Dave Meltzer breaks it down:
MMA is at best marginal programming on CBS. The last Strikeforce show drew 39 percent lower ratings than CBS usually does in the same time slot, but it still has value to the network because it skews far younger and more male-oriented than usual Saturday night fare. It gives the network an outlet to attract sponsors who aim at the hard-to-reach male 18-34 demographic.
The April 17 show is a test, because if it does well without proven draws Emelianenko, Slice or Gina Carano, it's a major feather in the cap of Strikeforce going forward on the network. That is probably why UFC is looking at countering.
It should also be noted that UFC and Strikeforce do not draw from the same audiences. The Strikeforce events on CBS draw an older audience in general than the audience that watches UFC, which relates to CBS's generally older demographics. The cities where Strikeforce does its best television numbers have little similarity with the markets where UFC does its best pay-per-view numbers.
And MMA Payout brings it home:
Meltzer essentially captures the plight of the major networks have with MMA: whatever audience they gain as the result of MMA television is offset or surpassed by the audience they lose. Thus, at what point do they sacrifice their existing audience for something new and shiny? This is especially true where Strikeforce is concerned, because it doesn't have the brand equity or star power necessary to pull in an 18-34 year-old crowd capable of really making it worth a network's while.
Nonetheless, the importance of this show cannot be understated: if the ratings tank, it could very well mean the end of Strikeforce on CBS. The flip side, of course, is that Strikeforce has the opportunity to solidify a strategically important distribution channel for itself moving forward; the kind that would provide it with enough exposure to further build the equity of its brand and its stars.
Strikefrorce CEO Scott Coker literally finds himself between the devil (Fedor and M-1 Global electing to sit out the April 17th event) and the deep blue sea (CBS and Showtime and their need for big time network ratings). CBS exec Kelly Kahl claimed that they "were being nice guys" by not counter-programming WEC's PPV on April 24th, but I think it's more likely they didn't want to counter Showtime's Super Six boxing tournament on that date.
One way or the other, I think Strikeforce may have struck out on CBS unless Dan Henderson vs Jake Shields suddenly becomes a fight of great interest to casual fans.