(I *begged* them to have “Oh Yeah” playing in the background of this scene, but did they listen to me? Nooooooo.)
Yesterday, we mentioned that the Ultimate Fighter 18 mid-season recap episode which aired on October 23rd was the least-viewed episode in the history of the series. To be specific, it received an average of only 476,000 viewers, a 24% drop from the previous low-water mark of 624,000 average viewers, brought in by TUF 16 episode 5. It was a poor showing, without question, but you can’t expect much out of a clip-show, especially since it was competing against the first game of the World Series. Surely, the numbers would bounce back the following week, when there was an all-new episode with a women’s fight on the schedule.
Actually, the numbers sunk even further. On October 30th, TUF 18 episode 9 — which featured the forcible ejection of Cody Bollinger and a savage performance by Sarah Moras — received a viewer average of only 452,000, a 5% drop from the freakin’ clip show. Obviously, the numbers were hurt once again by having to compete with Game 6 of the World Series, but it’s safe to assume that the UFC will never put together a mid-season recap episode for TUF ever again, because that shit is apparently ratings suicide. (By the way, is there really that much crossover between MMA fans and baseball fans? I can’t think of two more dissimilar sports, but I guess a lot of people were watching the MLB post-season this year. I don’t know. I wasn’t one of them.)
The recent TUF ratings news is just the latest in a string of bad viewership numbers for the UFC…
According to Dave Meltzer’s most recent pay-per-view buyrate column on MMAFighting, UFC 165: Jones vs. Gustafsson brought in somewhere between 300,000-325,000 PPV buys — by far the lowest tally for a Bones-headlined pay-per-view card — while the early estimates for UFC 166: Velasquez vs. Dos Santos 3 “are in the same range, or very slightly up” from UFC 165.
Yes, UFC 166 had to compete with the MLB post-season, and UFC 165 may have suffered from its proximity to the blockbuster Mayweather/Canelo boxing match. But excuses aside, those are terrible numbers for title fights in the UFC’s two heaviest weight classes. Over on BloodyElbow, Nate Wilcox suggests what the real culprit might be, and adds some interesting historical context to the numbers:
It seems obvious to me that the moves from Spike TV where preview shows for UFC PPVs sometimes drew over a million viewers to FX/Fuel TV and now FS1/FS2 has dramatically reduced the UFC’s promotional reach.
It’s also worth noting that when UFC 99 did 360,000 buys in the summer of 2009 that was considered the “floor” for UFC ppv buys. It was an event taking place in Germany and airing in the U.S. in the mid-afternoon and featuring a non-title fight between Rich Franklin and Wanderlei Silva. If you’d told me in 2009 that four years later the UFC HW and LHW titles would draw comparable PPV numbers I’d have laughed in your face.
In 2013, that “floor” has been re-located to the sub-basement.
In a related story, last Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 30: Machida vs. Munoz show — which aired in the middle of the day on an obscure channel called FOX Sports 2 — brought in just 122,000 viewers, which was even less than the audience generated by the World Series of Fighting 6: Burkman vs. Carl event that aired that night on NBC Sports (161,000 viewers).
Which brings us to a pair of questions we seem to be asking a lot these days: Does anybody even care anymore? And how low can these TUF ratings go?