ONE Championship is growing rapidly and recently passed several landmarks, as outlined by its chairman and founder Chatri Sityodtong. The organization’s most recent event in the Philippines broke all existing records for viewership of an MMA show and it is a pattern which is being repeated all over the region.
According to ABS CBN, the ONE Championship card at the MOA Arena in Manila last month was watched by more people than any MMA event in the country’s history. Sityodtong says a strategy of prioritizing domestic TV deals over the Pay-Per-View market is starting to pay dividends.
“We get about 10 million to 30 million people tuning in for every show and those numbers are growing exponentially. ONE Championship is on free to air TV across Asia and free to air TV has the biggest footprint and reach by far in Asia. Believe it or not, most Asians still watch old school TV. Paid TV still has very low penetration in Asia.”
The ONE: Kings of Destiny event in Manila was headlined by the recently crowned lightweight champion Eduard Folayang. ONE Championship shareholder Manny Pacquiao had a front row seat, as the Filipino successfully defended his belt with a hard-fought decision win over Ev Ting.
It was the ninth event ONE Championship has held in Manila and was shown on the free-to-air S+A channel. Even Sityodtong was surprised by how successful the broadcast was.
“The numbers for that show were massive. We broke all records. Our peak ratings share was 26 percent, as per Nielsen. To put that into perspective, UFC 205, which was the UFC’s biggest show last year, only captured a 6 to 7 percent ratings share in the Philippines.”
While ONE Championship’s decade long deal with Fox Sports was well publicized, the promotion has also been quietly securing domestic TV deals all over Asia and beyond. Bars across the region frequently have the fights playing in the background and Sityodtong says thousands of hours of footage are being broadcast.
“Without a doubt, ONE Championship is now Asia's largest sports media property in history. There are no pan-Asian sports media properties, except for ONE Championship. ONE Championship is now broadcast anywhere from 100 hours to 1,800 hours per year per key country in Asia. No other sports media property comes close to those hours or to our TV ratings.”
ONE Championship was founded in 2011 and held its inaugural event in Singapore. Since then, the promotion has put on 54 events in 11 different Asian countries with a further 14 cards scheduled between now and the end of the year.
“ONE Championship is growing exponentially across all metrics,” he stated. “For example, our social media video views have grown from 312,000 for 2014 to a run rate of 314 million in Q1 2017. We will likely do 500 million video views for the full year in 2017 due to an acceleration in growth rates sequentially. We are seeing all metrics across the board exhibit multiple-fold increases as per Nielsen, Facebook, and Repucom.”
Sityodtong has never been content to simply sit back and promote fights. He’s always had a more ambitious vision for ONE Championship and believes it is close to becoming a reality.
“I started ONE Championship with the vision of creating Asia's first multibillion dollar sports media property. There is no question that ONE Championship is on track to achieve that goal. If you look around the world, there is no sports media property with our trajectory of growth across key metrics like ratings, broadcast hours, social media engagement, broadcast footprint, broadcast reach, etc.”
Next up is ONE: Dynasty of Heroes at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. It will be the organization’s twelfth card in this venue and the headline match pits Angela Lee against Istela Nunes. The former has emerged as a real fan favorite since capturing the atomweight title and Sityodtong would love to see her matched with the UFC’s current strawweight champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who fights at UFC 211 on Saturday.
“Angela Lee is definitely our biggest star, and she earned her spot. She is one of the best world champions on the planet, pound for pound. I would love to see her fight Joanna.”
Askren will also be making a title defense on that card, but has been relegated to co-main event status. It is a reflection of Lee’s box office appeal and Sityodtong thinks Asian fight fans can relate to the atomweight champion better because she is of mixed Singaporean/Korean descent.
“Asia has long been starving for heroes. Throughout history, Asia had only non Asian choices in terms of sports media properties. Asians watched only EPL, NBA, or F1. Human beings are tribal. We all want to root for people who share our values, our backgrounds, our culture, our history, and our looks, and today Asians can rally behind ONE Championship.”
The MMA media puts a lot of focus on the U.S. industry, so the significance of ONE Championship’s rise is probably lost on some. After all, viewing figures in countries like the Philippines, Thailand, Myanmar, and Malaysia are unlikely to be of huge interest to your average, English language speaking fight fan in the West.
But there is a growing global appetite for MMA that goes beyond traditional strongholds for the sport, such as the U.S., Canada, and Brazil. ONE Championship has effectively cornered that market in Asia and Sityodtong says his organization is starting to reap the rewards.
“Every major country is showing several hours of our content per week. These metrics make ONE Championship the largest sports media property in Asia by a large margin in terms of audience scale, reach, and engagement.”
It’s a lot of data to digest, but ONE Championship is clearly on an upward trajectory and Sityodtong sees an exciting future for the promotion he founded just six years ago.
“We are 10 to 50 times larger than the UFC is in many countries here. And the crazy thing is that we are only at the beginning. There are 4 billion people in Asia. The potential is massive.”
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