UFC 236’s preliminary card broadcast on ESPN proved to be a significant drop from the promotion’s previous two pay-per-views.
Last Saturday’s two-hour slate of fights averaged 893,000 viewers and a rating of 0.39, good for 9th among all Saturday cable programming but well off from UFC 234 and 235. For reference, UFC 234 did 1.34 million viewers and a 0.53 rating, while UFC 235 did 1.48 million viewers and a 0.63 rating. Both of those PPVs had college basketball games as lead-ins, whereas UFC 236 technically had 30-minutes of SportsCenter buffering them and the NBA playoff game between the Orlando Magic and Toronto Raptors.
The Magic vs. Raptors game was Saturday’s #1 show on cable, averaging 2.44 million viewers and a 1.02 rating in the 18-49 demographic. When SportsCenter came on, that short broadcast averaged 1.688 million viewers and a 0.71 rating, so more than 60% of the average viewership bailed before the UFC broadcast began. This is different from when the UFC 235 prelims actually improved upon North Carolina vs. Clemson.
MMA Fighting’s Dave Meltzer has more details:
Perhaps most important of the factors was the sports competition. You had NBA playoffs on ABC, which included the marquee Golden State Warriors vs. Los angels Clippers, which did 4,826,000 viewers. You had NASCAR on FOX that did 2,787,000 viewers. And you had NHL Stanley Cup playoffs on NBC that did 1,706,000 viewers for the Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs.
The UFC did win the time slot on cable in the 18-49 demo and all key male demos, with a 74 percent male audience in 18-49 and a similar skew among teenagers. It placed second overall to a Hallmark movie on cable for the night.
Among the major markets, the show beat an 0.9 rating in Houston, Atlanta, Dallas and San Francisco, the latter a surprise going against the Warriors game and airing outside of prime time. The number was hurt by doing only an 0.4 in Los Angeles, against the Clippers, and 0.5 ratings in both New York and Chicago.
UFC 236 wasn’t a high-profile pay-per-view and probably felt more like a show for hardcore fans who couldn’t wait to see Max Holloway vs. Dustin Poirier and Kelvin Gastelum vs. Israel Adesanya. That ESPN+ is now the exclusive PPV provider likely means we won’t get any PPV estimates to see how this show fared overall.
The next preliminary card special is set for Saturday, May 11th for UFC 237: Namajunas vs. Andrade. That broadcast will actually lead-in to a major Top Rank Boxing card headlined by Miguel Berchelt and Francisco Vargas.