One of the underrated pleasures of my time in Korea was watching the Korean UFC broadcasts. There are multiple reasons for that. One, the time difference just works out perfectly. Back home, I would have to stay up from 1 to 7am to catch a PPV. In Korea, UFC shows make for perfect morning to early afternoon viewing. Get up at 7am for the Fight Pass prelims if you want, or sleep in and start with the main card. I doubt I’ll ever forget arriving at a weird American sports bar at 10 am on a Sunday, and then taking a stroll through Itaewon at like 2pm, reflecting on McGregor vs Diaz I. The best. Second, I had some awesome company while watching many of these shows (shout-outs to @TombstoneStint, Andrea, Thor, et al.!). And third, I really grew fond of the Korean SpoTV broadcast, in particular the two dorks pictured above in their whacky studio. I love those guys.
The UFC’s Korean TV deal is pretty damn sweet. All main cards are shown on Korean sports channel SpoTV, completely for free. You can also stream them online easily, so you don’t even need a TV. This is Korea, after all.
Since I’m too old for staying up all night these days, I never got around to trying to watch these Korean streams from back home. But with UFC 205 on the horizon, I knew I needed to do this. So I got up at 5am to watch RDA vs Ferguson (“UFC Pight Nighto: Dos Anjose vs Perguson”) to figure out if I can get those streams to work. And I could. Here’s how:
Let’s get to the bad news first. You’re gonna have to navigate Korean web sites. Korean web sites are…not great. They’re in Korean (duh), but most importantly, South Korea is a technologically very advanced nation, has the world’s fasted internet and all that, but they somehow haven’t quite figured out the web. From what I’ve heard, things used to be much worse a couple years ago, so they’re making progress at least. Back then, apparently, many sites just straight up did not work at all unless you used Internet Explorer. Things are better now, but you might still have to use IE from time to time. In addition to that, you are often asked to install random exe files. Normally, I would advise against that very, very strongly, but there does not seem to be a way around this. Then again, you’re not installing something from a dinky illegal streaming site. This is the official Korean streaming platform, so I don’t think you have to worry too much.
Anyway, let’s get to this.
First, go to Naver Sports. This is the site that hosts the streams.
The site is a bit tricky to navigate, but what I found works best is to directly access their “scoreboard” site, which lists all the ongoing broadcasts. This includes a link for everything that they broadcast, which gets you directly to the stream. There, just search for UFC and click on the ‘TV’ button. The stream will start in a separate window.
And that’s it. Enjoy the fighting! Easy enough, right?
Well…chances are you’ll come across this:
This message informs you that you need to install the ‘N Live Cast’ software to watch any streams. Click on the green button, and you will be directed to an exe file. Luckily, the installation can be done in English and does not require doing anything.
However, there is one additional hurdle: If you are on Windows (if not, you’ll have to figure this out by yourself, sorry) and are using a standard user account (i.e. not an admin account)*, just installing this probably won’t work. Now, you can install this player like any other software. You open the setup, Windows will ask for your admin password, done. However, this setup software is really dumb and will only (as best as I can tell) install itself in a local user folder. That means it will only be installed for the admin account, not the account you’re actually using to surf the web. And there are no settings that you can select to change this. Ugh.
Sooo…what you will have to do in that case is to temporarily turn your standard account into an admin account, install the player, then revert your account back to a standard account. Then everything should work. Set an exception for that software in your firewall software. You can now open the stream and enjoy live UFC acti…oh what the hell?
This is where the Korean web can bite you in the ass. At least on my PC, I absolutely couldn’t get this to run on my trusted firefox, so I had to switch back to good ol’ Internet Explorer (Edge should work too). Then it should finally work. You might get a pop up error message from the NLive player, but luckily those are in English. So you might have to hit refresh or something like that, but the streams are really stable once you get them to work.
Some more troubleshooting advice: If it still doesn’t work and you get the above screenshot, you can also click on the link underlined in green – It’ll redirect you to a live diagnostics page. Again, it’s all in Korean, but the screenshots are pretty self-explanatory and can help you understand how to navigate the player. There’s also a diagnostics button that can help detect what might cause your problems. Google Translate is your friend. If there’s text in an image and you can’t copy and paste it, take a picture with your phone and run that through the translate app. Works surprisingly well.
So, yeah. Setting up can be a bit of a pain, and I would strongly recommend not starting with that 10 minutes before a broadcast starts. Luckily, there are pretty much always some other broadcasts going on, so you can test it in advance on some League of Legends (which is broadcast just as any ‘regular’ sport, because Korea), Korean baseball, or whatever.
Now, let’s get to the good part. The streams are not geoblocked. None of them are, as far as I can tell. I did have the weird experience that I could watch the UFC stream with my German IP, but it was constantly buffering. When I switched to a Korean VPN, it all ran smoothly. This is rather counter-intuitive, as going through an extra channel cannot possibly increase my internet speed. So I guess they maybe prioritize Korean IP addresses? I dunno. To test this, I just used a free VPN from VPN Gate. They have a good explanation on their site how to use it, so I’m gonna spare you here. Of course VPN’s, especially free and open ones, come with some security concerns, so be aware of that and maybe don’t check your emails or log in anywhere. But anyway, it should work without one too!
Having a Korean VPN does come with some additional benefits, though. SpoTV uploads full fights to their Youtube channel. And those guys work palli palli, so you can find the fights on there almost immediately afterwards. UFC Mexico wrapped up about an hour ago as I write this, and the semi-main is already on youtube in full! Neat!
The Korean commentary might be off-putting to some, but I personally love it. Makes me feel all warm and nostalgic inside. And given the general state of MMA commentary, maybe you’re better off not knowing what’s being said?
I know, this seems like a bit of a pain and requires some tingling. But I’m sure you can figure it out. I’m cheering for y’all. You got this. Or as Koreans would say: Hwaiting!
*I and Microsoft themselves strongly encourage doing this, by the way. Don’t use an admin account all the time, it’s just an invitation to get your PC all fucked up. But that’s a story for another day.