UFC On Fuel Is A Smart Strategic Trade-Off

Ufconfuel_mediumYesterday our own Fraser Coffeen made the case against the UFC broadcasting live fight events on Fuel TV. His argument essentially boiled down to saying that because relatively few fans have Fuel TV (compared to Spike TV or FX), that it devalues the UFC brand by training fans to not mind missing some cards.

I disagree strongly.

While its not ideal to air a UFC card on a cable station with ~36million subscribers rather than the ~100 million or so subscribing to Spike TV or FX, it's a smart strategic trade off that will only strengthen the UFC brand over the long term.

First off, Fuel TV is virtually the UFC channel already. The station is airing UFC weigh-ins, some preliminary fights, multiple UFC post-fight an analysis shows and is expected to air the Brazilian season of The Ultimate Fighter.

This is programming that would only be available to a handful of UFC fans without the Fuel deal. The fact that this inexpensive and easily produced programming is getting great ratings for the network is just a bonus.

Fuel TV executive vice president and general manager George Greenberg spoke to MMA Fighting last week about the ratings the UFC is getting on the network:

"To say I'm jacked would be putting it mildly," he said.

When it comes to more specific numbers, Greenberg said that recent UFC on FUEL pre- and post-fight shows have fluctuated between 35,000 and 75,000 viewers. And during live fights on FUEL, as many as 250,000 have tuned in to witness the action.

...

"If you want to compare it to a platform like Spike three times our size, I can't help that," he said. "But I can tell you, If you look at the FOX ratings and last FX ratings for the fight, and you look at what it's done to this place percentage-wise, we are absolutely killing it."

And if you don't think Fuel TV is a big step up from Facebook, check these numbers from Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer (subsription required):

The prelims on Fuel did a 0.35 rating and 144,000 viewers. That's roughly the same as the Fuel prelims did on 1/20 before the show that aired on FX. When UFC has had fights on Facebook, they averaged about 30,000 viewers so it's a big step up. With the exception of Ben Henderson vs. Clay Guida, which peaked at more than 120,000, no prelim fight in history on Facebook had ever topped 65,000.

Secondly, the UFC's strong performance on Fuel gives the promotion a very strong card in their relationship with Fox. Fox wants Fuel TV picked up by more cable providers. Having the UFC content not only boosts Fuel's ratings, it gives the channel a built-in activist base that is contacting their cable providers and asking for the station. That's big and is a big plus for the UFC in their relationship with Fox, especially when they're struggling to provide big headliners for Fox.

All-in-all, it's not perfect, but nothing is. UFC on Fuel is a win for fans, the network and the promotion.

SBN coverage of UFC on Fuel TV

More Bloody Elbow coverage of UFC on Fuel TV after the jump.

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