By Matt Saccaro
Despite the UFC’s legal team being among CagePotato’s most avid readers, we can’t convince them to give us any insights into the UFC’s PPV business. We can only judge a card’s interest by the PPV estimates that circulate a few weeks after an event has passed.
There’s another way to judge fans’ interest in a particular fight card though: Web traffic.
In between discussions about which IFL team was the best (I’m a huge Quad City Silverbacks fan), we at CagePotato headquarters started opining about how Bellator 120: Rampage vs. King Mo would compare to a low-level UFC PPV. Some of us said it’d bury an event like UFC 173: Barao vs. Dillashaw in terms of traffic, some of us said it would get buried.
Now that fight week(end) is over, we can jump into AnalyticsPotato mode and see which fight card wowed the web more. And to be clear, I’m using unique page views as the primary metric to judge interest. And by “coverage” we mean articles before/during/after the card that are about the card. Seems obvious but it’s important to be clear.
Earlier in the week, we reported on the CagePotato twitter that Bellator 120 received about 34% more traffic, but that calculation was made in error. There were a couple of articles in our UFC 173 coverage that I forgot to include in the tally. However, even with these pieces added, Bellator 120 still wins out. Bellator 120′s coverage, on the whole, received 11% more traffic than UFC 173′s.
Other random insights:
The time spent on page, an important and overlooked metric, was “virtually identical” for both Bellator 120 and UFC 173. Referral sources, too, were identical, with much of the traffic coming from search (Google) and social (Facebook and a bit from Twitter). This isn’t terribly surprising.
What does all of this mean, then?
At a glance, people are probably saying “The best Bellator has to offer only barely edges out a lower-level UFC card!” And that’s fair to an extent. But it’s worth noting that before the card, most of our UFC 173-related content wasn’t doing too well. There was very little hype around the event. Fans had a “how dare the UFC charge us for this crap” attitude about it. Even the live-blog was sub-par during the event. Once it was updated to reflect the huge upset that was TJ Dillashaw defeating Renan Barao, however, traffic on it exploded. The massive upset could’ve definitely helped UFC 173.
However, the same could be said for Bellator 120 since Will Brooks and Tito Ortiz upset Michael Chandler and Alexander Shlemenko, respectively. King Mo calling Bjorn Rebney a dick-rider didn’t hurt Bellator traffic either.
Alas, web traffic means little in terms of PPV buys. It’s highly likely that many people who read our post-fight Bellator coverage wanted to see if the event was a train wreck without having to pay for it. Furthermore, we’re just one website. A sample size of one isn’t much to go on. When asked on Twitter, some sites reported that their Bellator 120 traffic was far below expectations.
So, to get a clearer picture, we ran a Google trends comparison:
Interestingly, the search term “Bellator 120″ peaked the day after the PPV, indicating our theory above about most of the traffic coming from people who didn’t watch the PPV. And UFC 173′s peak was slightly higher than Bellator 120′s.
If anything is to be taken from this, it’s that Bellator is capable of generating at least as much Internet-interest (even if it derives from schadenfreude) from the fans as the UFC. Whether that’ll hold true for their future PPV outings is impossible to tell.