UFC Fight Pass is the Worst/Best Video Streaming Service There Is

UFC-Fight-Pass

Imagine with me for a moment if you were a Netflix subscriber, except it worked like this:

…there was no history of what you’d ever watched
…you couldn’t pause watching on one device and resume on the other
…there was no ability to tag content you wanted to watch for later
…there was no binge-watching, even when it made sense* (see more below)
…it was all presented in 720p instead of 1080p (and an iffy bit-rate that sometimes makes for blocky-looking video if there’s a lot of action)
…if you left the iPad app while your video was paused, it would reset to the app home screen instead of resuming, thus losing your place
…if you resume your laptop from sleep, playback won’t resume without a page refresh (thus losing your place in the videos because there’s no history)
…there were no keyboard shortcuts to pause, play, skip back, etc.
…it was $12 more per year if you paid monthly
…sometimes when you skip back while watching on a Roku, it would turn on the closed captions
…if you were watching a TV series, the commercials weren’t cut out, instead replaced with a static image for a several minute duration, like this, repeated over and over again throughout the event:

UFC-TV-commercial-break

I’ve just described UFC Fight Pass, a video streaming service launched in early 2014. Yet for all those cons, there are some great pros:

…it has a huge back catalog of content, perfect for catching up on what you missed
…there’s exclusive content only for Fight Pass subscribers
…if it’s aired anywhere on the planet under the UFC banner, odds are it will be available (though there are some blacked-out events)
…on browser-based playback it has a great timeline view that allows you to jump to specific parts of the event (walk-in, Tale of the Tape, knockouts, etc.)
…it’s available across a wide variety of platforms (Android, iOS, Roku, desktop)
…you’re getting to watch events that usually cost $60 (though a few months later)

*Binge Watching Where It Makes Sense: On the most recent Ultimate Fighter TV series, the winner fought on live TV and was given the belt on December 12th, 2014. Yet the UFC didn’t add the final episode of the season until January 9th…why not put them all up before the live TV event? It saps interest in watching the TV show when you know who has the belt already.

I’ve been a subscriber to UFC Fight Pass for several months now, and I’m fairly happy with the service now that I know all the rough edges I describe above. The inability to pause and resume from a previously watched point is the most painful – it makes it hard to watch an event in short sittings, forcing you to hunker down and watch everything at once. I also have to keep a list in Evernote of which events I’ve watched to keep it all straight.

The other main negative is how long it takes for UFC main cards to become available – as of Jan 18th, the newest UFC available is 178, which aired on September 27th. That’s almost four months of exclusivity, which, while I get the importance of protecting the juicy pay-per-view window, four months seems like an excessive amount of time. I’d guess the vast majority of PPV orders come within 30 days of the event and they drop off rapidly after that. If the UFC wants to keep Fight Pass subscribers happy, they should offer up the fights on day 31.

I’ll keep paying for UFC Fight Pass for now, but I hope the UFC improves the experience, gets rid of the pain points above, and makes it worth the $120 they’re charging per year for it.

UFC 91: Randy Couture vs. Brock Lesnar

Wow. That’s just crazy – Brock Lesnar is huge and powerful, but as his last fight with Heath “Crazy Horse” Herring showed, he doesn’t really know how to fight – on or off the ground. Randy Couture on the other hand has a wealth of experience. This is going to be interesting…or really embarrassing for Lesnar. I’m not sure which. Full details with press release here. And this is the first post in my MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) category – I think I might live blog the next UFC event. Might be fun. 🙂

This Is Why DRM Sucks

The short version of this story: a little over a month ago I signed up for a UFC video subscription that would allow me to watch an unlimited amount of UFC fights. This is a lot better than their previous model of $1.99 per fight where the fight timed out after 30 days. Who would pay for that? Paying $9.99 USD/month and getting access to all the content is a bit expensive, but for a real fan, not too bad. So I ponied up, thinking that the DRM (Digital Rights Management) wasn’t going to cause me too many problems. Well, it turns out that their system isn’t quite ready to work with Windows Vista. First I sent two emails to tech support with error details, only to have them tell me that they couldn’t help me, I needed to do a live tech support chat. Tech support told me to try a few different things – installing a DRM software update patch, digging through hidden folders looking for the DRM cache, etc. Every time I tried something new and then tried to watch a fight again, their “player” (which is just an IE window with an embedded Windows Media Player control) would take me away from the chat, forcing me to re-start the chat by filling out a tech request form. I wasted 45 minutes on this whole process before it was finally wrapped up in the chat below.

Welcome to the UFC Technical and Billing Support queue.
You have been connected to Zachary Richards.

Zachary Richards: Hi, Jason.
Jason Dunn: <sigh>
Jason Dunn: This is really frustrating
Zachary Richards: Yeah, I can see that you weren’t able to get a license.
Zachary Richards: You’ve been able to view before, though, correct?
Jason Dunn: On the UFC Help page, did you know that the “Live support” graphic is linked to a form that says “Leave a message”
Jason Dunn: and only the text link takes me to the chat?
Jason Dunn: they should really both link to the live chat, it’s very confusing
Jason Dunn: anyway, you see the error obviously
Jason Dunn: I think I was able to view on XP, but never on Vista Continue reading This Is Why DRM Sucks