By Dave Walsh
Piracy is something that has been around in the entertainment industry since the average user has had the ability to copy something. It became a big concern of the television industry when the VCR became a staple in the home entertainment world in the 80’s. Not only did VCRs play commercial VHS tapes that you purchased, but gave you the ability to record almost anything that is plugged into that VCR.
If you were like me, you grew up with your parents recording almost everything off of those HBO free weekends that happened, or your dad was involved in an intricate setup with his work buddies where they’d switch off who got HBO for a month, record all of the first-run movies on it, and then lend the tapes out to friends for them to copy. So yeah, I had a large collection of movies on VHS, most of which were probably considered “pirated” by today’s definition.
The UFC feels like it is unique when it comes to piracy and that their PPV-driven business model suffers from piracy. People are not purchasing their PPVs as much anymore, instead turning to the internet to pirate them. They aren’t taking into account that most of these shows that are being pirated are probably not as stacked with names as cards were a few y ears ago and that having sometimes two PPVs a month bleeds their core audience, who can’t miss a show no matter what, but can’t afford those shows, dry.
The UFC is spending more than everyone outside of the NFL when it comes to sports lobbying for stricter piracy laws. Of course it makes sense since most major sports have major television and sponsorship deals which make them function, while the UFC still relies heavily on PPV sales as their main source of income. Most of this money feels as if it would be better spent in other places, though, especially when lower card fighters are upset about pay. The UFC’s deal with Fox isn’t enough to make the UFC mainstream, to help them to move away from the PPV market that they are sucking dry.
Through the UFC’s battle against piracy, they are basically battling their most hardcore fans who quite simply cannot afford to catch all of their shows. The UFC will run 13 PPVs before 2013 is over, which will set most fans back just under $800. Compare to the NFL, where if you are hardcore you’ll spend the $45 a month for the NFL Sunday Ticket (rounds out to $225 a season), in comparison the UFC is asking a lot.
Piracy always seems to be a topic that comes up in the entertainment world, but seems misdirected. If you ever find yourself on a quality, private music torrent site, you’ll notice that these people aren’t sharing Lady Gaga singles en masse, but instead sharing full albums in flawless quality of more obscure, or older music. They aren’t happy with the lower quality MP3s available on iTunes or the selection. Most casual listeners don’t mind dropping $.99 on a Lady Gaga single, but these are generally not the people who are pirating music. Music fans want more quality — both in the music itself and the format that they are using.
The UFC has done a lot to disenfranchise older fans of the UFC and the rising costs of being a fan along with the lower quality of cards due to filling television obligations makes UFC PPVs less and less of a “value” to many. Much like the music industry’s piracy problem coming from the music industry’s ignorance to changes in technology and pushing more mass-marketed garbage, the UFC is falling in line with that and doesn’t seem to understand what their fan base needs or wants while Dana White will just tell people who aren’t happy with it to “fuck off.”
I mean, Justin Bieber won’t even buy a PPV replay, what is a better example at how PPV is awful for long-term business than that?