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The Ultimate Fighter's ratings may still be good enough to be number one in the key demographic for Friday nights, but it's hard to look at the show as a success. This season is the show's first on FX, a more reputable network than Spike, and the combination of the new "live" format had people expecting bigger things in the ratings.
Instead, numbers have been unimpressive. The show drew it's lowest viewership ever for episode five and, aside from the fight being live, the format has never felt so stale. But Dana White doesn't seem too worried, telling The Orange County Register that the show is a home run, but not good enough for him yet:
"I love the format, the format's awesome," White said. "As far as the shoe goes, it's a (expletive) home run for FX. It's on Friday nights. Friday nights they do movies and reruns. We're the No. 1 thing in males 18-34 every Friday night. If not we're No. 2 if they pull something off that beats us. They're happy as a pig in (expletive). For me, I want to pull 3 million viewers on FX. We're No. 1 on Friday nights every week, which they've never had. The (UFC 145) prelims on Saturday on FX were No. 1. It's a home run for them, but it's not necessarily a home run for me."
Dana has also been on the record complaining about people who have a problem with the show.
The problem is, people like me who have a problem with the show are in the key demographic.
I want to watch fights every night of the week if possible. I want The Ultimate Fighter to be good and a part of my weekly routine. There is no reason to tune in to any part of the show other than the fight right now. Maybe I'm not a TV "expert" but I don't see anything in the future that changes under this format. I don't think the audience is that big for lame pranks and guys sitting around a house repeatedly talking about being bored.
I also think that commentary is a must at this point. I know they want viewers to be able to hear the coaches, but the casual viewership that they're coveting still would benefit from having someone explain and enhance the drama of the moment. And it's incredibly clunky to go from a fight with no commentary to live in-ring interviews after the fights. The transition is weird, the lack of a crowd makes the interview feel really bizarre and it's so out of place on the show.
Maybe they'll prove me wrong and find some small thing to fix and turn the show around, and I'm sure they're fine with the ratings being "good enough" but I just don't see the space for growth.