Like with all ‘unwelcome’ press releases, BT Sport quietly announced on June 8th that starting with UFC 239, fans will need to fork out an additional pay-per-view (PPV) fee to view some of the MMA organisation’s most significant events.
BT Sport, like Sky Sports, is already a subscription service with viewers often paying up-to or over double their normal premium if they want to avail of the live sports on offer. Now, BT Sport’s announcement means watching some live events is to become even more expensive.
They’re not the first to do this, of course. Sky Sports has been charging PPV fees for years now, mainly for boxing matches, while BT has also offered a ‘box office’ service to fans for sought after boxing encounters it has held the exclusive broadcasting rights for in the last 12 months.
BT Sport has been the home of UFC coverage in the UK since 2016 with many fight fans only paying the subscription to avail of the MMA sport’s broadcasting on this side of the Atlantic.
Now, however, BT Sport is telling UFC fans that the monthly subscription they pay simply is not enough to take in all it has to offer.
BT Sport states on its site that ‘Each year we will make a small number of the biggest UFC numbered events Pay Per View. BT Sport will continue to broadcast the majority of live UFC events, as well as over 100 hours of non-live programming including our new UFC show ‘Open Mat’, as part of a BT Sport subscription.’
Exactly how successful such a move will be is unclear. How many UK UFC fans will want to pay a monthly BT Sport subscription, then get up at, or stay up until five or six on a Sunday morning to hand over a PPV charge for what is the main event?
Many will be unhappy, that’s for certain. However, that won’t matter in the slightest if the money rolls in for BT Sport.
Commercial organisations can recite the same niceties about how they listen to their customer base, how they aim to please, and how providing a fair and affordable service to sports fans is important to them. Ultimately, money talks and the lack of it is the only factor likely to make the likes of BT Sport or Sky Sports actually listen.
UFC 239 is taking place in the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas this Saturday, July 6th, meaning it will be the early hours of Sunday morning for UK fans.
The event ‘is headlined by a light heavyweight title bout between Jon Jones and Thiago Santos and supported by the women’s bantamweight title clash between Amanda Nunes and Holly Holm… Welterweight Jorge Masvidal also returns to the Octagon in a grudge match against Ben Askren after his knockout victory over Darren Till at UFC London.’
BT Sport is placing its trust in the pulling power of the Jones/Santos battle as well as Nunes v Holm. It will be interesting to see how this move is by British Telecom Group pays off.
One could understand if BT Sport tried the UFC PPV model out on a night when someone like Conor McGregor was in action but, instead, they’ve called on the love of hardcore UFC fans to carry this over the line.
The online reaction to BT Sport’s June 8th announcement has been hugely negative, as you’d expect. Many fans threatened to cancel their BT Sport packages altogether with other vowing to go down the illegal route of streaming UFC 239 via an IPTV provider.
BT Sport may have lost some subscriptions since the press release but it’s doubtful if enough UFC fans followed through on their threats to have any real impact. The big reveal will come after this weekend.
If BT Sport deems the move to PPV for UFC 239 was a success, it will happen again, and sooner than we would like to think. If people go down the route of illegal streaming or just doing without the event completely, then BT will be made to rethink its decision.
Over to you, UFC fans.