Flush from a year that included new broadcast deals, new audiences, new sponsors and more, the Professional Fighters League sees its 2019 season come to a conclusion on Dec. 31 at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, running on ESPN2 at 7p with six $1 million belts on the line. The year was been generous to the MMA promotion, which reports a 60% rise in international TV audiences since the start of the season, along with a 50% rise in viewers on ESPN2. Cynopsis asked PFL Co-Founder, Donn Davis, about the lessons learned from 2019 and their 2020 plans.
Davis on 2019 lessons: The lesson of 2019 is that both fans and distribution want more high-quality MMA. Based on our metrics this year, PFL is the fastest growing new sports league ever. PFL is on ESPN2 primetime live on Thursday nights and on TV in 150 countries worldwide with 30 different global media partners. The PFL TV audience is already 20-25% of the UFC TV audience, and PFL is only 1-year-old compared to the 25 years it took UFC to build that audience.
On moving to ESPN: ESPN is the undisputed king of sports, and they chose PFL to join UFC as the only other MMA property on their platforms due to the PFL’s unique sports-season format, exciting fights, and high-quality product. The PFL is now viewed by most as the #2 MMA company worldwide, and certainly the one on the rise. 100% of PFL fights are available free on ESPN2, which means PFL has the widest distribution of any MMA company. Most UFC fights fans have to pay for.
On international growth: 80% of the 300 million MMA fans are outside of the United States, so international is actually more important when it comes to building PFL into global sports league which is our mission. PFL audience is already big internationally in just our first year, with some fight events posting 1 million total viewers. PFL is available on free broadcast live in almost all of the 150 countries worldwide. PFL is huge hit in Russia, where we are often the #2 most viewed sports program of the week and we are very strong in Brazil and various countries in Asia.
On 2020: 2020 will be a break-through year for the PFL. 50% of the PFL fighter roster will be upgraded for next season, with some surprise major new signings. We will launch with a major casino partner real-time gambling on PFL fights, including prop bets such as “hardest punch in this round” using PFL proprietary SmartCage data. PFL also will launch a new original content series that MMA fans will love: “PFL Challenger Series” from reality pioneer Mark Burnett that will give unheralded pro-MMA fighters the chance to earn “Rocky-Slot” in the PFL.