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Monday, June 05, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- Ultimate Fighter 3 Ratings Remain Higher than First Two Seasons
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

Episode Eight of The Ultimate Fighter, debuting on May 25th, drew an overall rating of 1.8, which is the fourth-highest rating of the season and is slightly above the show's season-to-date average. In addition, Episode Eight of TUF 3 drew a 2.8 rating in the advertiser-coveted 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, which was higher than any other television show in that timeslot on May 25th, with the exception of the NBA Playoffs on ESPN.

TUF 3 Still Out-Pacing TUF 1 and 2
Compared to the same point in the first season, the overall rating of 1.8 for Episode Eight of TUF 3 is a step up from the same point in the first two seasons. Episode Eight of the first season (featuring Diego Sanchez vs. Josh Rafferty) drew a 1.6 overall rating, and Episode Eight of the second season (featuring Luke Cummo vs. Anthony Torres) drew a 1.2 rating, which is the second-lowest regular-night rating in the history of The Ultimate Fighter.

The Ultimate Fighter 3 is also performing well in season-to-date averages when compared to the first two seasons. Through eight episodes, the first season of TUF was averaging a 1.6 overall rating, while the second season of TUF 2 was averaging a 1.5 rating at the same point. With eight episodes of TUF 3 now having aired, this season of the show is averaging a 1.7 overall rating.

TUF's Lead-In Affects the Rating Yet Again
It's becoming more of a trend every week: The Ultimate Fighter is greatly affected by the ratings of its lead-in show. This has been the case since the beginning of the third season, as fully documented in last week's article on MMAWeekly.

When the overall rating for the UFC Unleashed lead-in show jumped from the previous mark of 1.1 to the slightly higher mark of 1.3 on May 18th, TUF's rating on the same night jumped to 1.9 (up from the previous week's 1.7). When the lead-in rating went up slightly, TUF's rating went up slightly.

Most recently, with the May 25th two-hour block of UFC programming, the rating for TUF's lead-in was back down to 1.1, and TUF's rating slipped just a little bit to 1.8. When the lead-in rating went down slightly, TUF's rating went down slightly.

This ratings trend only makes sense and is a trend that also holds most true for most shows on television, but previous UFC programming on Spike TV had not been affected quite this much by the lead-in ratings. It has only been since the start of TUF 3 that the ebb and flow of the ratings has directly matched up to the lead-in ratings in this way.

It's worth noting that while a UFC Unleashed repeat filled the 9:00 PM timeslot on Thursday, May 18th, it was the one-hour "UFC 60 Countdown Special" that filled the same timeslot on Thursday, May 25th. The Hughes vs. Gracie countdown show drew a 0.9 overall rating when it debuted on Monday, May 22nd at 10:00 PM, and the Thursday night encore airing drew a 1.1 overall rating.

Ed Herman vs. Danny Abaddi Fight Draws a Solid Rating
It's only fitting that on the fourth-highest rated episode of TUF so far this season, Ed Herman and Danny Abaddi fought in what was the fourth most-watched fight so far this season. No other fight on TUF 3 has been able to touch the 2.3 quarter-hour rating that was drawn by Kendall Grove vs. Ross Pointon in Episode Three.

Episode Eight's fight between Ed Herman and Danny Abaddi drew a 2.0 quarter-hour rating, which fell just short of the 2.1 quarter-hour ratings that were drawn by Rory Singer vs. Solomon Hutcherson, and Josh Haynes vs. Tait Fletcher.

On Episode Nine, the final "opening round" fight of the competition will take place, as Matt Hamill will face Mike Nickels. Hamill and Nickels will both be attempting to join Jesse Forbes, Josh Haynes, and heavy favorite Michael Bisping in the light-heavyweight semi-finals.

Middleweight Semi-Finals are Set; Kalib Starnes' Health is a Question Mark
Now that all of the middleweight opening round fights have taken place, the middleweight final four is set. The 185-pound semi-finalists will be Team Shamrock's Kalib Starnes and Ed Herman, as well as Team Ortiz' Kendall Grove and Rory Singer.

For what it's worth, an article by the Canadian Press several weeks ago reported that Kalib Starnes suffered a broken fibula during the filming of TUF 3. While this would seem to indicate that Starnes will have to leave the show due to injury, or will otherwise be unable to compete on the live season finale of TUF on June 24th, that is not necessarily the case.

Remember, Tito Ortiz also suffered a broken fibula during the filming of TUF 3 (a broken fibula, not a torn ACL), and he is still going to be facing Ken Shamrock as scheduled on July 8th at the UFC 61 pay-per-view. Plus, Kalib Starnes actually broke his fibula early on in the season, whereas Ortiz broke his fibula towards the end of the filming. Of course, Starnes could have suffered a more severe break of his fibula than Ortiz did. It is not known whether or not Starnes' injury will prevent him from fighting in the middleweight finals, or whether he lost in the middleweight semi-finals.

TV Week Publishes Ultimate Fighter Ad Rates
Citing Nielsen Monitor Plus, the television trade journal TV Week published the advertising rates for The Ultimate Fighter 3 in an article earlier this week. The average rate for a 30-second commercial on TUF 3 is $3,500. This means that there were three fighters on the UFC 59 card who made less money than is generated by a single 30-second commercial on TUF, and there were six fighters on the UFC 59 card who made less money than is generated by a 60-second commercial on TUF.

There are approximately 16 minutes of commercials on every hour of television on any ad-supported cable or broadcast television network. Given that The Ultimate Fighter is a one-hour series which airs three times per week, that would mean TUF 3 generates $336,000 in advertising revenue per week, and the Wrestling Observer has reported that the UFC gets approximately half of the show's advertising revenue.

Over the course of a 12-week regular season, that would add up to $4,032,000 in advertising revenue, and that's not counting the live season finale and its two replays (the season finales of TUF likely have higher ad rates due to the fact that they draw higher ratings).

In addition to its share of the advertising revenue, and the special sponsorships such as those that air during the "tale of the tape" before each TUF fight, the UFC is also paid a programming rights fee by Spike TV for every hour of UFC programming that airs on the network.

Other Thursday Night Ratings: UFC's Competition Stronger on Cable TV, Weaker on Broadcast TV
Episode Eight of TUF 3 debuted on May 25th, which was one day after the official end of the 2005-2006 TV season. On the first day of the summer 2006 TV season, with the vast majority of network TV programming in repeats, TUF faced significantly weaker competition from network TV than it has faced at any time during its third season.

In just one week, TUF went from having to go head-to-head with network TV shows that drew a combined rating of 27.7, to now only having to go head-to-head with network TV shows that drew a combined rating of 16.7.

Airing head-to-head with TUF from 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM on May 25th, a repeat of CBS' Without a Trace (8.4 overall rating) more than doubled the rating that was drawn by a repeat of NBC's ER (4.1 overall rating). The newsmagazine Primetime on ABC actually beat ER, as Primetime drew a 4.5 overall rating.

While TUF faced much weaker network TV competition on May 25th, it did have to go head-to-head with an NBA playoff game on ESPN, which drew a 4.7 overall rating.

The UFC 60 countdown special, airing from 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM on May 25th, drew a 1.1 overall rating against even weaker network TV competition. The countdown special went head-to-head with repeats of NBC's My Name is Earl (3.6 rating) and The Office (3.2 rating), as well as ABC's presentation of the movie Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2.9 rating), and a repeat of CBS' CSI (8.9 rating). The only first-run network programming in the hour was the second half of Fox's So You Think You Can Dance, which drew a 7.5 rating in that hour.

Leading out of the TUF 3 broadcast on Spike TV on May 25th was the pro wrestling show TNA Impact, which drew an overall rating of either 1.1 or 1.2 (there is conflicting information on the exact rating). The previous high mark for TNA programming on Spike TV was a 1.1 rating, so the May 25th episode either tied the record or broke it altogether. While TNA Impact has developed a lot of ratings momentum in recent weeks, it may be just a few weeks away from a big fall-off when it goes from having the UFC as its lead-in to having a British comedy as its lead-in, which is one of the more baffling TV scheduling decisions in recent memory.

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