Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 34 was a landmark event in that it was the promotion’s first trip to Singapore. But perhaps even more important was that it was the first event to be broadcast completely over the company’s new UFC Fight Pass. How did it go? What’s the verdict on the online subscription service that fans will soon be forced to cough up $9.99 a month for?
I had no problems navigating the site, and found the library to be pleasantly extensive, so I tweeted this during the event:
I’ll admit it. This UFC Fight Pass thing ain’t half bad. Best thing about it is that it raises the bar for Internet broadcast platforms.
— jim genia (@jim_genia) January 4, 2014
Others agreed. And of course, some others did not. Here’s MMAJunkie’s immediate report card:
If I had to grade UFC Fight Pass right now, I would give it an incomplete. I didn’t watch the fights live either, so I decided to log into my account and find the replay. This is where I first ran into problems. For something that was the launch event for Fight Pass, it was sure difficult trying to find it. I ended up seeing the pre-event hype videos about five times before I found the actual fights. Once inside there were no stream issues, but there are some navigation problems. I was also disappointed that features like different camera angles and audio from each fighter’s corner were absent from the broadcast. Couple that with problematic search functions and a partial fight library, and it’s obvious that UFC Fight Pass is not a finished product.
CagePotato was a bit more scathing in their assessment:
It’s clear that the Fight Pass is a half-finished cash grab that’s held together by duct tape. If you buy it in its current, faulty incarnation, you’re either a mark for the UFC or an MMA media member (though there’s a lot of crossover here). Stay away from the fight pass for a while longer. It’s not ready for public consumption.
Then there’s Zach Arnold over at FightOpinion, as usual delving a little deeper than most:
The user experience for the guinea pigs who are signing up right now for UFC Fight Pass is so critical in determining what kind of first impression hardcore UFC fans will have forever about the Fight Pass site. When the Affordable Care Act in the United States was implemented by Health & Human Services, their target demographic for those signing up for health insurance was the 18-to-34 year old demographic. The Young Healthies. It was critical that the most tech savvy voting block for HHS sign up on HealthCare.Gov and get covered.
And we know what happened next. The launch of HealthCare.Gov was a total disaster. The first impression left in the minds of those who needed to be persuaded the most was a tainted impression. Bad security. Bugs in navigating the site. A lousy search engine. The people who needed to be convinced the most to buy the product were the ones turned off the fastest.
That same dynamic is in play here with UFC Fight Pass. Their core audience is the 18-to-34 year old demographic. It’s the tech savvy demographic of all demographics. It’s the Internet demographic that has tons of archived videos and streams they’ve watched over the years. Of all the demographics to alienate and piss off, this is not the one you want to frustrate when it comes to marketing an online video streaming product that is meant to obtain subscriptions.
Zach goes on to break down the “fine print” that users agree to when signing up, and how it favors the UFC (which, of course it does – it’s supposed to).
The general consensus, among respected MMA media at least, seems to be that UFC Fight Pass isn’t quite there yet. However, though I don’t necessarily disagree that some things could be ironed out, I can’t help but look at the new service through a different lens. I was an ardent fan of this sport when it first came to the United States, in a time when Royce Gracie was performing magic on the canvas and the rules were gleefully few. Back then, we had less than a handful of UFC installments a year, and maybe odds and ends events like Extreme Fighting and the World Combat Championship. AND THAT WAS IT. That was literally all the MMA we had, and it went on that way for years (and it got worse when the sport was banned). If you wanted to get your fill of caged combat, you had to travel to Chinatown in New York City and finagle a bootleg VHS tape of some indecipherable throwdown from Japan or ultra-low budget vale tudo shindig from Brazil.
Back then, it was an MMA famine; meanwhile, now, with UFC Fight Pass, it’s a feast.
For that reason alone I give UFC Fight Pass the thumbs up.