by Ivan Trembow
Ultimate Fighter Ratings Sink to New Lows Without WWE Raw As a Lead-In
by Ivan Trembow
The question has been in the back of a lot of people’s minds for a long time: How would The Ultimate Fighter perform in the ratings if it didn’t have WWE Raw as a lead-in? With WWE having moved back to USA Network, we now have our answer: The ratings have gone down, but not by a drastic amount.
If anything, the ratings data demonstrates that the arrival of Monday Night Football as head-to-head competition had more of an impact on TUF’s ratings than the removal of WWE Raw as a lead-in. However, when you combine all of the factors and consider that TUF no longer has WWE Raw as a lead-in, and has to compete head-to-head with Monday Night Football, and is widely considered to not be as compelling in Season Two as it was in Season One, the end result is the two lowest ratings that TUF has ever drawn.
In its first three weeks, without Monday Night Football as competition, The Ultimate Fighter 2 averaged a 1.7 overall rating. In the following three weeks, with Monday Night Football as competition but while still having WWE Raw as a lead-in, The Ultimate Fighter averaged a 1.4 overall rating. The first six weeks of ratings for TUF 2 have been documented extensively on MMAWeekly, so we’re going to pick up with the past two weeks of ratings.
TUF Ratings for Week Seven (October 3rd)
Week Seven of The Ultimate Fighter 2, which debuted on October 3rd as part of the big Monday Night War between the UFC and WWE, drew an overall rating of 1.3. That made it the lowest-rated episode of The Ultimate Fighter in either season up to that point, with the previous low-mark being 1.4.
However, the show drew a 2.8 rating in the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, which is a higher rating in that demographic than any episode from the first season of TUF other than the live season finale. Also, the 1.3 overall rating wasn’t down all that much from the 1.4 overall rating that the show drew the previous week when it still had WWE Raw as a lead-in, so that in and of itself was considered a mild success by Spike TV executives.
For the first time in the history of The Ultimate Fighter, the show actually went head-to-head with WWE programming. The first 13 minutes of this episode went head-to-head with the end of WWE Raw, and the final 47 minutes of this episode went head-to-head with a pre-taped “Best of Raw” special, which drew an overall rating of 2.8 on USA Network.
This episode of The Ultimate Fighter also faced stiff competition from a Monday Night Football game featuring the Packers vs. the Panthers. The game drew a 10.1 overall rating on ABC, which was up significantly from the 8.4 rating that was drawn by the previous week’s Monday Night Football broadcast.
Also going head-to-head with The Ultimate Fighter on October 3rd were NBC’s Tonight Show with Jay Leno, which drew a 4.7 overall rating, and CBS’ Late Show with David Letterman, which drew a 4.5 overall rating.
Week Seven of The Ultimate Fighter’s first season drew an overall rating of 1.7, compared to this week’s 1.3 rating.
TUF Ratings for Week Eight (October 10th)
Week Eight of The Ultimate Fighter 2, which debuted on October 10th, drew an overall rating of 1.2. That makes it the lowest-rated new episode of The Ultimate Fighter in the series’ history, breaking the record set by the previous week’s 1.3 rating.
If there’s any consolation for Spike TV and the UFC, it’s the fact that TUF’s ratings drop-off compared to last week was not as drastic as the drop experienced by WWE Raw. While TUF’s ratings went down from 1.3 to 1.2, WWE Raw’s ratings went down from 4.4 last week to 4.0 this week.
This was the first week in which The Ultimate Fighter not only didn’t have WWE Raw as a lead-in, but also didn’t have a live UFC special as a lead-in. Instead, the lead-in for this episode of The Ultimate Fighter was a new episode of UFC Unleashed, which aired at 10:00 PM and drew a rating of 0.9. It would certainly appear to be suicidal for Spike TV to schedule new episodes of UFC Unleashed to air on Monday nights at 10:00 PM head-to-head with WWE Raw, especially if they’re going to continue to put almost zero advertising into promoting the new timeslot of UFC Unleashed.
In addition to not having WWE Raw as a lead-in and not having a live UFC special as a lead-in, this week’s episode of The Ultimate Fighter also had to go head-to-head with not one, but two network TV sporting events. Monday Night Football is something that TUF has to face every week, but normally it doesn’t have to go head-to-head with both Monday Night Football and a Major League Baseball playoff game at the same time.
The Monday Night Football game on ABC between the Steelers and the Chargers drew an overall rating of 9.5, while the climactic Game 5 of the Yankees vs. Angels baseball playoff series drew an 8.0 overall rating on Fox.
In other network TV competition, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno drew a 4.6 overall rating on NBC, while The Late Show with David Letterman drew a 3.5 overall rating on CBS.
Week Eight of The Ultimate Fighter’s first season drew an overall rating of 1.6, compared to this week’s 1.2 rating.
Putting the Rating Into Perspective Through Eight Weeks
The average rating through the first eight weeks of The Ultimate Fighter’s first season was 1.6, while the average rating through the first eight weeks of the second season is now 1.5.
That’s not much of a difference on the surface, but there are a couple of important points that need to be emphasized.
1) It was a huge mistake for Spike TV to schedule The Ultimate Fighter to go head-to-head with Monday Night Football, given the fact that both shows draw heavily from the sports fan demographic. Future seasons of TUF should either be moved to a different night, or should be put on the air at a time of the year when Monday Night Football is not in season.
2) The absence of WWE Raw as a lead-in is going to have an effect on ratings, but fortunately that effect appears to be fairly small thus far. Only time will tell how significant or insignificant this factor will end up being.
3) With the last two weeks of TUF ratings clocking in at 1.3 and 1.2, one must remember that while those numbers are significantly lower than some of TUF’s previous ratings, they are still considered excellent ratings by the standards of every cable network in existence. ESPN would be thrilled if Pardon the Interruption, one of its flagship shows, could draw a 1.0 rating on a consistent basis, but it can’t. Spike TV was very pleased recently when the first two episodes of the pro wrestling show TNA Impact averaged an overall rating of 0.8. The same sentiment would exist for the vast majority of original series on cable television with that kind of rating.
With the way things stand right now, TUF’s ratings from this point forward are up in the air. The ratings could go back up in the future, or the show might never draw a 1.5 rating again. No one can say for sure. The point is that either way, as long as TUF’s ratings stay over 1.0, the show will still be considered a “big hit” by cable television standards, which is something that I’ve written from the very first ratings report of last season.
If The Ultimate Fighter does indeed draw ratings in the range of 1.0 to 1.4 from now on, the only reason it would be considered a mild disappointment is because the first season of TUF averaged a 1.6 rating. In any case, MMAWeekly will continue to keep you updated with more UFC ratings information and analysis than you will find anywhere else.