The ratings are in for the fifth episode of The Ultimate Fighter on FX and it's not pretty. 947,000 viewers tuned in. This is the first time the series has dropped below 1 million viewers. WWE Smackdown on Syfy was the top original cable program in that Friday night time slot with over 2.7 million viewers.
Here are the viewership numbers for the series so far:
TUF Live Episode 1: 1.28 million viewers
TUF Live Episode 2: 1.1 million viewers
TUF Live Episode 3: 1.2 million viewers
TUF Live Episode 4: 947,000 viewers
There is more bad news for the UFC as MMA Payout reports that the debut UFC Primetime for UFC 145 drew 462.000 viewers.
MMA Payout comments:
Dismal ratings all around for the UFC. Do we attribute the poor ratings on the network change, the change to Friday nights, the content changes or all of the above. Certainly, some viewers may DVR TUF Live and UFC Primetime although the show overruns make recording the west coast reruns impossible unless you record the whole night on FX. As we reported last week, the UFC is still where it wants to be on FX based on the demos and overall performance of the network. But, just like a young team that shows promise, there will be lots of growing pains.
Payout has more in their first quarter review of the UFC's deal with Fox, FX and Fuel. Here's the commentary on the FX deal:
FX and the newly revamped "TUF Live" were a big part of the TV deal with TUF being the key platform the UFC uses to create future stars and PPV draws. So far, the show has been a disappointment (in terms of ratings) with all-time rating lows for the series. Dana White and the UFC brass predicted that they could very well reach 3 million viewers for TUF on FX if they were getting around 1.5 million on Spike TV without any promotion. Well, that prediction hasn't panned out yet, even with heavy promotion leading up the the debut on FX. More shocking is that after UFC moved to FX, FX network's M18-34 and M18-49 demos have decreased compared to Q1 2011 while Spike's have gone up. FX dedicating Friday nights as "UFC Nights", a day which is notorious for bad ratings and when the M18-34 demographic is not at home in front of their TV sets, has also not panned out for the UFC yet. Moving the content to mid-week could be a solution, but FX is happy enough with the Friday night ratings since it's an improvement from what they get with non-UFC content, so it looks like the UFC will have to ride this out for the time being.
My take on these numbers is that there are two main issues hurting the UFC's ratings on FX:
- Fans are confused about where to find UFC programming
Dana White has admitted to being frustrated with the ongoing difficulty in getting the message out to UFC fans that the promotion is not longer on Spike TV. This problem will be solved with enough time and the ample promotional budgets of Fox TV and the UFC.
- The Ultimate Fighter is stale
The UFC acknowledged that the formula needed to be changed up when they adopted the live fight format on this season of The Ultimate Fighter. Well it turns out that fans are not especially interested in seeing fights between unknown and not especially promising young fighters whether they are live or not.
The fundamental problem facing TUF is this: the best fighters are not on the show. Where the show once brought us talents like Rashad Evans, Forrest Griffin, Josh Koscheck, Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez who went on to be champions or title contenders, it's been several seasons since a major star came out of TUF. It's time the UFC stopped giving second-tier talents the big TUF push and spent the money necessary to get the best young prospects in front of the reality show cameras.