by Ivan Trembow – MMAWeekly.com
(pictured: Spencer Fisher)
The live broadcast of UFC Fight Night 10 on Tuesday, June 12th drew an overall rating of 1.2. With a line-up that was considered to have perhaps the least marquee value of any live UFC event on Spike TV to date, the overall rating has to be considered a success. Comparatively, it could have been much worse.
The main event of UFC Fight Night 10 featured Spencer Fisher and Sam Stout, both of whom were coming off of losses in their last UFC fights. The star in the semi-main event, Jon Fitch, had a UFC record of 5-0 going into the bout, but not a single one of his fights had ever aired on UFC television, and only one of them had ever aired on UFC pay-per-view. While hardcore MMA fans recognize Fitch as one of the top ten welterweight fighters in the world, Fitch’s constant placement on the UFC’s preliminary undercards means that the casual fans who make up the bulk of the UFC’s TV viewership likely had no idea who Fitch was prior to this fight.
With all of these facts in mind, the UFC and Spike TV may have been concerned that UFC Fight Night 10 would draw the UFC’s lowest ratings to date, but it did not, at least not in terms of overall viewership. The overall rating of 1.2 managed to stay a tenth of a ratings point higher than the UFC’s least-watched live fight special to date (the November 2006 finale of The Ultimate Fighter 4 drew an overall rating of 1.1). In addition, it was two-tenths of a ratings point higher than Spike TV’s primetime average rating of 1.0.
Ratings in Key Demographic Continue to Slip
However, in the advertiser-coveted demographic of 18-to-34-year-old males, UFC Fight Night 10 did indeed draw the UFC’s lowest ratings ever for a first-run event premiere. There have been two live specials in the UFC’s history on Spike TV, dating back to early 2005, that have drawn ratings lower than 2.0 in the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic. UFC Fight Night 9 in April 2007 drew a rating of 1.6 in this demographic, and UFC Fight Night 10 drew a 1.5 rating in this demographic.
The UFC and Spike TV both depend on this key demographic to attract new advertisers and retain current advertisers, so a drop in overall viewership might actually be preferred over the drop in 18-to-34-year-old male viewership that UFC programming on Spike TV has been experiencing in both live specials and the premieres of pre-taped Ultimate Fighter episodes.
In the 18-to-49-year-old demographic, a slightly broader group that is the UFC and Spike TV’s second most-targeted demographic, UFC Fight Night 10 drew a rating of 1.5, putting the show in a three-way tie for the all-time low mark among live UFC fight specials on Spike TV. The other two specials in the three-way tie for last place among live UFC events are April 2007’s broadcast of UFC Fight Night 9, and November 2006’s broadcast of The Ultimate Fighter 4 Finale.
UFC Fight Night 10’s Ratings vs. Previous UFC Ratings
Compared to the UFC’s average-to-date for fight specials headed into this event, UFC Fight Night 10 was not able to approach the previous shows’ average ratings.
The UFC’s average-to-date for its previous fifteen fight specials was a 1.7 overall rating, and UFN 10 drew a 1.2 overall rating.
In the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, the UFC’s average-to-date was a 2.8 rating, and UFN 10’s rating in this demographic was 1.5.
In the 18-to-49-year-old male demographic, the UFC’s average-to-date was a 2.2 rating, and UFN 10’s rating in this demographic was 1.5.
A March Through the UFN 10 Broadcast, Including Brutal Knockouts and Ratings for Individual Fights
The two-hour broadcast of UFC Fight Night 10 opened up with Drew McFedries’ quick knockout victory over Jordan Radev in a fight that drew an overall rating of just 0.7. The first two or three fights on any live UFC broadcast on Spike TV are almost always the least-watched, but even the first fights on the broadcast still manage to hit the 1.0 mark on the vast majority of occasions.
After this fight, when Radev was still unconscious in the ring, the UFC continued what is now a long-standing, de-facto policy of cutting away from the unconscious fighter and not acknowledging the fighter’s condition for the rest of the broadcast. The UFC did this on two occasions in 2005 when Terry Martin and Tra Telligman were each brutally knocked out, and then the same thing happened for a third time when Sean Salmon was knocked out cold by Rashad Evans in January 2007. This is the equivalent of an NFL player going down from a big hit and not moving for several minutes, but the camera on the television broadcast cuts to a crowd shot or commercial break, and then the injured NFL player is never or shown or acknowledged again for the rest of the broadcast.
The UFC could not send the next scheduled fighters out to the Octagon while Radev was still receiving medical attention inside the cage, but they were also apparently insistent on keeping with the de-facto policy of not acknowledging the unconscious fighter. So, 16 minutes after the end of the McFedries-Radev fight, a pre-taped preliminary fight between Anthony Johnson and Chad Reiner aired.
The Johnson-Reiner fight also ended in a quick and brutal knockout, as Johnson knocked Reiner out and the fight drew a 1.1 rating. Ironically, while Jordan Radev was still being treated by medical personnel in real time, the UFC also chose not to update or acknowledge the unconscious Reiner’s condition for the rest of the broadcast.
After Radev was taken to the backstage area, the next live fight pitted Jon Fitch against Roan Carneiro in a fight that started nine minutes after the Johnson-Reiner bout finished airing. Fitch defeated Carneiro by submission, and the fight drew a 1.0 rating. While that rating could certainly be considered a disappointment, it’s not a complete surprise that the fight didn’t pop a rating, given the fact that it was Fitch’s first ever exposure on a UFC event on Spike TV.
At this point in the broadcast, with two of the three main card bouts having concluded before the end of the second round, there was plenty of time to fill, so the decision was made to air the preliminary fight between Thiago Tavares and Jason Black, as main-eventers Spencer Fisher and Sam Stout made their final preparations backstage. As is usually the case with the UFC’s live fight specials on Spike TV, the viewership level increases significantly over the course of the last hour. Thirteen minutes after the end of the Fitch-Carneiro fight, Tavares’ impressive submission victory over Black hit the airwaves, and the fight drew a 1.4 rating.
Twenty minutes after the Tavares-Black bout finished airing, Fisher vs. Stout got underway, and the two fighters had an exciting stand-up battle that Fisher won by unanimous decision. The main event fight drew a 1.6 rating, making it the most-watched fight of the night.
The 1.6 rating for Fisher vs. Stout was higher than every single fight on the UFC Fight Night 9 broadcast, but it was lower than every single fight on the UFC 70 broadcast on Spike TV, and lower than all-but-one of the fights on the UFC Fight Night 8 broadcast. Ironically, that one fight on the UFN 8 broadcast was Spencer Fisher’s previous fight, a TKO loss to Hermes Franca that drew a 1.5 rating. Stout’s previous fight on Spike TV, a submission loss to Kenny Florian in June 2006, drew a 1.8 rating.
Ratings Comparison: UFC vs. WWE vs. IFL vs. WEC
Even though UFC Fight Night 10’s ratings were among the lowest in the UFC’s history on Spike TV for a live event broadcast, the Zuffa-owned UFC is still in a different ballpark when compared to other MMA promotions.
The UFC’s top competitor for TV ratings amongst current MMA promotions is the IFL. The first ten original episodes of the IFL’s “Battleground” series on MyNetworkTV averaged 998,000 viewers, compared to 1,524,000 viewers for UFC Fight Night 10. The Zuffa-owned WEC promotion recently aired its first live event on Versus Network and the two-hour broadcast averaged 416,000 viewers.
UFC Fight Night 10 also marked the first time since August 2006 that a live UFC fight special went head-to-head with first-run WWE programming. The latest edition of WWE’s Tuesday night program “ECW” (which is “ECW” in name only) on the Sci Fi Network out-drew UFC Fight Night 10 in overall rating (1.7 to 1.2) and overall viewers (2,400,000 million to 1,524,000), but the UFC actually beat WWE in the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic. Even the UFC’s record low rating of 1.5 was enough in that demographic to beat WWE’s rating of 1.2 in the same demographic.
Head-to-Head Network Competition; Other UFC-on-Spike Ratings
Airing head-to-head with the first hour of UFC Fight Night 10 on network television from 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM on Tuesday, June 12th, ABC’s presentation of “NBA Finals: Game 3″ drew a hugely disappointing overall rating of just 5.1 in the hour. The NBA Finals on ABC lost handily to the NBC variety show “America’s Got Talent,” which drew an overall rating of 7.9 in the hour. Meanwhile, a repeat of “The Unit” on CBS drew a 4.7 overall rating, and a repeat of “House” on Fox drew a 4.2 overall rating.
Airing head-to-head with the second hour of UFC Fight Night 10 from 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM on June 12th, the second hour of “NBA Finals: Game 3″ drew a slightly better 5.7 overall rating on ABC. However, it embarrassingly lost to repeat programming, as a rerun of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” on NBC drew a 6.1 overall rating. A repeat episode of the documentary news series “48 Hours Mystery” on CBS was not far behind with a 5.1 overall rating.
Leading into the 9:00 PM start of UFC Fight Night 10 on Spike TV, a repeat of UFC Unleashed aired from 8:00 PM to 9:00 PM and drew a disappointing overall rating of just 0.5, continuing the trend of UFC Unleashed’s decreased ratings.
After the conclusion of UFC Fight Night 10, the hour-long special “Countdown to UFC 72″ aired on Spike TV from 11:00 PM to 12:00 AM and drew an overall rating of 0.8. Thanks in large part to the UFC lead-in, this was higher than the overall rating of 0.7 that was drawn by the premiere of “Countdown to UFC 71″ and the overall rating of 0.5 that was drawn by the premiere of “UFC All Access: Quinton Jackson.”