Since making its U.S. network television debut with UFC on Fox 1 last November, the UFC has seen a relentless erosion in its television ratings. While the first event drew an average of almost 6 million viewers, the broadcast itself -- featuring 55 minutes of talk and less than two minutes of live fighting -- was disappointing. The second edition slipped by about a million viewers and delivered so-so action over four live fights.
The third and fourth editions of UFC on Fox delivered much better action, however the ratings saw viewers fall to just over 2 million -- barely acceptable for network TV.
Fortunately the strong numbers and satisfying fights of UFC on Fox 5 -- which pulled in an average of over 4 million viewers - has turned things around.
The last FOX show told a very good lesson and that is UFC is viable in network prime time. With the declining numbers for every show up to that point, there was a very serious question whether it was the novelty deal where you start big, second show is okay and then from show three it's bad. That's what happened here, but on show five, they turned it around big.
If 1/26 does above a 1.9, that tells that the key is promotion during NFL games and not necessarily what the card is, although obviously what the card is will always be a major factor. But this show will give a good idea on how much the NFL promotion (since FOX will have playoff games with huge audiences leading up to that show) means because anything above probably 1.3 to 1.4 for that card is probably NFL-driven. If it does below a 1.5, it tells you that the NFL promotion is all well and good, but it's really all about the names on the lineup and NFL promotion doesn't mean that much.
This main event is going to be very difficult to sell on its own since the division isn't over, nor are the two headliners. (Rampage) Jackson is a name and he can talk, but I'm skeptical at this point he'll be able to sell a fight the way B.J. Penn did for the last show.
MMA Payout commented:
The big rating for Saturday is great for the UFC. The job it has to do now is translate the big number into PPV buys. Can the UFC market Henderson, MacDonald and Gustaffson and groom them to become PPV stars?
Here are the historical ratings for the five UFC on Fox broadcasts via MMA Junkie:
UFC on FOX 1 (Velasquez vs. Dos Santos) ratings: 5.7 million viewers
UFC on FOX 2 (Evans vs. Davis) ratings: 4.7 million
UFC on FOX 3 (Diaz vs. Miller) ratings: 2.4 million
UFC on FOX 4 (Rua vs. Vera) ratings: 2.4 million
UFC on FOX 5 (Henderson vs. Diaz): 4.4 million*
*This number via Wrestling Observer is higher than the preliminary ratings posted by Junkie.