IMMAF Launches OTT Showcase for MMA Talent at All Levels
Subscription-based service is currently available on any browser
The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) is looking for recognition. Fans it has; recognition, not so much. Maybe a free and subscription-based over-the-top (OTT) video service is the answer.
“We’re an international governing body for the sport of MMA,” explains Isobel Carnwath, director of brand, commerce, and communications, IMMAF. “Outside of the U.S. and Sweden, in most of the world, it’s not recognized, and it’s not regulated. We’ve got a really big job of working backwards to the way other sports have grown, since the sport was kind of commercial first everywhere.”
To visit the newly launched video network, head over to IMMAF.tv on any browser, even on a mobile device. The service is launching small, with no apps for set-top boxes, mobile platforms, or connected TVs. The site offers viewers some free content, such as videos explaining how mixed-martial-arts matches are conducted. This helps them appreciate the action. If they want to watch current tournaments live, they’ll need to pay by either the tournament or the season. A €4.99 Championship Pass offers HD live streams from a specific tournament, as well as three days of on-demand viewing once the event has ended. Good for one year, a €12.99 Season Subscription gets fans all the live HD action from three major events, as well as the full on-demand library.
To create its video platform, IMMAF partnered with Sportradar, a digital-sports-solutions company with lots of experience working with sports leagues, notably the International Table Tennis Federation, International Tennis Federation, and European Handball Federation.
The two organizations began work in March of this year and put together the platform on an especially quick schedule. The first stage was simply planning, with both sides agreeing on the frontend, the user experience, the backend database for video management, and the payment system to handle subscriptions. They also planned how to organize videos once the platform was on the market. Next, Sportradar started building the platform, informed both by its previous work with sports clients and the IMMAF’s choices. As Patrick Mostböck, head of business development, digital platforms, Sportradar, points out, the monetization system of any platform — whether ad-driven or payment-driven — heavily impacts the look and feel of the final result.
IMMAF.TV is based on Sportradar’s OTT product, with setup involving creation of an IMMAF instance in Sportradar’s video-management system. The two companies conducted the platform’s first live test in April — only a month after work began — with the IMMAF African Open.
Once IMMAF.TV was operational, Sportradar started providing guidance and support for marketing, day-to-day operations, and customer communications. A dedicated support manager helps with direct marketing and social campaigns and also explains how to curate content. Though sometimes overlooked, Mostböck says, postlaunch operations assistance is crucial for the continued success of any platform.
The IMMAF will handle event production, pushing the stream to Sportradar’s CDN, Akamai, which will encode a variety of streaming profiles for viewers with different network conditions or bandwidth rates. Akamai handles all content storage and distribution.
IMMAF.tv launched in June at the federation’s European Championship in Bucharest, Romania, and subscribers can see several videos from that contest on the platform. Although content is available only through web browsers at the moment, that could expand to include dedicated mobile apps or connected-TV apps. It all depends on user feedback, analytics, and market development, Mostböck explains.
If all goes well, IMMAF.tv will please the sport’s worldwide fans and grow its audience. IMMAF President Kerrith Brown predicted in a statement that fans will be impressed at the skill level of a new generation of athletes. But his organization has a bigger goal than even entertaining fans: IT wants a place on the sports world’s biggest stage:
“[MMA has] grown massively at the grassroots worldwide but without any real kind of structure,” Carnwath says. “We’re now trying to put regulation and safeguards and structures in place, but we also host international amateur championships worldwide. It’s elite-level championships based on the Olympic model, and we are working for sport recognition. And we want to see the sport in the Olympics by 2028. That’s our vision.”