Ivan's Blog

Featuring Ivan Trembow's Self-Important, Random Rants on Mixed Martial Arts, Video Games, Pro Wrestling, Television, Politics, Sports, and High-Quality Wool Socks

Saturday, April 29, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- Yakuza Scandal Not Likely to Affect Pride's U.S. Plans for October
The incoming Executive Director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission has commented on newspaper reports about Pride's plans to expand into the U.S. market this fall, and has also commented on what affect, if any, the ongoing Yakuza scandal in Japan might have on Pride's efforts to run a show in Nevada.

Keith Kizer, who is set to replace Marc Ratner as the new Executive Director of the NSAC when Ratner leaves to work for the UFC, was asked by MMAWeekly's Ivan Trembow about a recent report in the Las Vegas Sun. The report said that Pride was looking into running a show in Nevada on either October 7th or October 20th. Kizer told MMAWeekly that Pride "plans to hold an event at the Thomas & Mack Center [in Las Vegas] in October 2006, but we have not received a date request yet."

When asked whether the Yakuza scandal that is currently engulfing the MMA industry in Japan would have any negative affect on Pride's efforts to run a show in Nevada, Kizer said, "Pride is a promoter in good standing, and I have no concern about its suitability."

Currently the Chief Deputy Attorney General of the state of Nevada, Kizer is set to become the new head of the Nevada State Athletic Commission when Marc Ratner starts his new job as a UFC executive in mid-May. Ratner has been the Executive Director of the NSAC since August 1993.

In other news regarding Pride's plans to run shows in the United States market, the Wrestling Observer has reported that Pride is tentatively planning to focus its marketing efforts for its first U.S. show on Fedor Emelianenko, Dan Henderson, and Quinton Jackson. That would seem to be logical given that Henderson and Jackson are each highly marketable American fighters, while Emelianenko is widely regarded as the most dominant fighter in the sport.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- Ultimate Fighter Rebounds in Week Three Ratings
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

After an alarming ratings drop the previous week, The Ultimate Fighter 3 rebounded to a strong 1.9 overall rating with its third episode on April 20th. The show had previously drawn a 2.0 rating in its season premiere, and then fell off drastically to an overall rating of 1.3 for Episode Two. The increase to 1.9 for Episode Three must come as a huge sigh of relief to Zuffa and Spike TV just one week after the biggest week-to-week ratings drop-off in the history of the series.

In the key demographic of 18-to-34-year-old males, Episode Three drew a 3.0 rating, which is a big improvement from the 2.3 rating that Episode Two drew in that demographic. However, it still falls far short of the 3.7 rating that the show's season premiere drew in that demographic.

One Big Reason for the Ratings Increase: Boosts from Specific Age Groups
When a TV show's ratings go down gradually over time, the reasons are usually fairly simple. People tend to lose interest in TV series as time passes, or they get turned off by certain things in the series and don't want to watch it anymore. It is much less common for a TV show's ratings to go down drastically one week and then go back up drastically the next week.

In examining why the ratings for Episode Three rebounded in such a manner, one of the first things to jump out is the fact that the show's ratings in two specific age demographics went up in Episode Three, to the point that they were actually higher than Episode One's ratings in the same demographics.

In the 35-to-49-year-old male demographic, Episode One drew a 1.7 rating, Episode Two was down to a 1.1 rating, and Episode Three was up to a season-high 2.0 rating.

Similarly, in the 18-to-24-year-old male demographic, Episode One drew a 1.9 rating, Episode Two was down to a 1.7 rating, and Episode Three was up to a season-high 2.3 rating.

If it weren't for these two specific age groups, the overall rating for Episode Three would not have been much higher than the disappointing rating that was drawn by Episode Two. It was these two specific demographics that figuratively carried the show on their back to bring the overall rating back up to the high 1s.

In the specific age group that has supported UFC programming on Spike TV more than any other age group, which is 25-to-34-year-old males, the ratings for Episode Three are still nowhere near what they were for Episode One. Episode Three drew a 3.4 rating in that demographic, which is still far short of the record-breaking 5.0 rating that Episode One drew in that demo.

Another Reason for the Increase: Huge Lead-In Rating for Royce Gracie Retrospective
The most simple and direct reason for Episode Three's ratings increase is the fact that the most recent episode of UFC Unleashed gave TUF a much bigger lead-in audience than it had the week before. The April 20th episode of UFC Unleashed, which was a look back at the career of Royce Gracie, drew an overall rating of 1.4, which is huge for UFC Unleashed and may very well be a testament to the drawing power of Royce Gracie.

To put into perspective how big of a deal it is for UFC Unleashed to have drawn a 1.4 overall rating, that actually equals the 1.4 overall rating that The Ultimate Fighter 2 averaged over the course of its twelve-episode run. An overall rating of 1.4 is actually higher than the 1.3 overall rating that TUF 3 drew with its second episode. An overall rating of 1.4 is barely lower than the 1.6 overall rating that the UFC drew with a two-hour live fight special on April 6th.

It's a little bit crazy for hour-long retrospective shows to be drawing ratings similar to those drawn by first-run TUF episodes or even live UFC fight broadcasts. The apparent TV viewer interest in Royce Gracie has to be seen as a positive by Zuffa when it comes to what kind of PPV buy-rate UFC 60 is going to draw, especially since ticket sales for the event have been slow (at least compared to the last several UFC PPV events).

Positive or Negative Word of Mouth, and Audience Growth Throughout Episode Three
Unlike the first two episodes of TUF 3, the third episode showed significant growth in its ratings throughout the episode. Episode One back on April 6th remained steady in its ratings throughout the 90-minute broadcast, with quarter-hour ratings of 1.9 or 2.0 for all six quarter-hours. Episode Two only had mild growth in its audience as the show went on, with a 1.2 overall rating for the first half-hour and a 1.4 overall rating for the second half-hour.

On the other hand, the ratings for Episode Three went up significantly as the show went on, with the first 15 minutes drawing a 1.6 rating, the second quarter-hour drawing a 1.7 rating, the third quarter-hour drawing a 2.0 rating, and the final 15 minutes of the show drawing a 2.3 rating. This is most likely due to the fact that the scheduled fight was established early in the episode, and the rest of the episode was focused on building towards that fight.

The vast majority of the people who were watching at 10:00 PM stuck around for the entire episode, and when you combine that with the fact that new viewers are typically tuning in at various times throughout any given episode of a TV show, that's what leads to the aforementioned quarter-hour ratings growth during the course of an episode.

However, even with the audience growth during the course of Episode Three, it is still the case for this series (and the vast majority of TV series) that the buzz from episode to episode actually centers on the previous episode of the series. This is a notion that holds up when one examines the week-to-week ratings changes during the first two seasons of TUF.

If a significant percentage of the people who watched Episode One of TUF 3 were disappointed with what they saw, that would likely not be reflected in the ratings for the first episode. It would be far more likely to be reflected in the ratings for the following week's episode, since the people who were disappointed by the first episode would be far less likely to tune in for Episode Two.

On the same token, if the people who watched Episode Two liked what they saw for the most part, that would probably not be reflected in the ratings of Episode Two. It would be far more likely to be reflected in the ratings for the following week's episode, as the people who enjoyed the show talk about it at the proverbial water-cooler the next day (or the next week), and positive word of mouth spreads in the days leading up to the debut of the next episode.

With that in mind, it has to be considered a strong possibility that many of the people who watched Episode One of this season were disappointed with what they saw (perhaps by the drunkenness of what is supposed to be a group of professional athletes, or perhaps by the first episode's constant refrain of, "Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock really, really hate each other! No, I mean it! They really do!" or perhaps by any number of other factors), and therefore many of those people didn't come back to watch Episode Two.

It also has to be considered a strong possibility that many of the people who watched Episode Two liked what they saw enough to tell their friends or co-workers about it in the subsequent days, and many of those friends and co-workers tuned in to see part or all of Episode Three.

As with any episode of TUF or any television series in general, the ratings for Episode Four of this season of TUF will be determined in part by which group of people is greater in size--- the group that was disappointed enough in Episode Three to have lost some or all of their interest in the series, or the group that enjoyed Episode Three enough to talk about the show with their friends or co-workers.

Network TV Competition Not Likely to Have Stolen Many Viewers from TUF's Third Episode
Episode Three of TUF 3 went head-to-head with a fairly weak night of network TV competition. In the 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM hour on April 20th, CBS' Without a Trace led the way with an overall rating of 11.5, which is much lower than usual due to the fact that the show's CSI lead-in was a repeat.

ABC's Commander in Chief continued to struggle on its road towards a possible cancellation with an overall rating of just 5.2, which is down drastically from the 10+ overall ratings that the show was drawing in its first several weeks on the air. Finally, a repeat of ER on NBC drew an overall rating of just 4.3, which is less than half of what ER normally draws with its new episodes (ER repeats generally don't hold up well in the ratings).

Either side of the argument could easily be made on whether the network TV competition has any significant effect on TUF's ratings. It's true that TUF draws from different viewer demographics than Without a Trace or Commander in Chief, but TUF certainly does draw from many of the same age demographics as ER. ER is supported primarily by 18-to-49-year-old viewers, which is also the general age demographic that Spike TV targets with The Ultimate Fighter.

The pro wrestling show TNA Impact, which airs Thursday nights at 11:00 PM on Spike TV and is now relying on TUF to provide it with a big lead-in audience, drew an overall rating of 0.9 on April 20th, which was down from the April 13th episode's overall rating of 1.1.

While TNA certainly can't put on the kind of risky, high-impact match every week that they had at the beginning of the April 13th show, the April 20th rating still has to be considered hugely disappointing for TNA because its lead-in audience was actually much bigger on April 20th. In just one week, TNA Impact went from retaining a strong 85% of TUF's overall rating (1.1 compared to TUF's 1.3), to retaining just 47% of TUF's overall rating (0.9 compared to TUF's 1.9).

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Friday, April 21, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- The Ultimate Fighter Suffers Largest Ratings Drop-Off in Series History
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

The biggest week-to-week ratings drop-off in the history of The Ultimate Fighter took place this past week, as Episode Two of the third season drew an overall rating of just 1.3, down from the previous week's 2.0 rating.

Episode Two of TUF 3, which aired on April 13th, drew the fourth-lowest overall rating in series history (out of 26 original episodes aired), just one week after Episode One drew the third-highest rating in series history. The overall rating of 1.3 was still enough to beat TNT's Thursday night NBA Doubleheader, which averaged a 1.1 overall rating from 8:15 PM to 1:22 AM.

Compared to the same point in previous seasons, Episode Two of the first season drew a 1.4 overall rating, while Episode Two of the second season drew a 1.8 overall rating.

How This Ratings Drop-Off Compares to Previous Ratings Decreases
Unlike the third season, both of the first two seasons of TUF held up well from Episode One to Episode Two. The first season of TUF drew the same rating in both of its first two weeks (1.4 and 1.4), while the second season of TUF was up slightly from Episode One to Episode Two (from 1.7 up to 1.8).

On the contrary, the third season of The Ultimate Fighter drew a 2.0 rating in its first week and just 1.3 in its second week. The one-week drop-off of 0.7 is, by far, the largest in the history of the series for any episode airing on its original night. The series had previously never lost more than 0.3 from one week to the next.

The ratings drop-off was even more drastic in the advertiser-coveted demographic of 18-to-34-year-old males. The rating in that demographic went from 3.7 for Episode One down to 2.3 for Episode Two. The drop-off of 1.4 was the highest ever, as the series had previously never lost more than 0.5 from one week to the next in that demographic.

Series' Ratings History Does Not Explain the Fall-Off
One might have expected a mild ratings drop-off from Episode One to Episode Two, but nothing approaching this magnitude. It would seem to make sense on the surface that a huge drop-off should have been expected since the show would no longer have a live fight special as a lead-in, but that notion doesn't have any validity when you look at the actual ratings history of the series. The same goes for the notion that a big decrease in the audience of TUF's lead-in would have this much of a negative effect on the next week's ratings.

The season premiere of The Ultimate Fighter 3 had a live fight special as a lead-in, while Episode Two didn't. That alone should have accounted for some drop-off, but nothing close to the 0.7 drop-off that took place. In the second season of TUF, Episode Seven did have a live UFC fight special as a lead-in, and Episode Eight the next week did not. In that case, the overall rating went down 0.1 from week-to-week, not 0.7.

In general, having a weaker lead-in should also cause a slight ratings drop-off, but nothing this severe. When WWE Raw went back to USA Network, causing the second season of The Ultimate Fighter to have a severe decrease in what it was getting as a lead-in, TUF's ratings never went down this drastically.

On the final week in which WWE Raw served as TUF 2's lead-in, Raw drew a 3.2 overall rating and TUF 2 drew a 1.4 overall rating. The next week, TUF 2's lead-in was an Ultimate Fight Night special, which drew a 1.6 overall rating. Even though the rating of its lead-in show was down drastically from 3.2 to 1.6, TUF's overall rating only went down from 1.4 to 1.3.

In the case of TUF 3, the show didn't have to deal with anywhere near that big of a ratings decrease in its lead-in show. Leading into the show last week was a live fight special that drew a 1.6 overall rating, and leading into the show this week was an episode of UFC Unleashed that drew a 1.0 overall rating, so the decrease in the audience of the lead-in show was nothing compared to the one that was faced when WWE Raw moved to USA Network.

TNA Ratings, TUF's Quarter-Hour Ratings, and Where the Ratings Go from Here
The episode of the pro wrestling show "TNA Impact" that aired immediately after The Ultimate Fighter on April 13th drew an overall rating of 1.1, which is tied for the highest-rated episode in the short history of TNA Impact on Spike TV. However, TNA's 1.1 rating wasn't up all that much from the rating that was drawn by the final Saturday night original airing of TNA Impact (which was a 1.0 overall rating). This is believed to be largely because TNA's new lead-in (a new TUF episode) wasn't up more than a half of a ratings point from the average rating of its old lead-in (repeats of UFC Unleashed).

One encouraging sign for Zuffa and Spike (or at least it can be said that the opposite would have been very discouraging) is the fact that the ratings for Episode Two of TUF 3 did grow slightly as the episode went on. The first half of the episode drew a 1.2 rating (with quarter-hour ratings of 1.2 and 1.2), while the second half of the episode drew a 1.4 rating (with quarter-hours of 1.3 and 1.5). It's always an ominous sign when the opposite happens on any primetime TV show, and this is not happening with TUF thus far this season.

What this means is that even though there does appear to have been a huge decrease in the public's interest level in the show from Episode One to Episode Two, Spike and Zuffa can at least take solace in the fact that the people who did tune in for the second episode weren't so turned off by the episode that they tuned out in the middle of the episode. The problem is that so many of the people who watched Episode One didn't tune in for Episode Two at all.

Zuffa and Spike TV should certainly hope that Episode Two will end up being the low point of this season's ratings, because the show doesn't have very much more room to fall before it strays into "lowest in the history of the series" territory. The lowest rating that TUF has ever drawn on its normal night was a 1.1 overall rating for Episode Nine of the second season, which was the episode that featured the Rashad Evans vs. Mike Whitehead fight.

Only time will tell whether Episode Two of TUF 3 will be a one-week blip on the map, or the beginning of TUF becoming a series that consistently draws ratings in the low 1s. In the worst-case scenario, which would be that TUF only draws ratings of 1.3 or lower from here on out, it would be the lowest-rated season of TUF to date, which would be the opposite of what was expected because of the interaction between Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz.

Even in the aforementioned worst-case scenario, The Ultimate Fighter would still be likely to draw higher ratings than most NBA basketball games on ESPN or TNT. It would still be considered a "hit" by cable television ratings standards, but it would no longer be a "big hit," and that little distinction for any cable TV series makes a huge difference in terms of public awareness, media perception, and advertising revenue for future seasons.

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Monday, April 17, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- Ultimate Fight Night 4 Ratings Down from Previous Live Fight Specials
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

The ratings for the live Ultimate Fight Night special that aired on April 6th on Spike TV have to be considered a double-edged sword for Zuffa and Spike. It's undeniable that Ultimate Fight Night 4 accomplished one of the missions that it was meant to accomplish, which was to provide a strong lead-in for the season premiere of The Ultimate Fighter 3. However, in and of itself, Ultimate Fight Night 4 didn't draw particularly strong ratings based on the standards that live UFC fight specials have set in the past.

Ultimate Fight Night 4 drew an overall rating of 1.6, while also drawing a 2.3 rating in the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, and a 1.9 rating in the 18-to-49-year-old male demographic.

Ratings for Live TV Events Gradually Decreasing Since Last November
In overall ratings and also in the aforementioned two key demographics, the UFC's live fight specials have actually been on a bit of a downward trend ever since the record-breaking numbers of the November 2005 live finale of The Ultimate Fighter 2.

The live season finales of The Ultimate Fighter have twelve weeks of TV shows building up to them, whereas the "non-TUF" live fight specials only have a few weeks of commercials on Spike TV to promote them, so one might expect the last two specials to have been down slightly. However, a downward trend is still never a good thing under any circumstances, and the fact that the November 2005 special was a TUF finale does absolutely nothing to explain the additional drop-off in viewership from the January 2006 live special to the April 2006 live special.

The April 6th special didn't have the disadvantage of having to go head-to-head with WWE Raw for more than half of its two-hour telecast, which was something that the January special had to contend with, and yet the April special still drew lower ratings than the January special. (On the bright side, unlike the January special, nobody lost control of their bowels in the middle of a fight during the April special, which has to be considered a good thing.)

After the strong 2.0 overall rating of the November 2005 event, the January 2006 live special on Spike TV was down to a 1.7 overall rating, and the April 6th live special was down further to a 1.6 overall rating.

In the single most important viewer demographic for advertising purposes, 18-to-34-year-old males, the November 2005 live special drew a record-breaking 3.7 rating, the January 2006 live special was down to a 2.7 rating in that demographic, and the April 6th live special was down further to a 2.3 rating in that demo.

In the broader demographic of 18-to-49-year-old males, the November 2005 live special drew a 2.7 rating, the January 2006 live special drew a 2.0 rating, and the April 6th live special drew a 1.9 rating.

Where UFN 4 Fits Into the Ratings History of Live Fight Specials
Looking at the bigger picture of every live fight special that the UFC has ever put on, Ultimate Fight Night 4 comes in near the bottom of the pack.

Ultimate Fight Night 4's overall rating of 1.6 was tied for the second-lowest overall rating of any live special that the UFC has put on. The only show that did worse was the August 2005 live special, which drew a 1.5 overall rating.

Heading into the April 6th live special, the average rating for all UFC live specials (dating back to April of last year) in the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic was 2.9. Ultimate Fight Night 4's rating of 2.3 in this demographic was down significantly from that average, and was also the second-lowest to date. The only UFC live special that drew a lower rating in that demographic was the August 2005 live special, which drew a 2.0 rating in that demographic.

Finally, in the 18-to-49-year-old male demographic, the average-to-date for all UFC live specials was 2.3, and Ultimate Fight Night 4 fell short of that mark with a 1.9 rating in that demographic. Once again, it was the second-lowest rating to date, and the only live special to have done worse was the August 2005 special and its 1.8 rating in that demographic.

Why Were the Ratings Down? Timeslot? Competition? Judges' Decisions? The Fights Themselves? The Atmosphere?
While previous live fight specials all started at either 9:00 PM or 10:00 PM (and all of them ended between 11:00 PM and 12:00 AM), Ultimate Fight Night 4 was slotted to run from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM. It was not only the first time that a live UFC fight special aired in that timeslot, but it was also the first time that a live fight special debuted on a Thursday night. However, the new night and time cannot adequately explain the show's lower ratings, due to the fact that The Ultimate Fighter drew some of the highest ratings in series history while in the same boat of being on a new night and time.

So, if it wasn't the new night and time, then why were the ratings for Ultimate Fight Night 4 down from previous live fight specials? It wasn't due to strong competition for the UFC's core demographic of viewers, because the UFC actually faced stronger competition for young male viewers in January up against WWE Raw. Just the fact that all of the fights went to the judges' scorecards had nothing to do with the lower ratings, because three of the four fights on the most-watched UFC event in history (the November 2005 live special) went to the judges' scorecards.

The biggest factor that is likely to have contributed to the lower ratings is the general sense that the fights on this card turned out to be not particularly exciting compared to some of the previous fight cards, and that is something that simply can't be controlled in a legitimate sport like MMA. There are naturally going to be some extremely exciting events, like last November's show (which arguably had three of the year's top ten fights in terms of pure excitement), and other times there are going to be less exciting events. Some events are simply going to be "better" than others. Every legitimate sport in which the outcomes are not pre-determined has to face that, and mixed martial arts is no different.

One thing that Zuffa and Spike TV do have some control over is the venue, and it needs to be changed in my opinion for the sake of future TV ratings. I'm not suggesting for a second that viewers at home would say, "Oh, I like (or dislike) that venue, so I am (or am not) going to watch." What the venue does is help create the atmosphere for the event, and there can be no doubt that the atmosphere of a live television event does have some effect on the ratings.

No matter how pleasant or unpleasant it might be to attend UFC event in The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel, the way it looks on television is almost like a high school gymnasium. The viewers at home need to be made to feel like they're watching a professional sporting event, and even the strong "Hard Rock" brand name can't save that particular venue from looking completely bush-league on television.

This stuck out like a sore thumb on the April 6th broadcast. The sub-standard TV look of the venue had been somewhat mitigated by the enthusiastic crowds that were in attendance at the last few live TV specials before this one. However, on this particular night the crowd was dead for the entire event and only served to suck the life out of the TV broadcast. An enthusiastic crowd can add greatly to the atmosphere of a TV broadcast, but just as easily a dead crowd can have the opposite effect.

In short, Zuffa and Spike TV have no control over the fact that in a legitimate sport like MMA, some fights and some events are going to be more exciting than others. On the other hand, Zuffa and Spike certainly do have the ability to book a venue that doesn't come across looking like a high school gymnasium on television.

Gaps Between Fights Still a Factor
The long gaps in between fights weren't as long on the April 6th live special as they had been in previous live specials, but that was mainly because there was little choice in the matter. Given that four fights had been booked to air on a live two-hour broadcast, and all four of those fights went to the judges' scorecards, there was no choice but to move things along as quickly as possible. Even then, the show went over its allotted time and didn't go off the air until 10:09 PM Eastern Time. Ultimately, the gaps in between fights on this event (starting at the conclusion of the first fight) were 17 minutes, 19 minutes, and 13 minutes.

However, what would have happened if the fights had been shorter? What would have happened if the four scheduled fights didn't take up the entire two-hour broadcast window? Would they have moved things along and aired a couple of undercard fights, or would they have killed endless amounts of time in between fights? Based on the January 16th live fight special, the answer would appear to the latter.

Going into that event, the UFC had publicly claimed in interviews that it would be giving its live fight specials a faster pace and shortening the long gaps in between fights. In fact, just the opposite happened, as the gaps in between fights were actually longer on the January card than they had been the last time the UFC had a two-hour live special with the same amount of time to fill (which was in October 2005).

On the two-hour special last October, the gaps of time in between fights had been 16 minutes, 24 minutes, and 20 minutes. Instead of getting shorter, the gaps in between fights on the next two-hour special (in January of this year) actually got longer and were 20 minutes, 29 minutes, 16 minutes, and 18 minutes. Anything over 20 minutes is too much down-time for a live fight special, and anything over 25 minutes is just inexcusable.

This is not my way of saying, "I hate commercials!" or anything of the sort. If you have a TIVO, you don't have to watch commercials unless you notice one that you specifically want to see. But the fact is that the vast majority of TV viewers still don't have a TIVO, and a certain percentage of those people are simply not going to sit around for 25 minutes in between fights waiting for the next one to start.

Of course you have to air commercials (approximately 32 minutes of them on a two-hour TV broadcast), and you also have to air the live fights, the basic level of background video packages, and some on-cameras of Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan offering analysis. However, anything beyond that is just dead air that is taking up time that could be spent airing undercard fights, which would discourage a certain percentage of viewers from changing the channel. The only reason that the long gaps in between fights were not a factor on the April 6th broadcast is that the barrage of three-round fights ate up all of the allotted TV time (and then some).

On future live fight specials, this issue will come back up and continue to be a problem unless a concerted effort is made to move the shows along more quickly and broadcast more undercard fights in between the live fights. No matter how high or low the ratings may be in the future, they would be higher if there were shorter gaps in between fights.

How Far MMA Has Come Since Early 2005
Even while comparing the contrasting the ratings of various events and discussing the possible reasons for the ratings trends, one also can't over-state just how far the sport of mixed martial arts has come in such a short period of time. It was just over a year ago that there had never been a live MMA fight on any form of television other than pay-per-view. Now, in April 2006, there have been six different UFC live fight specials on Spike TV, there have been new Pride fights produced specifically for Fox Sports Net, and it almost seems commonplace to have new MMA fights on cable television.

The TV executive who ultimately pulled the trigger and gave the greenlight to airing live MMA fights on cable television was former Spike TV president Albie Hecht, and no matter how commonplace it seems now, it's important to remember that this kind of thing was considered unthinkable just a year-and-a-half ago. The current management teams at Spike TV and Fox Sports Net have continued to support the sport, and we shouldn't lose sight of how much more mainstream the sport has become in the past year.

UFC's Upcoming Schedule, Including Two Possible Events in June
The UFC's next live fight special will be the TUF 3 finale and is scheduled to take place on Saturday, June 24th. Zuffa has also requested a date for a Spike TV event in the state of Nevada for Wednesday, June 28th. June 28th is a tentative date that has not yet been approved or finalized, and it's not known exactly how that date might be used.

It could be that the UFC plans to tape original fights on June 28th for use on future episodes of UFC Unleashed; it could be that the UFC simply wants to leave its options for the TUF 3 finale and wants to have the ability to have it on the 24th or the 28th (although airing it on the 28th wouldn't make much sense on Zuffa's part); it could be that the June 28th date is for an Ultimate Fight Night event; or it could be that the additional date (June 28th) will simply be cancelled.

In any case, the next UFC pay-per-view events after UFC 60 in California on May 27th (headlined by Matt Hughes vs. Royce Gracie) are currently scheduled to be UFC 61 on July 8th, and UFC 62 on August 26th.

One final note regarding the UFC's schedule in the coming months and years is that Zuffa's contract with Spike TV actually calls for six live fight specials to air each year on Spike TV, even though the press releases, quotes, and news stories on the subject have specifically said that there will be four live specials per year.

Apparently, when Spike and Zuffa say, "Four live specials," a more precise explanation of what they mean is, "Four non-TUF-affiliated live specials." The contract actually calls for four specials per year that are not Ultimate Fighter season finales. Those live specials are in addition to the live finales for various Ultimate Fighter seasons, including The Ultimate Fighter 4 later in 2006 (featuring UFC veterans), The Ultimate Fighter 5 and 6 in 2007, and The Ultimate Fighter 7 in 2008.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- After a long break, Ivan's Blog is back and we're kicking things off with a detailed breakdown of the ratings for The Ultimate Fighter 3's season premiere.

Ultimate Fighter Ratings Off to a Strong Start
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

The third season of The Ultimate Fighter drew excellent ratings in its first week, breaking records in more than one key demographic and giving the series a tangible sense of momentum. The 90-minute season premiere, which was helped by having a live UFC fight special as its lead-in, drew an overall rating of 2.0 in a very competitive Thursday night timeslot.

The overall rating of 2.0 marks the third time in series history that the show has drawn a 2.0 rating as part of its 12-episode regular season. Taken down to the hundredth of a ratings point, this week's episode and its 1.95 overall rating fell just short of the two highest-rated episodes in series history. Episode Six of the first season (headlined by Josh Koscheck vs. Chris Leben) drew an overall rating of 2.03, while Episode Eleven of the first season (headlined by Diego Sanchez vs. Koscheck) drew an overall rating of 1.99.

Ratings in Specific Demographics; and Tough Competition on Thursday Nights
In the advertiser-coveted demographic of 18-to-34-year-old males, the TUF 3 premiere drew a 3.7 rating, which is the highest rating that a regular-season episode of TUF has ever drawn in that demographic. The previous high in that demographic for a single episode of TUF was a 3.0 rating, which was drawn by the episode of TUF 2 that featured Luke Cummo vs. Sam Morgan. If the rating can stay at or near its current level in the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, the series would be considered nothing less than a smash hit, and there would be even more advertising revenue pouring in for Spike TV and Zuffa in the future.

The specific demographic that watched the show in the largest numbers was 25-to-34-year-old males, which has been the case more often than not throughout the series' history. In that demographic, the show drew an insanely high 5.0 rating. In the broader 18-to-49-year-old male demographic, the show drew a 2.7 rating, beating out the previous series high of 2.5 set by the Sanchez vs. Koscheck episode from Season One.

As was the case with the first two seasons, the vast majority of the show's viewers are male. The rating for 18-to-49-year-old viewers in general, which counts both males and females, was only 1.7. The smaller amount of female viewers is not considered a problem since the commercials are being sold to advertisers who are specifically targeting male viewers.

The season premiere of TUF was able to draw strong ratings despite facing stiff network TV competition, at least in the first 60 minutes of the broadcast. From 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM on Thursday night, a new episode of "Without a Trace" on CBS drew a 10.5 overall rating, while a repeat of "ER" on NBC drew an overall rating of 6.1, and the ABC newsmagazine "Primetime" drew a 5.6 rating.

Thursday is the most lucrative night of the week for advertising revenue on television, making it well worth Spike TV's while to put The Ultimate Fighter up against such strong network competition. The Ultimate Fight Night special that preceded TUF 3 drew an overall rating of 1.6, and we will have a separate article about UFN's ratings in the coming days.

Reasons for the High Ratings, including the Shamrock-Ortiz Dynamic
Besides the obvious benefit of having a new Ultimate Fight Night as its lead-in, other factors that are likely to have contributed to TUF 3's strong ratings performance are the fact that there was actually a fight on the season premiere this time, and of course the dynamic between Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz.

It was the actual fights that had the biggest influence on TUF's ratings through its first two seasons, and neither of the first two seasons had any fights in their season premieres. The first fight during TUF 1 actually didn't take place until Episode 3. The producers of the show wisely decided to have the first fight between the contestants in Episode One this time around, which assuredly had some positive effect on the ratings.

As for the Shamrock-Ortiz dynamic, the advertising for the season premiere was built around the hatred between the two of them, and even showed a pull-apart brawl between Shamrock and Ortiz (presumably from a future episode) as a focal point of the advertising.

The Wrestling Observer reported during the latter stages of TUF 3's filming that according to sources close to the show, the Shamrock-Ortiz dynamic was "everything that had been hoped for and expected" by the show's producers and by Zuffa. It's not too difficult to figure out what they "hoped for and expected" when a big pull-apart brawl is subsequently made one of the focal points of the advertising for the season. This would certainly appear to make the Episode One scene in which Shamrock and Ortiz were warned that they weren't to get into any scuffles about as insincere and disingenuous as it could possibly be.

Future Outlook for TUF 3 Ratings
Starting with Episode Two, The Ultimate Fighter will be to another young TV franchise what WWE Raw once was to The Ultimate Fighter. The pro wrestling show TNA Impact will premiere its new weekly episodes on Thursday nights at 11:00 PM on Spike TV starting on April 13th. Impact will be relying on TUF to provide it with a strong lead-in, just as TUF relied on WWE Raw for a strong lead-in through its first one-and-a-half seasons. This will be a crucial test for both the UFC and TNA because while an original series that draws strong ratings is valuable, an original series that draws strong ratings and also helps create new hits in its wake is extremely valuable.

The biggest question concerning TUF 3's ratings from this point forward will be whether the show is able to build momentum throughout the season, or whether interest in the series will diminish as the season progresses. The ratings for TUF 1 increased as the season unfolded, while the ratings for TUF 2 fell off rather drastically as the season went on, never once drawing an overall rating higher than 1.4 after Episode Five. Though it's off to a fantastic start, the success of TUF 3 will ultimately be judged on how its ratings hold up over the course of the season. We'll continue to keep you updated on TUF 3's ratings throughout the season.

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