For UFC fans in the United States, there was a whole new way to watch the UFC pay-per-view Saturday night. And it didn’t come without some issues.
UFC 236 was the first UFC PPV card broadcast exclusively in the U.S. on the ESPN+ digital streaming service. A deal was brokered between the promotion and ESPN last month making ESPN+ the only home for PPV in the country. Fans wanting to buy a pay-per-view card must first subscribe to ESPN+ and then purchase the event for $59.99. New ESPN+ subscribers are being offered packages with reduced rates.
Not everything went smoothly the first time around. Judging from social media, some fans had issues finding the event. Others were not able to purchase UFC 236 on the device with which they wanted to view it. Some UFC fighters, like Frankie Edgar, also had trouble with the new setup.
Edgar tweeted that he did eventually figure it out. But UFC president Dana White acknowledged in the post-fight press conference that there were some miscues on the first night of the new deal.
“Not too long ago, we were in pay-per-view negotiations and we didn’t like the way they were going, so what you don’t ever want to do is to give us a little time to think outside the box,” White said. “So we started talking to ESPN, the talks moved really fast and we struck a deal with ESPN. And we knew we had to pull this fight off very soon, on both sides. And we knew that there were gonna be some hiccups. Hopefully, there aren’t. Hopefully, you can get everything dialed in.
“The next one will be much better. The next one, you’ll be able to purchase right through the app. It’s gonna get easier, it’s gonna get better.”
The UFC and ESPN have been partners since January, with fight cards being aired on both ESPN+ and the company’s cable channels in the United States. The new extended deal, which includes pay-per-view cards, runs through 2025 and is worth in excess of $1 billion.
“I’m not just saying this because I’m in business with these guys,” White said. “You know, you’ve seen me in business with guys that I don’t exactly love being in business with. It happens sometimes. These guys are so good at what they do. They’re so good, they’re so on top of everything. We’ll get the problems that people had tonight fixed. And it’ll only get better.”