JitsMag recently got to sit down with Polaris Director Matt Benyon for an in-depth discussion on the upcoming Polaris Squads card. The card will stream on UFC Fight Pass on Sunday, 27th September. Benyon gave his thoughts on what squad competition could look like in a European model, and the economics of female representation in the sport. Those stories will be updated as they are published.
The Problem with Pay-Per-View
Benyon had some interesting things to say about the pay-per-view model in jiu-jitsu. According to him, the industry as a whole is moving away from pay-per-view for a more financially stable, and predictable, model. He started by noting that Polaris originally adopted pay-per view, and it wasn’t all bad,
“The last time we did pay-per-view was Polaris 3 or 4, we did quite well. We were happy.”
We asked why Polaris would ditch a model that was profitable. Benyon discussed the many challenges of pay-per-view, the first and foremost being its unpredictability.
“It’s a trade off isn’t it? [Fight pass] is guaranteed income versus if we did a pay-per-view that could be higher, but it’s the uncertainty. Whenever we ran a pay-per-view, people wouldn’t buy it until the show started. So you could go into the show with 15 buys and you’d be absolutely sh*tting your pants.”
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Polaris Squads is set to debut on @ufcfightpass on Sunday, September 27th and will feature some of the most exciting grapplers in Europe. @fffioneira will also be returning to face @magdalena_loska in our catch-weight superfight. What teams would you like to for the next Polaris Squads event? #polaris #bjj
Benyon credits the longevity of Polaris to their ability to stay on budget and be disciplined. But the feast or famine pay-per-views made financial planning next to impossible. Most promoters have to incur tremendous debt, placing the entire company at risk if an event does not generate enough profit. It has lead to some promotions folding virtually overnight.
The Power of Partnerships
Benyon says that partnering with a streaming service such as UFC Fight Pass also allowed his company to hand off the heavy loading of production to someone else. He explains that promoters often know what it takes to build great card at a great venue, but severely underestimate the complexity of building a streaming website, a secure payment system, and secure bandwidth for an event where the audience size is unknown. A single stream interruption, even one that last minutes, could ruin entire cards.
“It was really difficult.” laments Benyon, “Every pay-per-view we did, we paid good money to so-called professional companies to run that stuff for us. Every one of them screwed it up in some way. Fight Pass has been really solid.”
The other plus is the marketing power of a streaming partner. A single ad run on a UFC event or the fight pass homepage would cost Polaris thousands of marketing dollars to get the same exposure. In essence, now Polaris can focus on what they’re good at. And they’re not the only one.
In the modern promotional landscape, pay-per-view is becoming a thing of the past. EBI, Kasai, ADCC, and 3CG are just a few names that have allied with streaming giants FloGrappling or UFC Fight Pass. In the early 2010’s, jiu-jitsu promotions structured less like tournaments and more like MMA cards emerged. But many sank quickly due to rampant piracy, inflated fighter purses, or even technical glitches on cards. The most public example was the now defunct Metamoris promotion. They struggled to pay athletes behind the scenes while appearing to be an incredible success for years. It led to a stream of similar promotions. Many hit the same hurtles before realizing the limitations of the pay-per-view market.
Even the UFC, who build a $4 billion business on pay-per-view, has drastically reduced their PPV cards in the last decade. They have opted instead for long term partnerships with broadcast partners like Fox Sports and ESPN.
JitsMag is partnering with Polaris to bring exclusive coverage of their upcoming squads card. Which will include athlete interviews and event coverage. Check back often for more features. We’ll have access to the names and athletes behind the biggest jiu-jitsu promotion in the UK.