by Ivan Trembow – MMAWeekly.com
Episode Eight of The Ultimate Fighter 4 drew a disappointing 1.1 overall rating on Thursday, October 5th.
This ties the all-time series low for a regularly scheduled episode of TUF, which was previously set by Episode Nine of the second season and by Episode Four of this season just a few weeks ago.
Compared to the previous week’s disappointing ratings, Episode Eight was down from 1.3 overall to 1.1 overall. In the 18-to-49-year-old demographic, it was down from 1.6 to 1.4. In the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, it was down from 2.1 to 1.7, which is the second-lowest rating that TUF has ever drawn in the most advertiser-coveted demographic
TUF 4 is Least-Watched Season to Date
On a larger scale than one week of disappointing ratings, the general public’s interest level in TUF has never been lower, based on all of the Neilsen data. In the 18-to-49-year-old male demographic, TUF 4 has averaged a 1.7 rating through its first eight episodes, which is down from Season Three’s 2.2 average at the same point.
Even more significantly, in the advertiser-friendly 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, TUF 4 has averaged a 2.2 rating through its first eight episodes, which is down significantly from Season Three’s 2.9 average.
It’s natural for one to think that this is merely because TUF 3 was such a ratings sensation, but the unflattering comparisons do not end with TUF 3. Through eight episodes, TUF 4 is averaging a 1.3 overall rating.
This average of 1.3 is down from the first season’s average of 1.7 through eight episodes; it’s down from the first season’s 1.6 average at the same point in the season; and yes, it’s even down from the much-maligned second season’s average of 1.5 at the same point in the season.
Competition for Male Viewers Smaller for TUF 4 Than it Was for TUF 2
There is a perception that TUF 4 is going up against stiffer competition than previous seasons of TUF when it comes to male-oriented programming, but that is not actually the case.
The fourth season of TUF has had to go head-to-head with a regular season NFL game exactly one time (on September 7th).
On the other hand, The Ultimate Fighter 2 went head-to-head with ratings powerhouse Monday Night Football on ABC for all but three weeks of its entire season, and yet TUF 2 still drew better ratings than TUF 4 has drawn up to this point. In addition, TUF 2 aired in a worse timeslot (11:00 PM) when the total amount of people watching television is significantly smaller.
The Monday Night Football broadcasts that went head-on with TUF 2 drew an average rating of 10.0 overall, a significant percentage of which were the young adult male viewers that watch the UFC. Other than one week of NFL football, TUF 4 has faced nothing of the sort, instead going up against baseball games with overall ratings in the 4’s and 5’s, as well as college football games with ratings in the 2’s.
UFC Unleashed Generating Just as Much or More Interest than TUF
It is becoming more and more apparent with each passing week that a significant number of viewers, first numbering in the thousands and now well into the six figures, consider themselves to be “UFC fans” or “MMA fans,” but are not interested in watching this season of TUF for whatever reason.
This point is demonstrated week after week by the fact that replays of old fights that have already been replayed numerous times on Spike TV have been generating just as much viewer interest as brand new episodes of The Ultimate Fighter. The repeat of UFC Unleashed that aired immediately before Episode Eight of TUF 4 drew the same overall rating as TUF: 1.1.
In a somewhat alarming sign, several hundred thousand television viewers who had been watching UFC Unleashed actually changed the channel at 10:00 PM when UFC Unleashed ended and TUF started. The rating normally darts upward right at 10:00 PM, as one would expect when a repeat is ending and a new episode of an original series is just starting, but the opposite was true in this case.
The quarter-hour rating for the end of UFC Unleashed was 1.3 overall, and this number actually decreased to 1.0 for the beginning of TUF. The amount of people who were watching TUF did not increase all that much from there, as the show-closing fight between Patrick Cote and Jorge Rivera averaged a 1.2 rating.
This could indicate that more viewers are interested in actual fights, or that many viewers may have soured on the general concept of watching a reality show about MMA (because they would rather just watch the fights), or that some specific elements of TUF 4 have turned off viewers and have made them not want to watch the show anymore. More than likely, it’s a combination of these factors, but whatever the reason, this has to cause concern for the ratings of the already-ordered TUF 5, TUF 6, and TUF 7.
On a broader scale, only two of the last six repeat airings of UFC Unleashed have drawn lower ratings than the 1.1 overall rating that a new episode of TUF drew on October 5th, and even those two Unleashed repeats drew overall ratings of 1.0.
There has never been a regularly scheduled new episode of TUF that has drawn a 1.0 overall rating, but with the way the ratings have been going this season, it could very well happen at some point in the coming weeks unless there is a major change in momentum.
Network Competition on October 5th, and Octagon Girl Search Ratings
Airing head-to-head with The Ultimate Fighter on Thursday, October 5th from 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM, ABC’s Six Degrees continued its steady decline in viewership, as it drew an overall rating of just 6.6, which will eventually get the show cancelled if there is no ratings improvement. Six Degrees no longer approaches Shark on CBS, which drew a 9.2 overall rating. Also, while ER is nowhere near the ratings force that it was once, the veteran drama series won the hour with a 9.6 overall rating on NBC.
Airing head-to-head with UFC Unleashed in the 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM hour, Grey’s Anatomy out-drew CSI for the third consecutive week, as Grey’s Anatomy drew a 14.8 overall rating and CSI drew a 13.3 overall rating. Within the TV industry, the realization is starting to sink in that it was not a one-time aberration, and the show that was previously the most-watched show on television really has been dethroned by the up-and-coming medical drama. Also in this hour, NBC’s Deal or No Deal drew a 6.3 overall rating (solid considering the overwhelming competition), and the Major League Baseball Playoffs drew a disappointing 4.1 overall rating on Fox.
Airing in primetime on Monday, October 2nd at 10:00 PM, the UFC Octagon Girl Search bombed with a 0.6 overall rating. The show didn’t fare much better in the advertiser-targeted demographics, as it drew a rating of just 0.8 in the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, and a rating of just 0.6 in the 18-to-49-year-old male demographic.
Airing immediately after The Ultimate Fighter on Spike TV on October 5th was the pro wrestling show TNA Impact, which drew a 0.8 overall rating.