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Memo to the UFC/Dana White: Try Solving Piracy Instead of Just Fighting It

I know, I know. It’s silly to ask a fight promoter not to fight.

Let’s be clear here up front: I understand why Dana White and Zuffa would support legal action like SOPA & PIPA, and were I in their place I’d be concerned about piracy too. They have a company whose foundation is built upon their customers paying to see events live, so anything that undermines that business is clearly going to have an impact on profits.

That being said, SOPA is not the way to stop piracy. In fact I’d be very surprised if our government was able to introduce any kind of legislation that effectively stamps out piracy in all its forms. Fighting a war on piracy is similar to fighting wars on drugs and terrorism; they may be noble causes but ultimately they will prove to be futile. Religious and social divides will always cause cultures to hate each other, some people will always look for a way to alter their consciousness, and there will always be people on the internet with more free time than money.

Another thing that won’t help fight piracy is angering the hacker community. After taunting hackers on Thursday,the UFC President  had his site hacked again in addition to having his personal information compromised. I have no desire to know what Dana’s social security number is, but the fact that it’s now available for viewing on the internet should be a clear sign that mistakes have been made. Maybe Dana can shrug off this invasion of privacy and claim it’s no big deal. After all, he can change his phone numbers, hire private security for his home, and pursue legal action against anyone taking advantage of his personal information. His customers, however, may not be so lucky.

On Friday another member of the hacker group Anonymous (the very group White provoked on Twitter on Thursday) announced that he had hacked both UFC.com as well as the company’s live streaming site UFC.tv. This hacker also claims to have retrieved data from customer’s who have used UFC.tv to purchase PPVs. Anonymous made headlines this past Christmas when they used stolen credit card data to make donations to charity, and they have vowed to release the data acquired from the UFC if Dana provokes them again.

I know Dana has taken a carefree attitude towards this hacking situation, and at the start he wasn’t really out of line to do so. The initial attack just took down UFC.com for a few hours, which is roughly equivalent to taking down some advertisements. Had he left it at that things may not have gone any further.

By provoking the hackers (and specifically Anonymous) and equating their actions to terrorism, Dana brought unnecessary grief upon himself, his family, and his business. Anonymous doesn’t deal in the business of pirating PPVs, they are hackers acting as social activists. Whether or not you agree with their methods and their message is up to you, but there’s no reason to invite action from them against you and your business, particularly when your website is storing credit card information from your customers. It’s also worth noting that Anonymous is (by their very nature) a decentralized organization, with no control over their individual members’ actions. There’s been no action yet with any stolen information (at least that we know of) but this entire chain of events could lead to serious ramifications for the UFC and their online businesses. They have essentially broken the trust necessary in a capitalist society, wherein the consumer willingly supplies his financial information to a corporation with the implied understanding that it will be used in a responsible manner and not abused in any way. Obviously the UFC will be working with law enforcement agencies to find those responsible for this intrusion, but by inviting the attacks White may have implicated himself in any civil action that takes place in the future. It’s certainly too early to know exactly what will happen as a result of these hacks, but for now we can’t rule out the worst scenarios coming to pass.

So if the UFC and White are unable to completely stamp out piracy and stop the actions of hackers, what’s the solution?

One way to solve the problem is to give people a reason to buy your product online. Those who watch pirated streams are obviously willing to sit in front of their computer to watch a UFC event, so Dana White and Zuffa should be working to convert those people into paying customers. The easiest way to do this is to make PPVs less expensive. It seems like such an easy thing to do coming from somebody like me (you know, a consumer) but it really does make sense.

Whenever the price of his product is brought up, Dana dismisses the issue by stating that people can buy the program in groups, go to their local bar or restaurant, or if all else fails, just don’t watch it. What about those UFC fans like myself who usually watch the events alone? Not everyone has friends that watch the UFC and would be willing to pitch in for buying a PPV every single month. What about people under the age of 21, or those members of society who don’t drink? It’s hard to justify spending $45-55 for something that’s just for me, especially when that money could be used for food or clothing for my family. Dana would say that that’s too bad and I’ll just have to deal with not watching the UFC events, but is that any way to grow your business?

If the UFC really wants to get more people to purchase their streams online (especially in the wake of a possible violation on consumers’ private information), lower the price for the streaming version of the event. Since the UFC doesn’t have to share that $45 or $55 with cable and satellite providers for their online stream, perhaps they could pass some of those savings on to their consumer. Cut the price for a streaming event to $25 or $30 and I can practically guarantee that you’ll have a lot more people buying a reliable, quality stream over a sketchy pirated one.

This doesn’t have to be a permanent price change either; they could offer it on some of their events and reserve the higher price point for bigger cards. Flexible pricing is one idea that could be implemented for the streams as well as the regular PPV broadcast, and it allows the UFC to be more aggressive with cards that lack a blockbuster main event. As the sport’s biggest stars start heading towards the end of their career (and some are already there, see Lesnar, Brock and Liddell, Chuck) the UFC is going to be putting more and more fresh faces at the top of their cards, and having a lower price point for shows not anchored by proven draws allows these events to be seen by more people; which in turn gives these newer fighters a better chance to gain fans.

Let’s also consider the first time buyer. The whole point of getting their product on broadcast television with Fox is to create new fans who will in turn purchase the PPVs, right? If you had your first MMA experience this past Saturday night would you want to put down $45-55 to watch this weekend’s event? Make the first PPV after a Fox show lower priced and you’ll assure yourself a better chance of hooking those new fans.

The UFC will never be able to wipe out piracy completely. As their own employee Joe Rogan likes to state, “you can’t stop the internet.” Provide a product that’s both affordable as well as attractive, and back it up with great customer service, and you’ll please the customers you have while adding new ones all the time. It’s worked wonders for online businesses like Amazon.com, iTunes, and Steam, and there’s no reason why it can’t work for the UFC as well. They can continue their anti-piracy efforts by working with law enforcement to take down sites illegally streaming their shows, but at the same time they can be proactive and offer a more appealing product that people want to pay for.

PHOTO CREDIT – UFC

6 COMMENTS
  • Rece Rock says:

    Zuffa was already fighting piracy and I remember reading elsewhere cases where ppl were being taken to court and fined or even facing worse… maybe it was too small scale for Zuffa BUT this SOPA /PIPA shit is out of control…if legislature like this was approved the internet would be a completely different lanscape.

    DW needs to just leave well enough alone… he doesn’t get it.

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  • Lord Faust says:

    Yeah he’s really not in a position to offer any kind of insight on copyright infringement. He can call it STEALING all he wants, but when the original product still remains it is not theft. It’s not semantics, either, it’s a serious logic issue. There is a reason we have words like “plagiarism” and don’t just tuck everything under the umbrella term of “theft”.

    I do think the UFC should be concerned about lost revenue, but Dana White’s primitive understanding of all things IT means he should STFU, let the technically inclinded handle those discussions while he takes pictures of himself holding swords.

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  • G-DUB says:

    When DW is asked about the high price of UFC PPVs, his answer is always about how nobody has to incur the total price on their own since everyone watches UFC PPVs with a group of friends and everyone chips in $5 for a night of great fights. If that’s what his business model is based on, he shouldn’t concern himself with the individuals sitting at home alone watching a sketchy stream on their laptop. Doesn’t he make enough $$ already? If he was able to solve the pirating issue, how much more money does the UFC stand to make? If all web piracy was eradicated, PPV buy rates wouldn’t increase in any significant manner, as those individuals that want to watch for free will always find a way.

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  • MCM says:

    “What about those UFC fans like myself who usually watch the events alone? Not everyone has friends that watch the UFC and would be willing to pitch in for buying a PPV every single month.” Adam Tool

    This is ripe for a joke, but sadly I’m in the same boat. :(

    I think the UFC is considering it’s PPV model. With the new partnership with Fox and the amount of MMA that is on TV now, plus the amount of PPV’s the UFS is putting out every month, I don’t think they can still do “business as usual”. There is gonna half to be some give and take on the current PPV structure or people will wind up not watching the fights and just catching the highlights latter on.

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  • hindsightufuk says:

    also in a similar boat of ‘not having any friends’
    see i buy as many mma dvd’s as i can, so i put my money in for Zuffa, but if i’m somewhere i cant watch it? i’m just supposed to miss it? never watch the fights? of course not, i’m gonna download it and enjoy every second. just like i download all the Japanese, Brazillian, Eurpoean etc MMA that i can.
    and if they ever become available to buy then i’ll put my money in again.

    if there comes a day when MMA is plastered all over tv and as widely available as gay sports like football, snooker, golf and tennis then i will be immensely happy. until then i’ll keep downloading, i have no choice

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  • Guthookd says:

    Man, I ordered one streaming PPV from the UFC and the quality of the stream was shit (Silverlight wouldn’t let me adjust the buffer time and it was fucking up) so I never did it again.

    Now I’m going to get my identity stolen for it! Sweet.

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