by Ivan Trembow – MMAWeekly.com
MMAWeekly has already brought you the full ratings reports for each of the twelve regular season episodes of The Ultimate Fighter 4, and now we’re going to take a look at the bigger picture by comparing the ratings that were drawn by TUF 4 to the ratings that were drawn by the first three seasons of TUF.
When all was said and done, TUF 4 was the lowest-rated season of TUF to date, and it also reversed what had been an upward trend throughout TUF 1, TUF 2, and TUF 3 of increasing ratings in the most advertiser-coveted demographics.
In series history, the regular season of The Ultimate Fighter 1 averaged a 1.6 overall rating, the second season was down to a 1.4 overall rating on average, the third season was up to a 1.7 average, and the recently completed fourth season drew an average rating of 1.2 overall, which was down 29 percent from TUF 3.
The Ultimate Fighter 4 actually started off the season with ratings that would have put it in the same ballpark as previous seasons, but the ratings quickly went downward.
Breaking down the twelve episodes into four different groups of three episodes apiece, the first three episodes of TUF 4 averaged a 1.6 overall rating, but then the next three episodes averaged a 1.2 overall rating, the next three episodes after that also averaged a 1.2 overall rating, and the final three episodes of the season averaged a 1.1 overall rating. The drop-off from the first set of three episodes to the last was 31 percent.
Ratings in the #1 Key Demographic
In the demographic that is the most targeted by advertisers, 18-to-34-year-old males, The Ultimate Fighter as a series had been on a steady increase in viewership from the beginning of the first season to the end of the third season. This trend reversed during TUF 4, and the season ended up with a lower average in this demographic than TUF 1 averaged.
In the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, the first season of TUF averaged a 2.2 rating, the second season averaged a 2.5 rating, the third season averaged a 2.9 rating, and the fourth season averaged a 2.0 rating, which was down 31 percent from TUF 3.
As with the overall ratings, TUF 4’s ratings in the key demographic started off well and collapsed shortly thereafter. This indicates that it wasn’t a case of viewers simply not giving the season a chance (if that were the case, the ratings would have been low from the beginning of the season). What this trend indicates is that many of the people who tuned into the first few episodes of Season Four decided that they were not interested in watching the rest of the season.
Again, if you look at the twelve-episode regular season as four different groups of three episodes apiece, the first three episodes of TUF averaged a 2.6 rating in the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, which would have been the second highest rated season of TUF in series history if that average had been maintained.
Instead, the next three episodes averaged a 1.9 rating in the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, the next three episodes after that also averaged a 1.9 rating, and the final three episodes of TUF 4 averaged a 1.6 rating in this demographic. The drop-off from the first set of three episodes to the last was 38 percent.
Ratings in the #2 Key Demographic
The second most targeted demographic among the UFC and Spike TV’s advertisers is 18-to-49-year-old males. This demographic includes the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic that makes up the bulk of the UFC’s audience, but it also includes the 35-to-49-year-old male demographic, which is disproportionately less interested in “new sports” like mixed martial arts.
In the 18-to-49-year-old male demographic, we don’t have all of the data for the first and second seasons of TUF, but we do have all of the data for the third and fourth seasons. The third season averaged a 2.2 rating in this demographic, while the fourth season averaged a 1.6 rating in this demographic.
As with the other ratings trends, this one started out moderately well and proceeded to go downhill from there. The first three episodes of TUF 4 averaged a 2.0 rating in the 18-to-49-year-old male demographic, and then the next three episodes averaged a 1.6 rating in this demographic, the next three episodes averaged a 1.4 rating, and the final three episodes of the season also averaged a 1.4 rating. The drop-off from the beginning of the season to the end was 30 percent.
As detailed in a separate article earlier this week, the live season finale of The Ultimate Fighter 4 drew a 1.1 overall rating, which was down drastically from the 1.9, 2.0, and 2.0 overall ratings that were drawn by the finales of TUF 1, 2, and 3. Also, the individual fights on the fourth season of The Ultimate Fighter drew overall ratings that ranged from a high of 1.8 for the fight on Episode One to a low of 1.0 for the fight on Episode Twelve.
It remains to be seen whether the decreases in viewership for The Ultimate Fighter 4 were just an aberration or whether these decreases were the beginning of a downward trend in TUF ratings. If there’s one thing that is certain, it is that when The Ultimate Fighter 5 starts airing in April, it will need to do a better job of maintaining its audience over the course of the season than The Ultimate Fighter 4.