When the UFC initially started UFC Fight Pass, it received a lot of criticism. It also received a lot of comparison to the WWE Network. While one is pro wrestling and one is MMA, both cater to a similar viewing audience. In addition, both have a similar model with monthly pay-per-view events. However, WWE’s streaming video on demand service provided one major difference from UFC Fight Pass, and WWE Network would provide its monthly PPV events to anyone who subscribed to the service.
WWE Network, including the PPV events, was a major selling point of the network, especially because it would include WrestleMania 30. WrestleMania events typically cost more than the average WWE PPV. So, it was huge news to get a video library that includes WWE, WCW, ECW and many more, along with the ability to watch new PPVs live on the Network. Fans critiqued UFC Fight Pass for being the same price as WWE Network, yet not including PPVs.
However, WWE Network offering its PPVs this way essentially cannibalized its PPV business as well. DirecTV and DISH Network both dropped WWE PPVs from their PPV services as a result of the WWE Network including the events. While PPV event business is in major decline all across the board, it is still a major part of UFC’s revenue stream.
It was a wise move for the UFC to opt out of including PPV events on the network. This way, the UFC does not offend or upset UFC PPV providers and risk sacrificing buys from UFC events. For the WWE Network, the WWE had hoped to get to about 1 million subscribers by the end of the year. Around the time of WrestleMania, the Network had about 667,000 subscribers. Unfortunately, while that is an impressive number, it tapered off in recent months. At WWE’s second quarter conference call, the wrestling company announced that the WWE Network only had as many as 700,000 subscribers by June 30. So despite cannibalizing its PPV business, the WWE Network is not performing to expectations.
By comparison, UFC’s breakeven point for UFC Fight Pass was much lower than that of the WWE Network. I would say a big reason for this is that the UFC PPV events are not included as part of the Fight Pass package. The UFC’s breaking point for Fight Pass was about 100,000 subscribers. According to UFC President Dana White, this figure has already been reached. So by all accounts, UFC Fight Pass is a great success for the UFC. Apparently, UFC Fight Night 46 was the biggest ever Fight Pass-only card for the UFC. This evidence alone proves that keeping the PPV events off Fight Pass was a sound move.