From a viewership standpoint, the move to FX and Friday nights has thus far not proven fruitful for UFC.
After a pair of live “Fight Night” cards drew very disappointing numbers on the new night and network, Friday’s premiere of “The Ultimate Fighter” also failed to make a splash. The episode drew just 1.28 million viewers and a 0.7 adults 18-49 rating, notably below what would have been expected of a series premiere on former network Spike TV.
Friday is a challenging night for reaching viewers in the young adult and male demographics, so from FX’s standpoint, the UFC programming still represents a decent addition to the schedule. For UFC, however, the end result of the struggle is less eyeballs on product that is used to build up fighters and promote pay-per-view confrontations.
Adding to the inherent difficulty of Friday night was the presence of WWE SmackDown, which provided head-to-head competition from 9-10PM. The wrestling program dominated “TUF” with total viewers and won comfortably in the demo with its 0.9 rating and 3.10 million viewers.
Of course, before blaming SmackDown, one might want to consider a F4WOnline.com note that the ratings declined as the broadcast went on. It is obvious that the similarly-skewing SmackDown! hurt things, but if it were the only culprit, the rating should have surged once the clock struck 10PM.
Spike TV’s competitive airing of previous “TUF” moments, hosted by Kimbo Slice, averaged 653,000 viewers. As sad as it might seem, it is clear Spike’s ploy to confuse viewers and take advantage of those accustomed to watching UFC on the male-skewing network (as part of a “war” over the contracted broadcast rights) is adversely affecting UFC’s performance on the FOX networks.
MTV2 also aired the first Bellator card of the season, although its ratings were insignificant from a competition standpoint.