UFC 200 Debuts Redesigned Fight Pass, 4K Streaming
Every 100 pay-per-view events, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) likes to do something special. For UFC 200 tomorrow night, the company has outdone itself when it comes to its live streaming offering. While fans may not be getting the Daniel Cormier-Jon Jones Light Heavyweight Championship bout they had hoped for, UFC 200 will offer plenty of excitement with a main event featuring the return of Brock Lesnar (fighting Mark Hunt) and an impromptu three-round battle between Cormier and UFC legend Anderson Silva. And fans will get a better viewing experience than ever, thanks to the UFC’s first 4K streaming and newly redesigned Fight Pass service.
4K resolution at 60 frames per second might be too much detail for the punishment that will take place in the octagon, but that’s not stopping the UFC. Owners of a Sony 4K UHD TV can purchase the UFC 200 HD package via the UFC app on the set. The UFC recommends a broadband speed of 20 Mbps. A helpful 4K page explains how to download the latest firmware update. In addition, UFC 200 marks the first ever UFC 4K PPV event telecast available to DirecTV customers with compatible 4K televisions and set-top-boxes at a cost $69.99.
Online viewers will have access to multiple video and audio streams that PPV TV customers don’t get. As with previous bouts, UFC lets streamers select red- and blue-corner video cameras, as well as a camera suspended above the octagon.
Streamers can also listen to corner audio feeds, something UFC SVP of Technology Edward Muncey highly recommends: “You’re there with the coach and the athletes as they walk into the octagon. They’re reminding themselves, ‘Remember where you came from.’ And you hear that real personal conversation between the coaches and the respective athletes and then, once it starts playing out inside the octagon, what the trainers are screaming at their athlete, what they recommend that they do, and then also that post-fight emotion. That audio is intoxicating.”
The UFC is using six Sony HDC-4300 4K cameras to cover the action, along with a Sony F44 for the fence cam. All seven cameras will provide dual HD and 4K streams. On-screen graphics will come from a 4K Vizrt graphics system provided by Reality Check Systems, and clocks and stats will be generated in 4K by Fight Metric. NEP is providing its SS32 production truck.
The UFC’s chief partner for this event is NeuLion, which is responsible for enforcing the business rules for online viewers and is handling encoding and distribution as well. The UFC will have one production team in place to edit the video but will distribute to multiple locations.
“UFC digital for pay-per-view events and its subscription service, Fight Pass, are both enabled by the NeuLion Digital Platform,” says NeuLion EVP Chris Wagner. “We provide digital video encoding and transcoding, distribution, and monetization of their live and on-demand content to all major consumer-electronics connected devices.” NeuLion works with multiple CDNs for distribution, including Akamai, Limelight, and Level 3.
This is the UFC’s first time to broadcast from T-Mobile Arena, and the venue’s state-of-the-art wiring should make things easy. Fiber connections directly from a Switch data center not only promise excellent delivery but make it easier for the Las Vegas-based UFC to edit and distribute video from its home office.
“We’re here in Las Vegas,” Muncey points out. “We tend to have a big setup at the venues when we go there. This just makes it much easier for us to actually stay within our building. We send a lighter crew over to the arena because, for fiber, we have such great speeds for our editing teams to work from.”
The technology built into the T-Mobile Arena will allow the UFC to create heightened experiences for on-premises viewers in the near future. Muncey is working on mobile-app features that will let the in-venue audience navigate the arena, upgrade seats, receive special offers, and more, all from an app.
Just in time for UFC 200, the UFC has launched a major redesign of its Fight Pass service. UFC worked with ad agency R/GA to create the new design, then handed if off to NeuLion to build. The user interface needed to evolve with Fight Pass’s offerings, so that subscribers can better navigate the large video library.
“We’re up to just over 14,000 assets. We’ll be up to 20,000 by the end of the year,” Muncey says. “Of all these individual bouts, TV episodes, and now original content that we’re producing, we had to build a new design so it’s easy for people to find what they’re looking for. Search was a major update.”
The full UFC 200 card could last seven hours, which should give MMA fans plenty to talk about the next day. With a variety of streaming improvements ready to go, the UFC is ensuring that this event will be talked about long after the main event ends.