Before we get to the facts and figures surrounding the TV ratings for UFC Fight Night: McGregor vs. Siver, let me just say that I was highly skeptical of the UFC (and Fox's) choice to put this event on after the NFL's conference championship games. It seemed like it wasn't the greatest of decisions to have a UFC event held in Boston while the New England Patriots were playing at the same time as the prelims, and that a full day's worth of football would otherwise bury the UFC in the background.
As it turns out, anyone who shared the same sentiment was dead wrong and passing along the crow for everyone to eat. The ratings report is in for Sunday's Fox Sports 1 broadcast, and it proved to be a landmark moment for the relatively new sports network. An average of 2.75 million viewers watched the main card, making it the highest rated UFC show on cable TV since the tape-delayed UFC 105: Couture vs. Vera averaged 2.9 million viewers on Spike TV back in 2009. Here are some more details from Fox officials and Yahoo's Kevin Iole:
#UFCBoston scored 2,751,000 viewers making it the most-watched UFC Fight Night on cable television since 11/14/09. Thank you fight fans!— FOX Sports 1 (@FOXSports1) January 21, 2015
Peak viewership for McGregor-Siver was Midnight-12:15 a.m. ET when it hit 3.162 million viewers— Kevin Iole (@KevinI) January 21, 2015
McGregor-Siver was @FoxSports1's highest viewed telecast ever among males 18-34 and 18-49, surpassing 2014 NL Championship Series— Kevin Iole (@KevinI) January 21, 2015
McGregor-Siver was #1 of 111 cable networks across all key male and adult demos, households and total viewers Sunday from 10p.m.-12:30 a.m.— Kevin Iole (@KevinI) January 21, 2015
Between this news and their strong UFC 182 PPV numbers, the UFC is off to a very good start in 2015. It's not only a huge plus for the UFC, but it's a massive one for Fox Sports 1 in terms of eyeballs on their channel. To put this in perspective, of the select few Spike TV shows to outdraw McGregor vs. Siver, 3 of them were European-based "numbered" shows later broadcast in primetime on delay. This includes UFC 70: Cro-Cop vs. Gonzaga, UFC 75: Rampage vs. Henderson, and the previously mentioned UFC 105. Of Spike TV's live events, the TUF 10 Finale, featuring Kimbo Slice vs. Houston Alexander, is the highest rated UFC show within the past 6 years at 3.7 million viewers.
There are certainly two key factors worth pointing out that can be attributed to Sunday's success:
1.) Heavy promotional push during the NFL playoffs. Conor McGregor's name was heard throughout every Fox broadcast playoff game, and they had a bigger in-game promotional spot for him -- complete with "Irish Muhammad Ali" -- during Sunday's Packers-Seahawks NFC Championship Game, which brought in 50 million viewers.
2.) Conor McGregor mania. This was McGregor's first main event in the US, and the UFC made it clear that they saw a goldmine in their new star. He spent fight week making numerous appearances on Fox networks, ESPN, and even hosted a movie marathon on FX over the weekend. In a relieving twist from past shows, the UFC clearly focused their attention on McGregor and didn't try and put Dennis Siver anywhere near level pegging with him.
Essentially, Sunday couldn't have possibly gone any better. Not only did McGregor win as expected, but he was able to create a memorable broadcast moment by running out of the cage to scream at featherweight champion Jose Aldo, which could go a long way in promoting what will surely be a PPV main event.
All things considered, we are highly unlikely to see these ratings duplicated. Capturing the NFL viewing audience is capturing the largest single set of sports fans in the USA, and with the season set to end on February 1st, any future cards won't be able to generate the same amount of traction.
But the main point out of all of these stats is UFC Fight Night in Boston was able to generate a $1.3 million gate and garner ratings that are higher than shows from the Spike TV era, and you cannot deny how important that is for everyone involved.