Though he's now an international programmer whose conquests
include 80 million viewers for events on free TV in Brazil, Ultimate Fighting
Championship president Dana White says he's basically still a promoter
overseeing a pay-per-view operation.
"We are a pay-per-view business," White said at a
Multichannel News cosponsored breakfast event Monday at the CTAM Summit.
"That's what we are. We look at ourselves as a pay-per-view company."
UFC's seven-year, $700-million pact with Fox for broadcast
and basic-cable distribution -- including essentially reprogramming a small
network, Fuel TV, in the process -- "is a way to build stars" for the live and
PPV events, White told moderator and Multichannel
News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead.
That focus is understandable when you consider the
international markets where UFC is taking its male-focused, 18-to-34-enticing,
Consider that UFC is headed to China, for a Fuel contest in
Macau in November, to India, where 300 million people are in the target demo
with a growing economy, according to White.
There's no pay-per-view in Brazil, White said, but UFC
programming is on a $25-per-month premium channel now in 420,000 homes.
"When we put on fights down there, 80 million people watch
the fights on free TV down there," White said. "There are only 200 million
people in the country; that's how popular it is."
The exposure also drives event revenue -- and merchandise
sales, including some unusual ones. White said a manufacturer there did a
licensing deal to produce UFC underwear.
"How stupid is that?" he said. Well, 150,000 pairs sold the
first day, according to White. "That's how big Brazil is."
When White and his partners bought UFC in 2001, cable
operators wouldn't carry mixed martial arts events on pay-per-view because of
negative perceptions about its violent content. "Porn is on pay-per-view and we
were not allowed on pay-per-view; that was the uphill battle we had," White
said, drawing chuckles.
He recognized that the athleticism of the fighters would be
appealing to viewers, if marketed right.
Today, UFC programming is in 185 countries, in 22 languages
and 1 billion homes, White said.
He said UFC is "not even close" to having enough ethnically
diverse stars, especially to appeal to the dynamic Hispanic market. But UFC is
working on that. "Believe me; I am scouring South America right now looking for
the next guy."