by Ivan Trembow – MMAWeekly.com
World Extreme Cagefighting’s debut broadcast on Versus Network on Sunday, June 3rd, drew an overall rating of 0.4. The event was the WEC’s fourth since being purchased by Ultimate Fighting Championship parent company Zuffa last December, and it was the first time that the WEC or any other MMA promotion has aired on Versus.
Airing from 9:00 PM to 10:54 PM, WEC 28 averaged 416,000 total viewers. The broadcast’s 0.4 overall rating was matched by its 0.4 rating in the 18-to-49-year-old male demographic. In the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, the show drew a rating of 0.7.
Formerly known as the Outdoor Life Network, Versus is available in approximately 70 million U.S. households. Spike TV and most other cable networks are available in slightly more than 90 million U.S. households. Broadcast TV networks such as CBS and NBC are available in approximately 111 million U.S. households.
WEC’s Ratings Already Approach NHL’s Ratings
While the WEC’s ratings pale in comparison to the average ratings for the UFC, the same could be said for any show on Versus. The network’s highest-profile property, the National Hockey League, has drawn lackluster ratings not only for the regular season, but also for the playoffs and the Stanley Cup Finals.
In the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, WEC 28 actually out-drew the two games of this year’s Stanley Cup Finals that aired on Versus. Both of the Stanley Cup Finals games drew 0.6 ratings in the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, while WEC 28 drew a 0.7 in that demographic.
The first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals on Versus drew overall ratings of 0.8 for Game 1 and 0.7 for Game 2, as compared with 0.4 for WEC 28. In terms of overall viewership, the difference between the WEC and the NHL is not as big as the overall ratings might suggest, as there were more viewers per household for the WEC. Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Versus averaged 769,000 viewers; Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Versus averaged 576,000 viewers; and WEC 28 on Versus averaged 416,000 viewers.
When coverage of this year’s Stanley Cup Finals moved over to NBC starting with Game 3, the result was the lowest overall rating for any primetime broadcast in NBC’s history. The game drew a 1.1 network rating on NBC, which is slightly lower than the low point of Vince McMahon’s ill-fated XFL in early 2001.
WEC vs. EliteXC vs. IFL vs. UFC vs. NBA
The average audience of 416,000 people for WEC 28 on Versus is slightly higher than the average audience of 365,000 viewers who tuned in for the premiere of EliteXC on Showtime back in February. The ratings for EliteXC were considered excellent for Showtime, given the fact that the premium cable network is available in just 15 million U.S. households, whereas Versus is available in 70 million households.
The average audience for IFL Battleground in its first ten original episodes on MyNetworkTV was 998,000 viewers, which compares favorably with the NHL’s average for the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals (673,000 viewers) and the WEC’s live debut on Versus (416,000 viewers). As a broadcast TV network, albeit a struggling broadcast TV network, MyNetworkTV is available in approximately 105 million U.S. households.
Of course, other live sporting events held by such organizations as the UFC and NBA are in a different league when it comes to overall viewership levels.
The most recent live UFC broadcast on cable television was UFC 70, which drew a 1.8 overall rating and 2.8 million viewers on April 21st.
The most recent live NBC broadcast on cable television for which final ratings are available was Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, which drew a 4.8 overall rating and 5.6 million viewers on May 31st.
WEC WrekCage and Tapout Also Premiere on Versus
Leading into the live WEC broadcast on Versus was the premiere of WEC WrekCage, featuring WEC fight footage and a UFC Unleashed-like format. The first episode of WEC WrekCage drew an average audience of 189,000 viewers and an overall rating of 0.2. The two most recent airings of UFC Unleashed on Spike TV drew overall ratings of 0.4 on May 8th and 0.7 on May 15th.
The series premiere of the reality show Tapout, featuring the people behind the well-known MMA clothing line, aired immediately following WEC 28. Tapout drew an average audience of 286,000 viewers and an overall rating of 0.3. In the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, Tapout drew a rating of 0.5, which is just short of the 0.6 rating that the first two games of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals averaged on Versus.
Head-to-Head Network TV Competition
Airing head-to-head with the first hour of WEC 28 on June 3rd from 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM, a repeat of “Cold Case” on CBS drew a 6.3 overall rating. The final hour of the movie “Bad Boys II” drew a 3.3 overall rating on Fox. A repeat of “Desperate Housewives” on ABC lagged far behind the top spot with a 2.7 overall rating, as “Desperate Housewives” typically draws much lower ratings for its repeats than most shows. Coming in a distant last place on the Big Four networks was a repeat of the NBC drama series “Friday Night Lights,” which drew a 1.5 overall rating.
Airing head-to-head with the second hour of WEC 28 on June 3rd from 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM, a repeat of “Without a Trace” drew a 6.0 overall rating. Fox doesn’t air national programming in the 10:00 PM hour, and NBC moved ahead of ABC for second place among the Big Four networks. A repeat of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” drew a 2.7 overall rating on NBC, while a repeat of “Brothers & Sisters” drew a 2.3 overall rating on ABC.