It appears that Fox officials have finally acquiesced to the face that The Ultimate Fighter reality series is not drawing the TV ratings that it should since it moved over to the FX Network earlier this year.
Two seasons in and FX and the UFC are ready to come out guns a blazing for its next edition of the series, which will premier sometime in January… and on a new day of the week.
One of the biggest complaints about the series on FX has been that it airs on Friday nights. The shows key audience is Men 18-34 and Friday night is not a night that much of that crowd makes a point to stay home and watch television.
Fox officials defended the show’s positioning for quite some time, saying it was a “homerun” for a Friday night show. It appears they’re now ready to try and take it deeper in the yard, however, with a move to a weeknight beginning with The Ultimate Fighter season 17, featuring coaches Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen.
“The show is going to move off of Friday nights,” said FX executive vice president Chuck Saftler on a Wednesday conference call with select media. “Can’t confirm a day right now, but it’s definitely moving off of Friday. It’s definitely moving to a weekday.”
Saftler said that an announcement about the show’s move, premier date, etc., should come some time in the next 30 to 45 days, but interestingly, he also threw out a warning, which could also be constituted as an admission.
“I will say, Spike should watch their ass,” he volunteered.
Saftler went on to clarify his statement about Spike TV, and in the process, made it clear that there is a belief that Spike TV’s counterprogramming tactics have had an effect on TUF’s TV ratings on FX.
“Clearly Spike has been dogging us for most of this year with the launch of the two seasons of The Ultimate Fighter by trying to create viewer confusion and scheduling old episodes against The Ultimate Fighter as new content,” claimed Saftler.
“They’ll be out of the UFC game effective in January. They’re going to launch their own product. They’re going to try to launch their own reality show that competes with The Ultimate Fighter or does a very similar thing to The Ultimate Fighter with their Bellator product. We watched how they behaved and we’re well aware of their behavior and how they’ve acted competitively.”
Saftler wasn’t ready to commit to a strategy of pitting The Ultimate Fighter head-to-head with Spike TV’s Bellator programming next year, but he admitted, “We’re certainly going to watching how they schedule, what they schedule and where they schedule,” insinuating that a battle between the networks could be brewing.
Regardless of the programming battle with Spike TV, Saftler believes that they have a winning combination for ratings success in the New Year.
Fox executives never like to give hard numbers when it comes to ratings expectations, but Saftler tipped his hand ever so slightly.
“Certainly with Jones and Sonnen as the coaches for this upcoming season, we have probably the best casting that we’ve seen for this show and we have really high expectations for what the ratings will be as a result,” he stated.
“I think with the move off Friday and the casting, we have very, very big expectations for ratings.”
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