I laughed when there were people saying Netflix wouldn’t annihilate video stores a few years ago because people still want the feel of a real videotape or DVD in their hands. Streaming is a fantastic medium and it's been used by the masses as the new way to watch everything. Recently,the UFC unveiled its Fight Pass service, and shortly thereafter the WWE announced its own service, the WWE Network.
Fight Pass was released for free temporarily but soon will come with a fee of $9.99 per month. WWE Network has not yet been made available, but will cost the same when released on February 24th, 2014. With Fight Pass, a subscriber will be able to access a library of UFC, Strikeforce, Pride, WEC and Affliction fights. Additionally, a multitude of older events, going back to the first years of the UFC will be available, along with every season of The Ultimate Fighter. PPV events will not be shown on Fight Pass without additional cost, an aspect of the service which has brought about criticism.
WWE Network on the other hand, will feature all pay-per-view events, loads of original programming, reruns of Raw and SmackDown, specials on PPV events, post-event specials for Raw and SmackDown and finally a database of WWE/WCW/ECW matches from decades past. Since these two services were announced, there have been people comparing the two, ranting and raving over which is the better quality. To compare these two is a waste of time, and here are five reasons why.
5 The Amount of Available Material
Comparing the amount of material in the libraries of these two services is nonsensical. Obviously the WWE is going to have infinitely more to offer than the UFC, as it was started in 1952. The UFC has had roughly 260 events since its inception. WWE can hold that many events in individual years. Comparing WWE to UFC in terms of footage is like comparing my 40 yard dash to that of a 4 year-old; it’s a no-brainer that I’m taking that contest! Unfortunately, it’s impossible for the UFC to show fights that don’t exist, or they would have a much bigger pile of footage to offer their viewers.
The other thing to remember is while the UFC grows, so will its audience and so will it’s database of fights. When the audience grows, they will pick up new contracts for events on cable. This has already started slowly and with every event, several new fights are added to the database. In short, if you expect the UFC to be able to compare to the WWE in terms of available footage, yes you’ll be mistaken, but you should have realized that to begin with.
4 The amount of Creative Potential for New Material
Some have called attention to the lack of original programming that will be on Fight Pass compared to the amount of new original programming that will be available for WWE Network subscribers. Again, it’s simply an unfair fight and beside the point. Nobody can deny the athleticism of WWE wrestlers. People can shout that it’s fake, because it’s scripted and choreographed, but when someone gets suplexed off the top turnbuckle, he feels it, and shrugs off an amount of pain that would make the average person pray for a quick death. That being said, it is primarily an entertainment venue and not by any means an organized sport to be taken seriously, hence why beating a ref with a chair (accidentally), doesn’t cause a disqualification. With that in mind, it is much easier for the WWE to get creative with their programming choices and new shows, as it is a purely entertainment entity.
As I said previously, the same level of creativity is not available to the UFC. Maybe they could plug in some video game fight engine and use that to simulate fights involving fighters who have never squared off, like Ken Shamrock VS Brock Lesnar? I’m joking; a UFC edition of Spike’s The Deadliest Warrior is a dumb idea. Or is it? It may be something that Spike could look into, but a hypothetical-driven series of this type would seem out of sync with the serious and professional demeanor with which the UFC carries itself.
An idea like this could actually be implemented by the WWE however, with hypothetical fights like Andre the Giant against Stone Cold, or Bret Hart against John Cena being something that would have fans tuning in every week. But this is just an example, and one meant in part for jest. The bottom line is, in terms of professional creativity, the WWE has much more to work with when trying to come up with new ideas.
3 Criticism of Lack of PPV on Fight Pass is Ridiculous
People have also criticized the UFC for not including PPV events for free in their Fight Pass package but this would simply be a bad idea for Dana White and his fighters. The reason the WWE can afford to do this is that they are not a company that relies on pay-per-view as a lifeline. The UFC on the other hand, absolutely does. The WWE has several times as much weekly airtime as compared to the UFC, and of their yearly total in terms of their events, PPV accounts for a very small number.
The UFC is not in the same picture. They are far more reliant on PPV's in order to earn money, but this will not be the case forever. Their deal with Fox could just be the tip of the iceberg in terms of restructuring the UFC’s income basis, but for now, offering PPV at no extra charge on Fight Pass could spell very hard times for them. Maybe, it will be viable in the future to see the UFC put all of its PPV fights on Fight Pass for no extra cost, but that said, can you blame them for not doing it now? Don’t hate a company for wanting to stay profitable.
2 The Two Promotions Themselves are Monumentally Different
This point is meant to build upon points 4 and 5. The UFC and WWE are intertwined, and share some similarities, no doubt. However, they are vastly different and there is little reason people should be comparing their streaming services and expecting the same thing. When the UFC started out, it was (and still is) a welcome change of pace from the soap opera that can be pro wrestling. Wrestling is entertaining, and does feature athletic individuals, but for some, the fact that the fights are predetermined is too much of a deterrent. The UFC started out as a tournament style program in which fighters of different disciplines entered a ring and mercilessly beat each other. Over time it garnered some bad press and more rules were brought in to try to persuade uninformed and fearful policy makers, like John McCain (for God’s sake he was a POW in Vietnam, but gets squeamish seeing a couple of guys scrap?), that the sport of MMA was more than “human cockfighting”.
Overall, we need to take note of the fact that given the differences between the UFC and WWE, from the amount of entertainers/fighters, the history of each, the nature of the competition, the two streaming services, like the leagues themselves, are virtually incomparable, unless one is trying to be argumentative.
1 It’s too Soon to Say Anything about WWE Network Because….IT ISN’T OUT YET
People who have been comparing WWE Network and UFC Fight Pass rarely mention that the merits of WWE Network have yet to be confirmed. The service will not become fully available until February 24th, 2014, about a week and a half from now. So right now, all we have is hearsay. Some of it may be very reliable hearsay, but it is hearsay nonetheless. Don’t forget, the WWE is an entertainment business, and they have advertising and public relations experts whose very livelihoods are centered around making the public drool for anything with “WWE” stamped on it. They have, in this case, done a brilliant job of getting people hyped up for this new streaming channel, and don’t get me wrong, it looks like a good product, that's going to be worth every penny to someone who is a hardcore WWE fan.
However, stay realistic, people. Nothing is ever as great as you think it will be when it gets hyped up too much. The same could be the case for WWE Network. UFC Fight Pass has already encountered heavy criticism due to difficult to navigate libraries and incomplete fighter records, problems that will no doubt be worked on and hopefully fixed. With an apparent library that will dwarf that of Fight Pass, how many problems are WWE Network subscribers potentially looking at before their viewing experience is a seamless one? Bottom line is, we have very little actual, verified information off which such calls can be made. Wait until this product is released before you compare it to others.
With all that said, I acknowledge that my argument works both ways. There is a distinct possibility that upon release, WWE Network could provide insight to the universe, inner peace and be the best thing since sliced bread. In that case, congrats on the fantastic product and I cheerfully withdraw my skepticism. But until it’s out, take the ads and reports with a grain of salt….