(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?