by Ivan Trembow – MMAWeekly.com
(photo courtesy of Spike TV)
With its twelve-episode regular season now half-way over, The Ultimate Fighter is still performing very well in the ratings. Episode Seven of TUF 3 drew a strong 1.7 overall rating, matching the overall rating of the previous week.
TUF 3 vs. TUF 2 vs. TUF 1 Through Six Episodes
Through six episodes, TUF 3 is now averaging a 1.7 overall rating. For the purposes of comparison, TUF 1 averaged a 1.6 overall rating through its first six episodes, and TUF 2 also averaged a 1.6 overall rating through six episodes.
The big difference is that TUF 1’s ratings remained steady for the second half of its season, while TUF 2’s ratings fell off drastically in its second half (averaging an overall rating of just 1.2 over its final six regular episodes).
The key for TUF 3 will be whether it follows the TUF 1 pattern of remaining steady in the second half, or the TUF 2 pattern of falling off sharply. All signs would seem to point to the former being the case. While TUF 3’s ratings were volatile and unstable in its first three episodes, the ratings have since leveled off to a consistent level, with the last three weeks drawing overall ratings of 1.6, 1.7, and 1.7. It appears very unlikely that TUF 3 will experience anything like the TUF 2 ratings drop-off.
Compared to this exact point in the first two seasons, TUF 3 falls right in between the first two seasons with its 1.7 rating for Episode Six. The sixth episode of TUF 2 drew a 1.4 overall rating with the featured fight of Jason Von Flue defeating Jorge Gurgel. The six episode of TUF 1 drew a 2.0 overall rating, which is tied for the highest in the history of the series, with the featured fight of Josh Koscheck defeating Chris Leben.
One major factor in the record rating of Episode Six from the first season is that everyone knew going into the episode that it was going to headline with Koscheck vs. Leben. All of the viewers of the previous episode were told that Koscheck vs. Leben would be taking place the following week, and everyone else had a week’s worth of commercials to drive that point home.
Now, even though there are no special circumstances with the Josh Haynes vs. Tait Fletcher fight, TUF 3 is in a similar position in the sense that everyone who saw Episode Six has been told in advance that Haynes vs. Fletcher will be taking place on Episode Seven, and there will be a week’s worth of commercials to build up to it. The result could be a boost in the ratings for Haynes vs. Fletcher.
The Only Two Minor Concerns with Episode Six’s Ratings
The only two concerns with Episode Six’s ratings are minor ones, provided that they are merely aberrations and aren’t the beginning of new trends. First off, the ratings in the coveted 18-to-34-year-old male demographic were down significantly from the season’s 3.0 average, as Episode Six only drew a 2.4 rating in that demographic. Of course, the word “only” has to be qualified by saying that 2.4 is still an excellent rating to be drawing in that demographic, but there’s also no mistaking the fact that it’s down significantly.
The other minor concern is that the ratings growth throughout the show was almost non-existent. Instead of building towards a fight and then having the fight in the last quarter-hour, Episode Six had a bunch of character development and then no fight at the end of the episode. If one wanted to see a test case for a TUF episode template that is different from the aforementioned norm, you could look at this episode to see what would happen to the ratings. What happened is that Episode Six had the smallest amount of audience growth of any 60-minute episode of TUF 3 to date.
Episode Six started off with a 1.5 rating in the first-quarter hour. The rating went up to 1.7 in the second-quarter hour, and then simply stayed there for the rest of the hour. The last three quarter-hour ratings were 1.7, 1.7, and 1.7. The three ongoing themes that were featured instead of an actual fight (Matt Hamill interacts with his teammates, Tait Fletcher argues with Ken Shamrock, and Noah Inhofer gets a letter) did not result in the audience growth that every episode of TUF usually experiences over the course of 60 minutes.
People were not calling their friends or going out of their way to make sure that they saw the final quarter-hour in order to see what would happen with Noah Inhofer in the way that they normally do in order see what happens in the show-closing fight.
TUF Provided with Tougher Network TV Competition
The network TV competition that The Ultimate Fighter was facing on Thursday night, May 11th was stronger than it had been in previous weeks. Approximately 26.1 percent of American households were tuned in to either CBS, NBC, or ABC from 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM (Fox, UPN, and The WB do not provide national programming after 10:00 PM).
Without a Trace on CBS drew a 12.8 overall rating for the second consecutive week, while ER on NBC drew an improved rating of 8.7. Still, NBC expected better given the hotshot ratings stunt that they pulled (commercials ran all week with shots being fired and the tease that one or more major characters could be shot or killed in the storyline). The constant losses to Without a Trace have gotten embarrassing enough for NBC that it will no longer be airing ER all year long up against Without a Trace. In the 2006-2007 TV season, ER will not have any repeat airings, meaning that it will only air for approximately half of the season.
With Commander in Chief having been pulled from the schedule abruptly last week, ABC aired its newsmagazine Primetime in the 10:00 PM hour, and it drew a 4.6 rating. The official confirmation that Commander in Chief has been cancelled came down from ABC earlier today.
In other Thursday night ratings, the episode of UFC Unleashed that served as TUF’s lead-in drew a 1.1 overall rating for the third consecutive week, which may help explain why TUF 3’s overall ratings have been almost unchanged (1.6, 1.7, 1.7) during that same three-week period.
TNA Impact drew a 1.0 overall rating, up from the 0.9 overall rating that it had drawn the previous three weeks. The overall rating showed mild improvement, but the big improvement came in the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic. In that demographic, TNA Impact drew a 1.9 rating on May 11th, which was up drastically from the 1.1 rating that it drew in the same demographic on May 4th. The 10:00 PM hour on Spike TV’s Thursday night line-up is inexplicably going to be filled with a comedy block when TUF 3 ends in June, so TNA won’t have the UFC lead-in for very much longer.