Why Are the UFC's TV Ratings Not Growing With Sports Viewership Trends?

NEW YORK NY - JANUARY 13: Dana White UFC President speaks during a press conference to announce commitment to bring UFC to Madison Square Garden and New York State at Madison Square Garden on January 13 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images)

Jonathan Snowden is settling into his new digs at SB Nation MMA quite nicely. Do you miss being riled up by his horribly anti-UFC tendencies? Well get a load of what he had to say about the UFC's growth rate:

Sports has never been a hotter property, driving networks and attracting huge audiences. And it's not just the National Football League or the NBA that have gained ground. Generally speaking, sports programming has seen a ratings increase of 21 percent over the the last five years. That's 15 percent higher than the television ratings increase across the board according to ESPN Research.

What's interesting is MMA's failure to capitalize on this trend. While we've heard again and again that MMA is the sport of the future, the numbers seem to say otherwise. Sports generally are gaining in viewership in a big way. Yet, the UFC has stayed stagnant, even losing viewers in large numbers since becoming a staple of SPIKE TV in 2005.

In August of that year, the UFC earned a 1.5 rating for their first ever Ultimate Fight Night. Fast forward five and half years and the promotion earned the same 1.5 rating for UFC Fight Night 24. More than five years and zero growth to show for it. Pay per view has grown tremendously for the company in the same time period. But television interest is completely stagnant - with no improvement forthcoming.

When you read the full article you'll see that Jon takes the stance that the UFC's control over production and media leave it feeling less like "real sport" and more like "pro-wrestling-esque spectacle."

Personally, I'd credit this more to mediocre Spike cards that are unlikely to draw in the casual crowd and a pay-per-view driven setup that does naturally limit the growth of the UFC. Don't get me wrong, the UFC has some more room for growth (and will continue to turn a nice profit). But at a certain point the cost of keeping up with every event is going to prevent a large portion of the available audience from following the sport, and thus keep them away from even the cable events.

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