In many respects UFC 129 was a huge success with record-breaking crowds in attendance at the Rogers Centre and early estimates indicating around 800,000 pay-per-view buys.
One area where the promotion faltered however was with their latest incarnation of UFC Primetime which followed Georges St.Pierre and Jake Shields in the build-up to their headline bout at the event.
The show failed to make an impact in his debut episode with just 610,000 viewers on Spike TV, and it went from bad to worse when week two dropped to 475,000 viewers, and the final episode produced a low of 384,000.
Those are the worst set of figures ever for the Primetime show, totaling 1,469.000 viewers over the three episodes, compared to the 2,119,000 who had tuned in for the UFC Primetime: GSP Vs Hardy series a year earlier.
So, why the drop in interest?
Firstly, the GSP – Shields match-up wasn’t a fight that fans were clamouring to see. The fact the St.Pierre has now appeared in three of the five Primetime specials could also have been seen as overkill, particularly since the welterweight star is fairly laid back and doesn’t give too much away. With Jake Shields also being a mild-mannered character there wasn’t a real hook to keep fans tuning in week on week.
It’s also worth remembering that the UFC made the unusual decision to air the show on a number of other networks such as ESPN2, Ion and Versus.
Finally, Spike’s decision to air the series an hour later than usual will also have had a detrimental effect on the overall viewing audience.
Despite the weaker ratings I believe there is still a place for the Primetime show, but it needs to be given a boost with fresh faces, strong personalities and engaging storylines. If and when the eventual fight takes place then Jon Jones Vs Rashad Evans would be a good choice, as would Chael Sonnen Vs another top contender like Michael Bisping for instance.