Yes, I know we just called for a hiatus on these “TUF ratings are in the shitter” posts. And I know O Chan just finished explaining why, from a network perspective, selling ads on original programming like TUF is better than giving them away during a broadcast of Big Momma’s House 2, even if the raw numbers are declining. But still, guys. You need to hear this.
A week after season 16 of TUF scored its highest amount of viewers with 1,100,000 — thanks to a strong lead-in from the UFC on FX 5 broadcast — the show reached rock bottom and saw that number shrink to just 624,000 for episode 5. In other words, only 56.7% of last week’s viewers stuck around for the next episode. It’s the worst viewership tally in the show’s history, falling alarmingly short of the previous low-ratings record of 775,000 viewers. It’s gotten so ugly that BG’s prediction of 660,000 viewers representing the nadir of the season has already been shattered two weeks after he made it. Time to readjust our already-low expectations.
At the risk of harping on the same points over and over again, part of the problem is the coaches. On one hand, you have a portly, middling heavyweight who, despite possessing great grappling and heavy hands, has yet to truly impress in the UFC and is best recognized for his unorthodox physique and mangy facial hair. On the other, you have an aging slugger who has really heavy hands — and worse everything else — coming off a year-long layoff from back surgery, and is notoriously media-averse. Point being, you’re not exactly getting charisma here. The only “drama” this show can muster is how much Nelson annoys Carwin and White. It’s not must-see TV by any stretch of the imagination.
But more than anything, it’s the lack of talent on the show. Brazil’s TUF is much more interesting because it has the potential to do what the first few seasons of TUF were able to do: unearth prospects. Brazil’s MMA scene is so disorganized and disassociated from the American scene that it’s entirely plausible that certain prospects have slipped through the cracks, suffered losses fighting at heavier weights, or simply haven’t possessed the requisite amount of free time to hone their skills. TUF offers fighters like that a shot that they may not get anywhere else. In America, though, the MMA scene is now developed enough that fighters who show promise and achieve early success are recognized relatively quickly, and are picked up by larger organizations — including the UFC — before they’d consider entering onto a tedious reality TV show.
Combine this with viewer fatigue for the stale format and the Friday Death Slot, and you have the ratings disaster that season 16 is. Over a million people tuned in a week ago, largely on the coattails of UFC on FX 5, and over 400,000 of those viewers said to themselves, “I’ve made a huge mistake.” (To be fair, they’re not alone.) You can’t spin that into something positive, no matter how hard you try. The only intrigue left for this season is if Carwin will actually agree to VADA drug testing leading up to the bout. (Considering his manager just accused arguably the most effective drug testing organization available to fighters of bullying Carwin, and insinuated that Nelson’s hair is an equally serious violation of the rules as doping, I suspect his answer will be “no.”)
If you need any more convincing, here’s a sad little statistic: TUF 16 episode 5 got beat in the ratings by a TBS overnight movie that aired at 4AM. Look, we all know how hard it is to say goodbye to things we once loved. But the UFC, for whatever reason, simply doesn’t want to come to grips with the fact that their cable TV labor-of-love needs to go. It’s time to say goodbye, for TUF’s own sake, if nothing else.
For further reading: Detailed Breakdown of Ultimate Fighter Ratings Shows Disturbing Trends