Subscription streaming TV, while still a foreign concept to most South Africans, has seen massive uptake in other parts of the world. In Europe, Asia and North America services like Hulu and Netflix which offer on-demand TV series and movies have changed the way that people consume entertainment. Sports fans, however, have long been left in the dark when it comes to enjoying live streaming of events, because television broadcast rights traditionally make up the vast majority of the revenue of any major sporting event.
Combat sports, in particular boxing, mixed martial arts (MMA) and even the over-the-top theatrics of professional wrestling, get their highest revenues from Pay-Per-View (PPV) events which can cost viewers as much as $55 (R550) to watch a single live event. This week at CES 2014 World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) announced its plans to offer subscription streaming services in the US and other countries in 2014, joining the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in making the move. Both have done so partly as a response to a surge in piracy of the PPV events that have provided them with so much revenue in the past. It seems that both companies are having difficulty in making the transition to the new model without imposing some form of restrictions to keep a guaranteed revenue stream from the get go.
Let’s see how the two stack up against each other:
In the red corner we have the WWE whose new WWE Network streaming service will offer all 12 of its annual PPV events, as well as a massive back catalogue of on-demand programming for the low, low price of only $9.99 a month (around R100). The caveat being that users will have to take out a 6 month subscription when signing up. In the blue corner we have the UFC with UFC Fight Pass offering live viewing of all of its Fight Night events, preliminary cards for the main events and every previous fight from the UFC, WEC, Pride and Strikeforce again for only $9.99 a month, however this won’t include any of the coveted PPV main events.
While these services won’t be offered to South African audiences for the foreseeable future, this hasn’t prevented people from using services like Netflix illegally by circumventing geographic restrictions in the past. In the mean time sports fans will have to rely on the good old broadcast television networks for their adrenaline fix.