Digital technology is transforming the economics of sport. Streaming and pay per view (PPV) are at heart of the revolution allowing sports promoters global reach and distribution via the Web. The physical spectators play a vital part creating atmosphere but are becoming a smaller factor in whether the event is a financial success.
The Wilder vs Fury fight generated a record $17m in a sell out crowd at the Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas. Comparatively PPV was estimated to generate c$160m. In a clear demonstration of how sport is changing, the fight between two of best heavy weights in their prime came second to a YouTubers grudge match. KSI vs Logan Paul generated 1.6m live and an additional 46 million on demand and an estimated £150m in revenues.
The return of UFC242 to Abu Dhabi, in September 2019, was watched by 13,322 in the arena and 112 million streamed the fight via YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. To provide scale 24% of Russia’s adult population tuned in. What makes these figures even more remarkable is that the UFC arena was entirely custom built, using reusable construction materials, in less than 2 months.
Unlike a traditional stadium, which now typically costs $1bn+ taking 3-4 years to build, the UFC242 stadium was built in 4 weeks, providing a temporary structure that can be built and hired at 0.01% of the cost. Anybody tuning into the fight two months early would have seen an empty desert site. Combining modern design with future scaffolding systems like Generation Futuro and UNI-Roof allows promoters to transform sporting experiences and economics. Any location can be turned into a financially viable custom designed site for a globally engaged audience.
The time-lapse video shows the transformation of the plot driven by a collaboration of DCT–Abu Dhabi, Ultimate Fighting Championship, All Events Services, Altrad DESSA, Events & Design Republic and Generation.
The custom designed structure was 155m long and 101m wide. 350 tons of Futuro scaffolding was used for the walls, with the roof weighing 230 tons. Covering the structure required 8kms of UNI-Roof beams and 27,000m of sheeting which were comfortably able to enclose and support 32 tons of rigging and equipment.
It is time to rethink the nature of sport and events. Digital technology coupled with design and construction material innovation mean that pop-up sports and events structures have an advantage over less flexible permanent and more expensive structures. The new economics of sport rewards global interest and relevance rather than the number of physical tickets sold on the night. Underpinning this is location and flexibility of the event structures to engage the global audience tuning in.
The Abud Dhabi Arena and success of UFC242 is a signpost for the future of sport and events.
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