When news spread that Strikeforce had entered into a deal with NBC to air a weekly late-night show that essentially amounted to an MMA infomercial, many of us were understandably skeptical. Few sports organizations have hit it big with the coveted 2 a.m. spot on Saturday night (also known as Sunday morning, for you religious-types). That’s not to say it can’t happen, just that when your lead-in is “Poker After Dark” you have to keep your expectations realistic/low.
According to Adam Swift at MMA Payout, the ratings for Strikeforce are actually pretty good, all things considered. Swift reports that the May 4 edition did a 0.5 rating (537,000 viewers), making it the 23rd highest rated sports offering on network television for the week. Keep in mind, this was the same week as the Kentucky Derby (also on NBC), which drew a 8.8 rating.
While a 0.5 rating looks pretty sad when compared with the big numbers put up by the Derby, you have to remember that 537,000 viewers is almost double the 287,000 who tuned in to watch Frank Shamrock-Cung Le on Showtime back in March. So…does that make Strikeforce on NBC a success?
Maybe, but here’s the thing: who’s watching TV at 2 a.m. on Saturday night? Better yet, who’s watching NBC — network TV — at that hour? Maybe some insomniacs, thirteen-year-olds who don’t get Cinemax, a few men trying to avoid getting into bed with their wives, and some poker enthusiasts who couldn’t gather enough strength to change the channel once their show (which drew a slightly better 0.7 rating) was over.
In other words, it’s hard to know what to make of ratings at such an hour. People who pass out in front of the TV with a can of Budweiser in their lap still count as “viewers”. That’s not to say that Strikeforce isn’t creating some new fans with their weekly show, but it remains to be seen just how many and to what end.
Are these people going to become loyal MMA fans and ticket/pay-per-view buyers somewhere down the road? Possibly. Does getting slightly worse ratings than “Poker After Dark” mean you’re a roaring success? Probably not. But you have to assume Strikeforce knew what to expect when they signed on to lull half a million Americans into dreamland with images of Frank Shamrock dancing through their heads. At least we hope so.