When the UFC moved The Ultimate Fighter franchise to FX this year as part of their deal with Fox, there was going to be some period of educating casual MMA viewers about the new network and most importantly, their new night: Fridays.
But if the ratings for last Friday's Season 16 two-hour debut are any indication, a lot more work still needs to be done as it was reported the debut drew 947,000 viewers, down from the 1.3 million last year's live debut did. That was good for a 0.5 rating among adults 18-49, but no numbers have been released yet for the coveted 18-34 demographic.
The premiere drew the lowest audience in TUF history. By comparison, the fifth episode of last season drew 947,000 viewers and if the patterns for the last few seasons are any indication, the number will continue to tick down or plateau week-by-week instead of increase. This season returned to the traditional taped format from seasons 1-14.
By comparison, Friday's WWE Smackdown drew 2.69 million viewers/0.8 share 18-49, FX's 7 PM movie drew 1.38 million viewers /0.6 share 18-49 and FX's 11 PM movie drew 993,000 viewers and a 0.5 with the 18-49 demo.
In an interview with Yahoo this summer, UFC president Dana White said that if this season if "isn't up to the standards I expect, they promised me we can move it to Tuesday or Wednesday." However, that may not be as easy as he thinks as this May interview with MMA Weekly indicates.
The embattled White has a recent history of defending TUF ratings, most notably with season 13's debut and throughout last season. As of this writing, White has not responded to any criticism of the numbers.