The UFC is planning to innovate its broadcast model with the introduction of a new in-fight statistics system that will deliver an array of real-time data to viewers.
Speaking at a session at Cannes Lions titled 'Survival of the Fittest,' the promotion’s new owner, WME boss Ari Emanuel, discussed how the UFC is aiming to build a data business in part by placing sensors on athletes’ gloves, shorts and throughout the arena.
Also on stage with Emanuel was UFC president Dana White, who said: “We’re working on a lot of stats. We want to see the best knock out — its perfect for social media.”
The pair talked about how sensors could be used to detect the speed of a fighter’s punch, its impact and the number thrown, both during competition and training camps.
“We’re going to start creating videos from it that will be shareable with emojis,” Emanuel added. “We’re about six months away from that.”
The developments will build on other innovations around its broadcast model such as a recent partnership with Samsung Gear VR to show live events in 360-degree VR. The company also agreed a multi-year deal with Snapchat to make use of the social media giant’s ‘Our Stories’ function around fight weekends.
During the session White was also touched on a topic which is likely to become increasingly more talked about during the remainder of the year when he commented that the UFC was aiming to “cut the best TV deals”.
The company is keen to flaunt its broadcasting flair given its current deal with Fox Sports will run to its conclusion in 2018. Not long after WME-IMG's $4bn takeover of the UFC in July 2016, TV network executives learned that the new owners were looking to make a fourfold increase in the company’s media rights revenue off the back of the promotion’s accelerating global popularity.
With many leagues, including the NBA and NFL, already locked up in long-term deals, the UFC’s next broadcast agreement is expected to be one of the largest in sport over the next couple of years.
WME-IMG plan to take to market the rights to four annual broadcast windows that Fox now holds, six annual cable events and weekly programming, plus the UFC’s over-the-top Fight Pass service. The new rights deal is not expected to include the company’s pay-per-view business, which will likely be retained by WME-IMG.