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‘UFC on FX 5: Browne vs. Bigfoot’ Prelims Draw a Staggeringly Low 44,000 Viewers

(Where the hell do y’all think you’re going?! Please, I’m begging you, if you stick around, I’ll even break out the Techno Viking dance!) 

We can’t wait to see how Dana White tries to spin this one.

The numbers were just released for all of last weekend’s UFC events. The good news: The main FX card did pretty well and the fourth episode of The Ultimate Fighter hit a seasonal high in terms of viewership (take that with a grain of salt). The bad news: The FUEL prelims were caught by less people than the 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee prelims on ESPN 3. Probably.

You see, last Friday’s FUEL prelims only managed to draw in 44,000 viewers, absolutely shattering the promotion’s previous FUEL prelim low of 84,000 for UFC on FX 3. If these kind of numbers do not improve, the UFC won’t have to worry about emerging victorious from a ratings war with the WWE because they will be too busy trying to compete with the Punkin Chunkin people. We expect DW to start lobbing insults at “those four-eyed f*cking scumbag f*cks on the Lience Channel” any day now.

In all seriousness, at least part of the insane drop can be attributed to the fact that last weekend’s prelims started one hour earlier than normal — at 5 p.m. EST rather than 6 p.m. — meaning that many West Coast viewers would still likely be working or on their way home when the fights began. That being said, we don’t think a one hour difference could be the sole factor behind a 75% drop from the UFC on FX 4 prelims, which managed to reel in over 160,000 viewers. Although the card suffered some last minute setbacks, we also can’t imagine that the absence of Jeremy Stephens and Dennis Hallman were responsible for this ratings drop either.

At this point, we don’t know what to say really. While it’s not exactly crisis mode for the UFC, there’s no way they can be completely satisfied with such continually disappointing numbers. Say what you want about “Spuke TV”, but they sure as hell knew how to market The Ultimate Fighter and the prelim events better than FX does. I can’t remember the last time I saw an advertisement for the prelims more than a day or two out from when they were scheduled to air, which seems to be the main problem FX is facing: awareness. With a UFC event happening practically every weekend, FX needs to start advertising each event earlier and with more frequency if they expect to bring in more viewers.

Then again, it could simply be a case of the UFC spreading themselves too thin. Think about it, most cable-accessible UFC events begin with a live stream on Facebook, then a few fights on FUEL, then the main card on FX. Aside from the fact that most of the country does not get FUEL even with special cable packages — I have a 160 channel package that doesn’t — asking your viewing audience to keep jumping through hoops to watch a few fights featuring lower-level fighters seems like a counterproductive strategy. Only die hard fans of the sport will make the effort to catch every single fight, and they must often resort to illegal streams and other means to do so because of the variety of channels and mediums through which the UFC broadcasts their content on a given night.

The question now becomes: What can the UFC/FX do to boost these ratings?

-J. Jones 

Cagepotato Comments

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Alan K- October 10, 2012 at 3:23 pm
I don't think they're gonna be too concerned considering that most household still don't even have Fuel TV. I watched the prelims but had to use a stream to do it so I technically don't factor into that 44,000. So disappointing. Someday I'll belong.
Mr_Misanthropy- October 10, 2012 at 1:03 pm
I don't know if somebody already said this five times but here's my two cents:

They're making it too complicated to view their content and people that are not committed to MMA are not going to put in all the effort to watch a whole card.

Take last weekend for example. The Facebook and FUEL tv prelims started in the middle of the afternoon (facebook at 3pm) on the west coast but the main event was tape delayed. I for one do not use facebook and you can't even get FUEL tv on Comcast/xfinity as far as I am aware. I have about 300 channels w/HD and I don't get Fuel. Basically if I wanted to see the whole event I would have to set aside 7 hrs of my Saturday to sit in front of the TV with a long and pointless tape delayed break right in the middle. Add in all the commercials and other bullshit that I hate and it makes for a rather irritating viewing experience.

When you watch a pay per view you get the whole event in one neat package with no commercials. If there are a lot of finishes you usually get the added bonus of the good fights from the undercard thrown in to fill out the time. It makes for a nice streamlined viewing experience that is all about the fights and not about a bunch of super gay commercials aimed at meatheads who think barb wire tribal tattoos and chin straps are fashion statements. I like the fact that The UFC was making an effort to broadcast undercard fights because I usually want to see every fight on the card if I can but if they make it too complicated I have other shit to do with my time. Fuck FUEL TV, why even try to broadcast shit on a channel nobody has and a lot of people can't even get?

They had a good thing going with Spike because they had a format that worked and they had marketing support. They should at the very least stick to their old format. If you want people to watch your shit put it where they can see it.
J.Jones- October 10, 2012 at 1:23 pm
@ Misanthropy - Well, I said it approximately one time in the actual article if that helps...
Mr_Misanthropy- October 10, 2012 at 5:35 pm
Yeah, I guess I was just agreeing with you because I was somewhat irritated at the whole situation on Friday. If you read my above statement you would realize I'm so out of it I didn't even know what day it was.
Deleca- October 10, 2012 at 12:52 pm
Next time, give Minneapolis a main fight that people can get excited about
Rxforpain- October 10, 2012 at 12:18 pm
In addition to spreading themselves too thin, the UFC is lacking the key element it had in its rise: excitement. The overall roster is not what it was between 2005-2010. The new guard doesn't have the same drawing power of the old in terms of "must see TV."

Furthermore, the championship ladders (in each division) are a cluster fuck. Gone are the days where these preliminary fights, both on and off the main cards, actually mean anything. Between trying to get ratings and fill in spots due to injury, you have Dana & Company scrambling to salvage almost every aspect of every event.

These are the days of interim-interim championships. We're not in the dark ages again yet, but we're getting there!
Sloppyspray- October 10, 2012 at 10:21 am
DW has yet to speak on the issue, but I'll let you in on a secret...there was actually only 44,000 men in the 18-35 demographic that were watching t.v. at that time, so UFC actually captured 100% of the target!!

Seriously though, anyone who is not working in the public sector and has a job worth having isn't home at 5 p.m. to watch these fights, and that's only accounting for the east coast, the west coast is screwed. And I don't know 1 person that has FUEL t.v.
FilmDrunk- October 10, 2012 at 9:54 am
It's hard to start freaking out about numbers on Fuel - Comcast doesn't even carry Fuel. (Comcast fucking sucks, but I can't get Directv at my building). Anyway, I wouldn't start worrying about the sky falling until they put it on a real channel. Same with TUF - call me when it's not being broadcast in the 10 pm Friday death slot. Nothing gets good ratings in that spot.
jonjonesbentley- October 10, 2012 at 9:42 am
I had to watch it on a stream since I'm on the west coast and they weren't broadcast live over here. The jumping from channels does get annoying as well.
The12ozCurls- October 10, 2012 at 9:37 am
I am surprised that DW has not held a press conference to publicly shame this "Nielsen" guy and call him a stupid fuck who doesn't know anything about MMA ratings.
Fried Taco- October 10, 2012 at 9:35 am
But to improve the ratings, here is an idea: main camera is on the fully-naked ring girls at all times, catching their facial expressions as they watch the fights as well as booty shots while they carry the ring cards. And in the corner, a small window showing the actual fights. Bonus with this format: fans will actually prefer fights featuring Jon Fitch and other lay-n-pray until a decision fighters!
Fried Taco- October 10, 2012 at 9:32 am
I didn't even know the prelims were on FUEL TV, otherwise I would've watched (DVR'd) them.
amsterdamheavy- October 10, 2012 at 9:31 am
I have Fuel and still would prefer to watch the prelims on Facebook (which is the only use I have for that fuckin website).
ArmFarmer- October 10, 2012 at 9:29 am
"Well guys, our numbers are down and we are losing viewers at a consistent rate. What are we going to do about this?" "Hmm.. Jim Miller vs GSP in a non title fight, supported by an undercard of guys from our reality show that nobody watches and other irrelevant fighters?" "BRILLIANT"