roughly 500,000 of those who ordered the fight were already ESPN+ subscribers. The new bundle were a key factor with the launch of Disney+, to ESPN+ going from 3.5 million subscribers in November to 6.6 million on Dec. 31.

When ESPN’s deal with UFC commenced at the start of the 2019, ESPN+ had 1.4 million subscribers. It gained 568,000 more on the first UFC broadcast on ESPN+, a flyweight title fight where Henry Cejudo beat T.J. Dillashaw.

This would be the largest revenue take ever for a streaming pay-per-view. The old streaming record for buys was 814,000 for the first Logan Paul vs. KSI celebrity boxing match, but that was also at a price point of $8 to $10, depending on when it was ordered. UFC’s biggest events this year, which would have done significantly more revenue with a $59.99 pay-per- view and $4.99 ESPN+ subscription needed, were fights with Jon Jones vs. Thiago Santos and Nate Diaz vs. Jorge Masvidal.

The price for McGregor vs. Cerrone was raised to $64.99, which came on top of the $4.99 per month to be an ESPN+ subscriber, meaning just under $70 total to buy the event.

Based on those numbers, McGregor vs. Cerrone generated $70 million just in streaming revenue, as well as an $11 million live gate at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. That wouldn’t include revenue from television and streaming pay-per-view outside the U.S., which could hit $20 million.

In addition, the first Paul vs. KSI fight was a worldwide number, while the ESPN+ number for McGregor vs. Cerrone was only for the U.S. market. UFC sold McGregor vs. Cerrone as a regular television pay-per-view event outside the U.S. in places like Canada and Australia, and for the first time, the promotion also opened up the U.K. and Ireland.

Generally, a UFC event would have done about 80 to 85 percent of its buys within the U.S., but television and streaming would be expected to generate close to double the numbers of streaming alone. And because of opening up the U.K. and Ireland, the U.S. percentage would also figure to be lower than usual.

Based on usual metrics such as Google searches, one would have projected McGregor vs. Cerrone to be the second-largest pay-per-view in company history, trailing only UFC 229, the October 6, 2018 show headlined by McGregor vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov for the lightweight title. That event did 2.4 million worldwide, about 1.9 million on television and 500,000 streaming.

On the conference call, Iger noted that Disney+ as of Monday had 28.6 million subscribers and Hulu had 30.7 million subscribers.