“There are some things that you do and you’re like, ‘God, that was so easy’. I’m almost shocked at how big an impact it has. That’s where we are with Tagboard.” said Alon Cohen, SVP of Research & Development at UFC. “It should have been harder given how big a deal it has been inside of the org”.
The partnership between Tagboard and UFC started at the onset of the pandemic in March of 2020. Like many in the sports entertainment industry, Alon and his team found themselves needing to recreate an audience experience that was suddenly absent. Using resources within the Endeavor family, Alon became aware of Tagboard’s use on other productions within their network. He knew it would seamlessly integrate into their existing production tech stack, and was confident it could all happen quickly.
“It felt like two emails and a couple of clicks and we were there. We got on a couple of phone calls, we did a little bit of design work, and a week and a half later we were on-air.”
With the setup complete, it was time to bring it into the broadcast to see how the audience would react to the new experience. “When it showed up on the screen, the reaction from fans was powerful and immediate, and they wanted more” said Alon. While some broadcasts went the way of bringing in camera feeds of fans, Alon explains that at UFC they want the fight to be the focus. With that said, they needed a solution that would add the feel of their fans without distracting from what’s happening inside the octagon.
“There is something about watching a UFC pay-per-view event and even when the lights go down, there’s just like a thrum in the background. We needed to bring some of that energy back in and that was the thing we were able to do with Tagboard,” said Alon. “Once we saw it in the broadcast, once people got used to it, once it was part of the language, it stayed part of the language.”
Fast forward two years, fans are back in attendance and Tagboard is still ingrained in the language of UFC broadcasts. As a staple on UFC productions Tagboard is now used across various different content channels from pay-per-view events and weigh-ins, to shows on Facebook Live. Another constant? The Tagboard operator has remained remote in New York City. All changes have focused on taking the integration a step further, including a new graphic build with more kinetic animations and the addition of sponsorships. An area that has turned UFC’s investment in Tagboard into a rich new revenue stream. Alon calls it “one of the most important assets that appears on screen during a UFC broadcast”.
“We talk about the value add of an asset sometimes by multiples. And I think on Wall Street, if you were to make 10x, that’s the unicorn. In sponsorship, there are certain things that you can do that will make you a 100x what they cost. For us, Tagboard is at that level,” said Alon. “The amount of things we’ve done with the product since we got it is an enormous multiple of the original costs that we put into it”.
A partnership that began with a single problem and an immediate solution, opened the door to a more efficient production workflow that continues to permeate across the entire Endeavor network. A sequence, Alon is confident, others in the production world would experience as well, “you’re going to buy it because of this, and then you’re going to discover that it permeates a whole bunch of your organization”.