by Ivan Trembow – MMAWeekly.com
The fourth season premiere of The Ultimate Fighter drew a 1.7 overall rating on August 17th, which was down slightly from the third season premiere of the series.
While the overall rating of 1.7 is well above Spike TV’s recent primetime average rating of 0.9, it falls short of the record-tying 2.0 rating that was drawn by the season premiere of The Ultimate Fighter 3 earlier this year.
The larger drop-offs came in the specific demographics ratings. Among 18-to-49-year-old males, the third season premiere drew a 2.7 rating, while the fourth season premiere drew a 2.2 rating in that demographic. Among the advertiser-coveted 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, the third season premiere drew an amazing 3.7 rating, while the fourth season premiere drew a 2.8 rating in that demo.
The show-closing fight between Shonie Carter and Rich Clementi drew a 1.8 rating in the final quarter-hour, as Carter became the first fighter to move on to the welterweight semi-finals.
TUF 4 Season Premiere Draws Fewer Casual Viewers
The season premiere ratings don’t necessarily reflect how well a show will end up performing in the ratings over the course of a season. However, the decreased ratings for TUF 4 indicate that the proverbial sales pitch for TUF 4 was not quite as attractive to potential viewers as the sales pitch for TUF 3.
In the extensive advertising campaign for the TUF 3 season premiere, the lure was essentially, “Watch our show to see Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock get in at least one pull-apart brawl.” The dynamic between Ortiz and Shamrock, whether manipulated or not, was the focal point of the advertising for the third season.
For the fourth season premiere, the lure to attract viewers was, “Come see these UFC veterans get a second chance at championship glory.” That concept may or may not prove to have more longevity over the course of the season, but it’s less likely to attract a flood of Week One viewers who might see a commercial and said, “Oh, I know [Tito Ortiz or Ken Shamrock], so I’ll give that show a chance.”
The most important test for TUF 4, as with any season of TUF, will be how the ratings hold up over the course of the season. The fourth season of TUF could end up building ratings momentum as the season progresses (like TUF 1), or it could lose viewers over a period of time (like TUF 2).
Network TV Competition Weaker in Summer
With a premiere date in the summer TV season, the fourth season premiere of TUF faced significantly weaker head-to-head competition on network television than the series did in April.
Airing head-to-head with TUF on Thursday, August 17th, Without a Trace on CBS led the pack with a 6.7 overall rating. The ABC newsmagazine Primetime drew a significantly larger-than-usual overall rating of 6.4, while an NFL Preseason football game drew a 4.2 overall rating on Fox. Coming in last place was the NBC summer flop Windfall, which drew a weak-for-NBC overall rating of 3.9, despite having a huge lead-in audience from the season finale of America’s Got Talent.
The Ultimate Fighter will not have to go head-to-head with the major networks’ new fall line-ups until Episode Six airs on September 21st. The series will, however, have to go head-to-head with the first regular season game of the NFL’s 2006 season when NBC airs the Steelers-Dolphins game on Thursday, September 7th.