by Ivan Trembow – MMAWeekly.com
As the semi-finals began, Episode Ten of The Ultimate Fighter 3 drew an overall rating of 1.5, which was the second lowest rating of the season, only topping Episode Two.
While some of this decrease can be attributed to the fact that Episode Ten went head-to-head with the MTV Movie Awards and NBA Finals, that factor can only account for some of the ratings decrease. It would not be accurate to put all of the blame on the NBA Finals and MTV Movie Awards. In fact, the latest episode of TNA Impact, airing immediately after TUF 3, had to go head-to-head with the final hour of the NBA Finals game and a replay of the MTV Movie Awards, and yet Impact still drew its average overall rating (1.0).
It’s also important to note that even though it is down from recent weeks, this week’s TUF rating of 1.5 is still an excellent rating for a cable television show. If anything, it’s the mark of a successful TV show when even a “down week” in the ratings is still producing strong numbers.
Semi-Final Ratings Down Compared to Previous Seasons
Episode Ten has always been the episode in which the semi-finals get underway in any given season of The Ultimate Fighter, and this season was no exception. The difference is that Episode Ten of the first season (featuring Kenny Florian vs. Chris Leben) and Episode Ten of the second season (featuring Luke Cummo vs. Sam Morgan) both drew significantly higher ratings than the previous week’s episode, largely because of the allure of the semi-finals getting underway. The opposite was true with this season’s Episode Ten, which drew a 1.5 overall rating one week after Episode Nine drew a 1.8 overall rating.
In comparing the tenth episode (and the start of the semi-finals) between all three seasons, the first season generated the best ratings. Episode Ten of the first season drew a 1.7 overall rating, compared to a 1.5 overall rating for Episode Ten of the third season, and a 1.4 overall rating for Episode Ten of the second season.
In terms of quarter-hour ratings, Episode Ten of TUF 3 started off with a 1.3 quarter-hour rating, and that number grew steadily to 1.4, 1.5, and 1.6 in the subsequent quarter-hours. The quarter-hour rating of 1.6 that was drawn by the fight between Kendall Grove and Kalib Starnes made it second least watched individual fight of the season, only topping the fight between Noah Inhofer and Jesse Forbes.
Three Fights in One Night as the Semi-Finals End This Week
As previously reported by MMAWeekly, the last two regular-season episodes of TUF 3 will air back-to-back on Thursday, June 15th. Saving Episode Twelve for June 22nd would have given Spike TV just two days to run the commercials that will advertise the specific fights that will be on the June 24th live season finale.
The light heavyweight semi-final bouts will be Michael Bisping vs. Ross Pointon, and Josh Haynes vs. Jesse Forbes. After defeating Mike Nickels in a one-sided fight on the previous episode of TUF, despite having what appeared to be a severe arm injury, Matt Hamill was unable to continue in the competition due to his arm injury and had to be hospitalized.
Since Hamill couldn’t return, the producers of TUF filmed Hamill making a brief statement and vowing to be back someday… oh, wait a minute, no they didn’t. Instead, Hamill’s departure was barely acknowledged, and clips aired with people talking about how sloppy of a job he did in his victory against Nickels. It is nothing short of mind-boggling that someone, anyone, could suffer a major arm injury, choose to fight anyway, be the proverbial one-armed man in an ass-kicking contest who actually wins instead of losing, have to leave the show because of that arm injury, and then get buried for it on his way out.
With Hamill’s departure leaving a void in the semi-finals, we learned that Jesse Forbes actually did something remarkable earlier this season. He accepted the invitation to come back to the show. You would think that anyone would take that offer, but on Episode Ten, Tait Fletcher and Kristian Rothaermel chose not to return to the competition after Hamill had to leave the show.
Fortunately, the viewing public did not have to sit through another tough guy speech when this happened. Unfortunately, a fighter with a losing record in MMA who previously lost in the middleweight competition is now in the light heavyweight semi-finals. Ross Pointon was put into that role and matched up against Michael Bisping, and the overwhelmingly likely result is that Bisping will win easily and move into the finals. Any of the middleweights who previously lost their fights could have been put in that spot, but Pointon was chosen for a reason. Booking fights in which one fighter is overwhelmingly likely to win has become a trend in the UFC, and it has only become less subtle with cases like Bisping vs. Pointon, Ortiz vs. Shamrock, and Hughes vs. Gracie.
The middleweight semi-finals are much more clear-cut, with Kendall Grove having defeated Kalib Starnes in one of the middleweight semi-finals, while Ed Herman will face Rory Singer in the other semi-final.
Other Thursday Night Ratings
Game 1 of the NBA Finals on ABC aired head-to-head with the entire “Thursday Night Knockouts” block of programming on Spike TV on Thursday, June 8th. The first game of the NBA Finals drew an overall rating of 6.6, which is slightly less than the 7.1 average rating for the NBA Finals last year.
Also airing head-to-head with The Ultimate Fighter on June 8th was a repeat of CBS’ Without a Trace, which beat the NBA Finals by drawing a 7.8 overall rating. On NBC, the series premiere of the NBC summer drama Windfall drew an overall rating of 5.9, which is much better than the ratings that ER repeats usually draw in the timeslot.
The episode of UFC Unleashed that aired from 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM on June 8th drew an overall rating of 0.9. It aired head-to-head with not only the NBA Finals, but also a repeat of CBS’ CSI (8.3 overall rating), a new episode of Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance (6.2 overall rating, which was up significantly from the previous week), and two repeats of NBC’s My Name is Earl (which averaged a 4.1 overall rating in the hour).
Airing immediately after The Ultimate Fighter on June 8th was TNA Impact, which drew a strong overall rating of 1.0, despite going head-to-head with the final hour of the NBA game. After breaking the 1.0 barrier only a few times in company history as of two months ago, TNA Impact has drawn an overall rating of 1.0 or higher for the past five consecutive weeks.
June 8th was the last date of the season that TNA Impact will have a new episode of TUF as a lead-in while still airing in its normal timeslot. On June 15th, TNA Impact doesn’t hit the airwaves until 12:00 AM due to the double airing of The Ultimate Fighter. On June 22nd, two repeats of The Ultimate Fighter will serve as TNA Impact’s lead-in. On June 29th, an encore airing of a UFC live fight special will be airing before Impact. Starting on July 6th, a European comedy will be TNA’s new lead-in. Impact will regain the TUF lead-in on August 17th, but one would certainly think that by the time August 17th rolls around, TNA will have been given a second hour, moved to primetime, or both.