"Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg" drew an average audience of 576,000 viewers. The UFC replay drew nearly four times that with two million total viewers, Spike TV officials today confirmed with MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com).
Strikeforce's Aug. 15 event was one of the biggest shows in the promotion's history and featured the long-awaited Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos vs. Gina Carano title fight. As with other competitors, the UFC and Spike TV ultimately decided to counter-program the broadcast.
Strikeforce's event averaged 576,000 viewers (and peaked with 856,000 for the night's main event at midnight). UFC 100 averaged two million viewers, and it's 1.8 rating (513,000 viewers) was the highest-rated program in the male-18-34 demographic during its timeslot.
From a UFC press release titled "UFC 100 ON SPIKE TV KNOCKS OUT THE COMPETITION ON SATURDAY, AUGUST 15" in my inbox:
Spike TV’s telecast of UFC 100 (originally airing on pay-per-view July 11) drew more Men 18-34 (513,000) than anything else on television on Saturday, August 15. Airing from 10:00pm-12:30am ET/PT, the telecast drew 2 million viewers, a 1.8 rating in Men 18-34, a 1.7 rating (950,000) in Men 18-49, and a 1.5 household rating.
The telecast bested heavy sports competition during the day in the advertiser-coveted demographic of Men 18-34:
UFC 100 (Spike TV) – 513,000
PGA Championship (CBS) – 479,000
MLB Baseball (FOX) – 242,000
Strikeforce (Showtime) – 181,000
The good news for Strikeforce is that this event did more than double the ratings than their previous show on Showtime (and if my math is right, it's also the highest-rated non-UFC MMA event ever after beating Slice vs. Tank at 522,000 viewers). And given how paltry the media build up was until the last few days prior to the event, there's no way to not consider the numbers here a success.
But it's a Pyrrhic victory of sorts. The better question is: sure the numbers were great, but how much better could they have been? There's no denying that the UFC 100 replay likely took away substantial viewers overall and in more notably key male demos. There's a legitimate debate to be had about whether the UFC is rallying the base with counter programming or if they're actually depriving competitors of would-be viewers, but the sheer volume of MMA television watchers on Saturday evening makes it hard to suggest Strikeforce came out unaffected.
While the Carano vs. Cyborg fight usurped and benefited from media attention, the UFC-Spike TV tandem proved formidable again. The UFC's loyal and active fan base as well as Spike's relatively large exposure demonstrated the enormous numbers that can be pulled with little more than word of mouth and week-long advertisements on the network. Unequivocally, the success of the counter programming practice further cements the idea it can consistently serve as a ratings draw for Spike TV, making the likelihood this practice will continue all but inevitable.