by Ivan Trembow
MMAWeekly’s Ivan Trembow breaks down the ratings this past week. The Ultimate Fighter drew another 1.3 overall rating this past Monday night, but the special Tuesday night airing of this season’s final regular episode drew the smallest audience in the history of the series with a 0.9 overall rating.
Episode Eleven Ratings
A few weeks ago, a 1.3 overall rating would have been the lowest rating in the history of the series. Now, it’s considered a relief for a show that drew overall ratings of 1.3, 1.2, and 1.1 on consecutive weeks in early October.
This week’s 1.3 overall rating doesn’t even approach the 2.0 overall rating that was drawn by Week Eleven of the first season of TUF. However, Episode Eleven of the first season and Episode Eleven of the second season both drew strong 2.5 ratings in the key demographic of 18-to-34-year-old males.
The fact that it was Halloween on Monday night was more than likely not a big factor in the ratings. Monday Night Football (which targets a similar group of television viewers as the UFC) drew an excellent 10.5 overall rating on ABC, easily surpassing Monday Night Football’s season-to-date ratings average of 9.9.
The other network television shows that went head-to-head with The Ultimate Fighter were NBC’s Tonight Show with Jay Leno (which drew a 4.1 overall rating) and CBS’ Late Show with David Letterman (which drew a 3.1 overall rating).
Episode Twelve Ratings
The new episode of The Ultimate Fighter that aired on Tuesday night was a completely different story in the ratings. Despite being heavily advertised as part of “Ultimate Finale Week” on Spike TV, Episode Twelve of TUF 2 drew an overall rating of just 0.9. This is just over half of the 1.7 overall rating that was drawn by Episode Twelve of the first season this past April.
Just as it seems clear in hindsight that Spike TV should have never scheduled The Ultimate Fighter to run head-to-head with Monday Night Football, it also seems clear in hindsight that Spike TV should not have scheduled a new episode of TUF to air on a Tuesday night. Even if they needed to have the live season finale on November 5th instead of November 12th (due to the big HBO boxing pay-per-view taking place on the 12th), it was still not necessary to air the 12th episode of TUF 2 on a Tuesday night.
The producers could have easily aired the last two episodes back-to-back on Monday night, with Episode Eleven airing at 10:00 PM and Episode Twelve airing at 11:00 PM. Of course, such an action would have incurred the wrath of WWE’s Vince McMahon and all of the consequences that go along with it, but that would still be better than having the final “regular episode” of the season airing on a different night with a significantly smaller audience.
Airing head-to-head on network TV with The Ultimate Fighter on Tuesday night were The Tonight Show on NBC (which drew a 4.8 overall rating) and The Late Show on CBS (which drew a 2.9 overall rating).
UFC Unleashed Continues to Perform Well, while WWE Raw Continues to Implode
As I have written before, the long-term future of the UFC on cable television does not lie with The Ultimate Fighter; it lies with a combination of live fight specials and pre-taped shows like UFC Unleashed. Reality shows tend to burn out over time in terms of viewer interest, and the ratings indicate that this has already started to happen with The Ultimate Fighter.
So, with those facts in mind, it’s far more significant in the long run that UFC Unleashed continues to perform well in the ratings. The show drew another 1.2 overall rating this week, and it also drew an impressive 2.0 rating in the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic.
The solid performance of UFC Unleashed is impressive given the fact that it is just being thrown out there to fend for itself at 10:00 PM on Monday nights, head-to-head with WWE Raw and with very little promotion from Spike TV to alert viewers to its existence.
The notion that many UFC fans don’t even know that UFC Unleashed has been airing new episodes on Monday nights at 10:00 PM is supported by a look at the quarter-hour ratings. In the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, this week’s episode of UFC Unleashed started off with a miniscule 1.3 rating in the first quarter-hour, and shot up drastically to a 2.2 rating in the second quarter-hour.
This kind of ratings trend is often experienced by TV shows that are flying under the radar, as people literally find out that it’s on the air by stumbling upon it while flipping channels, or by hearing that it’s on from a friend. With even half of the promotional dollars that have been spent on The Ultimate Fighter, UFC Unleashed could perform even better in the ratings than it is now.
In the meantime, with UFC Unleashed airing head-to-head with WWE Raw every single week, the ratings for WWE Raw have started to collapse. After its return to USA Network drew a strong rating of 4.4 on October 3rd, this week’s episode of WWE Raw drew an overall rating of 3.4, which is hugely disappointing by WWE’s standards. In just a few short weeks, Raw has gone from drawing one of its highest ratings of 2005 to drawing one of its lowest ratings of 2005.
The decrease in the ratings of WWE Raw have undoubtedly been influenced to some extent by the head-to-head competition with UFC Unleashed, but in this particular case it’s far more indicative of the fact that an extremely offensive skit on last week’s show turned off many WWE viewers and convinced them to not watch the show anymore, or not to watch it as often, or at least not to watch it this week. (This should have been counter-balanced by the fact that WWE heavily advertised an appearance by its biggest ratings draw, Stone Cold Steve Austin, but the show drew a disappointing rating nonetheless.)
If you look at WWE Raw’s ratings going back to the beginning of July, you will only find two occasions on which the show drew a smaller overall rating than this week’s show. The trend has become troubling enough that WWE has attempted to institute a policy of keeping Raw’s ratings a secret every week, which has been predictably unsuccessful.
What Will Be Airing Every Week After TUF’s Season is Over?
As for the future of UFC programming on Spike TV until The Ultimate Fighter 3 comes along next year, the current plan is for UFC Unleashed to air three times each week. The Saturday night UFC programming block that exists right now will simply consist of UFC Unleashed at 10:00 PM starting on Saturday, November 12th.
Additionally, episodes of UFC Unleashed will air each Monday night at both 10:00 PM and 11:00 PM starting on Monday, November 14th. New episodes of the series will air periodically in the 10:00 PM timeslot, while the 11:00 PM timeslot will be reserved strictly for episodes of Unleashed that have previously aired. There will be no airings of UFC Unleashed this coming Monday, November 7th, because the final replay of “The Ultimate Finale” will be airing from 10:00 PM to 1:00 AM.
As previously reported by MMAWeekly, the next live UFC fight special on Spike TV is scheduled to air on January 16th, head-to-head with an episode of WWE Raw that will likely be turned into one of Raw’s biggest episodes of the year.