by Ivan Trembow
Spike TV’s decision to put UFC programming on the schedule head-to-head with WWE Raw has now been made into a weekly endeavor, with the tentative scheduling of UFC Unleashed to go head-to-head with WWE Raw on a weekly basis.
Previously, the impending showdown between Spike TV and USA Network on October 3rd was the only head-to-head battle that was scheduled between the UFC and WWE.
However, Spike TV has now scheduled UFC Unleashed to run head-to-head with the second hour of WWE Raw on a weekly basis, as it will air in the Monday night at 10:00 PM timeslot starting on Monday, October 10th. The episode of UFC Unleashed that will air on October 10th at 10:00 PM is tentatively scheduled to be a new episode, although it could still be swapped out for a repeat at some point between now and October 10th.
The weekly airing of UFC Unleashed head-to-head with WWE Raw could be shelved if the show tanks in the ratings, or if the UFC as a whole draws a hugely disappointing rating on October 3rd. However, as it stands right now, the show’s weekly airings on Monday nights at 10:00 PM will provide a UFC-themed lead-in to each week’s new episode of The Ultimate Fighter on Monday nights, which will be starting on Spike TV right around the same time that WWE Raw is ending on USA Network each week.
In related news, WWE and USA Network have scheduled an additional airing of the one-hour “Best of Raw” special on Friday, October 7th at 10:00 PM. Given the circumstances involved and Vince McMahon’s history, don’t think for one second that it’s a coincidence that WWE just happened to schedule an airing of its special head-to-head with the UFC’s October 7th pay-per-view.
Here is a summary of the UFC’s upcoming schedule for Ultimate Fight Night, The Ultimate Fighter, UFC Unleashed, and the October 3rd line-up, as well as an interesting note on a role reversal for the UFC.
Some of the information below is being reported in this article for the first time anywhere, while some of it has been previously reported by MMAWeekly and is being included below so that you can access all of the scheduling information in one place.
Schedule for Ultimate Fight Night
In addition to the live airing of Ultimate Fight Night from 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM on Monday, October 3rd, the broadcast is scheduled to replayed two times. The first time will be later that same night, in the early morning hours of October 4th, from 1:00 AM to 3:00 AM.
The last scheduled airing of the October 3rd broadcast will be in primetime on Thursday, October 6th from 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM. This will create a UFC mini-marathon on Spike TV just one night before the UFC’s October 7th pay-per-view, with a three-hour UFC programming block consisting of Ultimate Fight Night from 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM, followed by an encore airing of The Ultimate Fighter from 11:00 PM to 12:00 AM.
The next time there will be a live UFC fight special on Spike TV will be on Saturday, November 5th with the live season finale of The Ultimate Fighter 2. Depending on how the UFC performs in the ratings head-to-head with WWE on October 3rd, that date could conceivably be moved back two days to Monday, November 7th, but that is not planned at this time.
As for potential dates for live “Ultimate Fight Night” specials in the future, there are three dates that Spike TV officials have memorized that you should keep in mind Those dates are February 13th, August 28th, and September 4th of 2006. With WWE Raw pre-empted on those three dates due to USA Network’s coverage of the Westminster Dog Show and the US Open tennis tournament, it is extremely likely that Spike TV will run UFC specials and/or TNA pro wrestling specials on those three dates.
Schedule for The Ultimate Fighter
The Ultimate Fighter has always had a loose start time somewhere between 11:05 PM and 11:10 PM, due to the over-run segment on WWE Raw each week. With WWE Raw no longer on Spike TV, The Ultimate Fighter will have a more conventional and consistent start time of 11:00 PM every Monday night, starting on October 3rd. While the live “Ultimate Fight Night” special could run over by a few minutes on October 3rd, there will be no such issue in subsequent weeks, so The Ultimate Fighter should finally have a 100% stable start time beginning on October 10th.
The new start time for The Ultimate Fighter means that on any given week, the first five minutes of TUF will actually be going head-to-head with the final five minutes of WWE Raw, which are almost always the most heavily-watched minutes of Raw. Among fans who normally watch both WWE Raw and The Ultimate Fighter, the first five minutes of TUF are likely to have low ratings every week, with a sharp increase in TUF ratings somewhere around 11:05 PM every week when Raw goes off the air.
As previously reported by MMAWeekly, Spike TV currently plans to continue airing new episodes of The Ultimate Fighter on Monday nights at 11:00 PM, even though the show will no longer have WWE Raw as a direct lead-in.
Any given episode of TUF will debut on Monday nights at 11:00 PM, then replay on Thursday nights at 11:00 PM, and then replay once again on Saturday nights at 10:00 PM. If the Monday night airings of The Ultimate Fighter tank in the ratings without WWE Raw as a lead-in, Spike TV could always decide to switch things around so that the Saturday airing would be the new episode premiere each week, in which case the Monday and Thursday airings would be the repeats.
Also, for anyone who missed an episode or wants to get them all on tape, a marathon of The Ultimate Fighter 2′s first six episodes will air this Saturday night, October 1st, from 5:00 PM to 11:00 PM on Spike TV.
Schedule for UFC Unleashed
A new episode of UFC Unleashed will air this Monday night, October 3rd, at a special time of 7:00 PM on Spike TV. The episode of UFC Unleashed that premieres this Monday night will be replayed on Spike TV on Saturday, October 8th at 9:00 PM.
From that point on, Spike TV plans to air UFC Unleashed two times per week: Saturdays at 9:00 PM and Mondays at 10:00 PM. The current plan is to have the new episodes of UFC Unleashed debut on Monday nights and then replay on Saturday nights, but as with The Ultimate Fighter, that could be flip-flopped if the show tanks in the ratings on Monday nights head-to-head with WWE Raw.
Also, one important distinction between The Ultimate Fighter and UFC Unleashed is that TUF has a new episode every week for 13 consecutive weeks, whereas UFC Unleashed has a completely different set-up. Spike TV has ordered a total of 26 different episodes of UFC Unleashed, which will have their premiere dates spread out over a long period of time (or in four-week spurts, as we saw when UFC Unleashed debuted in July).
As a result of this, on most weeks UFC Unleashed will be a repeat on both Monday night and Saturday night. The only distinction is that in the event that there is a new episode of UFC Unleashed, the current plan is for it to premiere on a Monday night and then replay on the following Saturday night.
Schedule for UFC Five-Hour Programming Block on October 3rd
The only change to the schedule for the WWE vs. UFC showdown on October 3rd is that WWE has backed down from its previously announced 7:55 PM start time, if only for five minutes. WWE Raw normally starts at 9:00 PM every week, but in response to Spike TV putting the UFC head-to-head with Raw on October 3rd, WWE changed its October 3rd episode of Raw into a three-hour episode that would start at 8:00 PM.
When Spike TV countered by changing the start time of its UFC programming block on October 3rd to 8:00 PM, WWE made its start time 7:55 PM on USA Network. Last week, Spike TV changed the UFC block’s start time yet again, this time to 7:00 PM, and WWE is not about to produce the first-ever four-hour episode of Raw in history. So, with no advantage to gain from the awkward 7:55 PM start time, WWE has moved its scheduled start time back to 8:00 PM.
The UFC’s schedule for October 3rd remains unchanged from what it was last week. With a repeat of CSI serving as a lead-in at 6:00 PM on Spike TV, a new episode of UFC Unleashed will air at 7:00 PM, followed by a “UFC Ultimate Knockouts” special at 8:00 PM. The proverbial main event of the evening will then start at 9:00 PM with the two-hour live airing of “UFC Ultimate Fight Night,” followed by a new episode of The Ultimate Fighter at 11:00 PM.
Over on USA Network, WWE Raw will run for three-plus hours from 8:00 PM until 11:05 PM, with an airing of the movie “2 Fast 2 Furious” serving as a lead-in from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM. Following Raw, a pre-taped “Best of Raw” special will air from 11:05 PM to 12:05 AM, head-to-head with The Ultimate Fighter.
October 3rd is the only occasion on which this WWE special is scheduled to air on a Monday night, as it will not be a weekly series. One of the conditions of WWE’s deal with USA Network is that other than the occasional special, USA will only air two WWE shows per week: WWE Raw on Monday nights, and “WWE AM Raw” on Saturday mornings.
The WWE weekend shows (WWE Velocity, WWE Experience, and WWE Sunday Night Heat) were all cancelled because their ratings had slipped to a 0.5 average, and USA Network was not interested in airing those shows. So, with only two weekly series covered under the WWE-USA deal, the UFC does not have to worry about WWE putting some kind of WWE-related show head-to-head with The Ultimate Fighter every week in an effort to suppress TUF’s ratings.
As for the ratings expectations for the October 3rd head-to-head battle, WWE is expecting Raw’s rating to be somewhere between 4.0 and 4.5, given the huge amount of advertising and star power that has been poured into the show (although 3.8 to 4.2 might be a more realistic goal).
Meanwhile, Spike TV is hoping that Ultimate Fight Night will be able to draw something close to the previous Ultimate Fight Night ratings (1.5 to 1.9), even though this time around it will be going head-to-head with WWE Raw. If Ultimate Fight Night’s ratings are between 1.0 and 1.4, that would be considered respectable given the head-to-head competition with WWE, whereas anything under 1.0 would be considered embarrassing for Spike TV.
Role Reversal for the UFC
It wasn’t so long ago that WWE Raw was the established, proven ratings draw that Spike TV hoped would provide a quality lead-in for the UFC, which was the unproven commodity that had yet to establish itself as a ratings draw on national cable television.
Less than a year later, the UFC finds itself in the exact opposite situation. Now, the UFC is the established ratings draw, and Spike TV is hoping to use the UFC as a quality lead-in for the NWA-TNA pro wrestling promotion, which is still an unproven commodity that has yet to establish itself as a ratings draw.
The weekly pro wrestling show TNA Impact debuts on Spike TV this Saturday, October 1st, and there is not a single time that it will air in the forseeable future without the UFC to provide it with a strong lead-in. TNA Impact is scheduled to debut a new episode every Saturday night at 11:00 PM, with an Ultimate Fighter repeat providing a strong lead-in at 10:00 PM. Each weekly episode of TNA Impact is scheduled to be replayed every Monday night at midnight, with a new episode of The Ultimate Fighter providing a strong lead-in at 11:00 PM.
It’s the exact same situation that existed in early 2005, only the UFC is now playing the role of WWE (the established ratings draw), while TNA is playing the role of the UFC (the unproven ratings commodity).
Spike TV is hoping that TNA Impact can average a 1.0 rating, but that might be a bit of a stretch given the fact that the highest rating TNA ever drew in its one year on Fox Sports Net was a 0.4 overall rating. TNA hopes to attract UFC fans by using Tito Ortiz, who will be a prominently pushed member of the TNA roster starting with the Spike TV debut show on October 1st.