The ratings are in for Wednesday night’s UFC programming on FOX Sports 1 including UFC Fight Night 28 and the premiere of The Ultimate Fighter season 18.
UFC Fight Night 28 did an average of just 539,000 viewers, with the prelims pulling 270,000 viewers.
Needless to say that’s very disappointing with the main card down 285,000 viewers compared to the Fight Night 27 just a week earlier, though the prelims were up 161,000 viewers thanks to being shifted from FS2 to FS1.
I was anticipating a slight drop in the ratings due to the fact that this was the third UFC card in eight days, it was the least publicized of the three and the line-up was lacking a little in big name star power and beyond the top three fights (which all delivered great entertainment) was very much tailored towards the Brazilian market.
Still, such a big decline in the audience is concerning and shows that both FOX and the UFC have a lot of work ahead of them.
Speaking of which, The Ultimate Fighter 18 premiered directly after the live event and fared slightly better with an average of 762,000 viewers.
However, that still qualifies as the lowest ever debut for a TUF season and given that in previous editions of the reality show the ratings have tended to settle lower than the premiere that’s a worry going forward.
There had been a lot of pre-season hype and publicity for the show due to the fact that it would be the first edition to feature female fighters and had Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate as coaches, and I still think it could have done well if it had remained on FX, but FOX wanted all the UFC’s programming under one roof and so they’ll just have to roll with the punches.
The ratings for the two shows were underwhelming enough that UFC president Dana White emerged with a statement offering up some damage control which he posted himself on the UG forum, making some valid points and putting as positive a spin on the disappointing numbers as he can while still acknowledging that there’s a lot of room for improvement.
“We were #1 on all of cable with M18-34 and M18-49. We also beat the US Open and the Detroit vs Red Sox MLB game. This is all part of the building process. We’ve made a commitment to work with FOX to build this network. If you look at all of the other networks we’ve ever been on we consistently pull strong ratings. The first time we put our prelims on FX we pulled 880K viewers and it grew, depending on the fight, up to 1.9 million viewers for UFC 156. Also, the TUF season with Carwin and Big Country averaged 822K viewers then Jones vs Sonnen averaged 1.3 million viewers. We currently hold the top 4 most watched telecasts on FS1 since the network launched. To be honest, our Prelim and Fight Night numbers weren’t bad considering we started on the west coast at 2pm in the afternoon on a Wednesday. The most important thing is last night’s fights were awesome and this season of TUF is great. Yes, we didn’t pull the 1 million + but we will. But, we also fucked up last night by not starting the main event later so that we could get a live lead into TUF. The bottom line is FOX couldn’t be happier with the UFC and the ratings we’re pulling. And we couldn’t be happier with the way we’ve been treated by the network.”
I think there is a chance the ratings will improve over time. Part of the problem is that at the moment people aren’t used to the idea of Wednesday’s now being a UFC night, particularly when it comes to live events and the fact that they are also on a new network will initially make getting that message across a little more difficult than it otherwise would be.
They are also being let down by the fact that virtually nothing else on FOX Sports 1 other than the UFC is pulling any kind of decent ratings at all, and so without an in-built, regular audience to rely on they are having to do all the hard work themselves.
So, very much like their time on Fuel TV, this looks like it’s going to prove to be a marathon rather than a sprint.