UFC maps road to global domination

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Alan Snel of the Las Vegas Review-Journal wrote a must-read piece for everyone interested in the business side of the fight business.

And the fight business is booming, as related by Zuffa Chief Executive Lorenzo Fertitta. UFC content is broadcast on 30 television networks, in 328 languages, in 145 nations, reaching 800,0000 households, for a total potential viewership of over 2,500,000,000 people – over one third of the world’s inhabitants.

Fertitta projects that the UFC’s annual international revenue will outstrip its domestic revenue by 2015, the culmination of a five-year plan.

UFC’s push for world athletic domination follows several high-profile global agreements consummated in the past three months:
•Partnering with Latin America broadcast powerhouse Televisa Networks to build and distribute a new UFC subscription channel in 20 Spanish-speaking countries, including Mexico, Colombia and Argentina. It’s a model already in place with TV Globo in Brazil, a hotbed for MMA and UFC. The first live UFC event in Mexico City will happen next year. In addition to the new subscription TV channel, there will be quarterly free broadcast events to expose the brand.
•Deepening investment in Asia to stage live events at The Venetian Macau and Marina Bay Sands, the luxury Singapore property of Sands China’s parent company, Las Vegas Sands Corp. UFC for the first time will co-produce a Chinese version of The Ultimate Fighter TV to reach more than 830 million viewers across China.
•Scoring a political victory in Canada with a House of Commons update of a 69-year-old law to spell out that MMA is officially legal north of the border. The UFC waited four years for that law to be updated.
•Staging a world tour with pit stops in Sweden, England and Brazil to hype the UFC brand.
•UFC soon will expand into a new frontier: sub-Saharan Africa, where UFC will make its fights and related content available through smartphone apps in 18 languages.
•In Asia, UFC will unveil its popular “The Ultimate Fighter” reality TV show in Hindi to reach India’s 1.2 billion people.
•Other global initiatives include live events in new international host event cities such as Berlin, Istanbul, Mexico City, and Warsaw in 2014.

This follows the UFC’s global business strategy of partnering in media production and promotion of its fight events, rather than selling its content to foreign media companies. This approach allows UFC to retain control over its content while directly receiving revenues from its fight events and ancillary revenue-makers such as sponsorships, and sales from DVDs, magazines, video games, and logo gear.

The company has dedicated 20 percent of its 500-worker force to offices around the world. After launching its international push in 2008, UFC followed a strategy of hiring international business talent from other sports:
•UFC hired Tom Wright in 2010 as director of Canadian operations. Wright was a Canadian Football League commissioner and former president of adidas Canada.
•That same year, UFC hired Mark Fischer to be Asia executive vice president and managing director. Fischer has extensive sports contacts in the region, where he had worked since 1997 and was most recently NBA Asia’s senior vice president and managing director.
•In 2012, Garry Cook became UFC’s executive vice president and managing director for operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Cook was chief executive of the Manchester City Football Club in England for three years. Before that, at Nike, he worked closely with NBA superstar Michael Jordan and led Nike’s Brand Jordan campaign.
•In Brazil, where MMA is the nation’s second-most-popular sport behind soccer, Grace Tourinho has been UFC’s exclusive authorized representative since 2012. Tourinho has vast event ticketing and financial experience in Brazil.

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