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Thursday, June 08, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- Ultimate Fighter 3 Draws Huge Rating in Key Age Group
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

Episode Nine of The Ultimate Fighter 3 achieved the impressive feat of drawing more 18-to-34-year-old male viewers than any other show on television in its timeslot. From 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM on June 1st, no other show drew more viewers in the advertiser-coveted demographic, and that includes every cable channel and every network TV channel.

Second-Highest Ever Rating in Key Demo for TUF; Ad Rates Sure to Increase
Episode Nine drew an overall rating of 1.8, which is the same as Episode Eight's overall rating. The difference is that while Episode Eight drew a 2.8 rating in the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, Episode Nine drew an incredible 3.4 in that demographic. Only one regular episode (non-season-finale) of The Ultimate Fighter in series history has drawn a higher rating among 18-to-34-year-old males, and that was the third season premiere with its 3.7 rating.

This kind of ratings increase does not affect the UFC's finances immediately because the commercials for Season Three have already been sold, but it does raise the image of the company and the season's average ratings. This will almost surely lead to a sizable increase in the ad rates for Season Four of TUF. For Season Three of TUF, the cost of a 30-second commercial is approximately $3,500, which adds up to approximately $112,000 in ad revenue for each airing.

As 18-to-34-year-old males become increasingly difficult for advertisers to reach in general, and as long as that demographic continues to flock to the UFC in near-record numbers, advertising rates are going to increase in a hurry.

In terms of overall ratings, TUF 3 is performing significantly better than the first two seasons were at the same point. While Episode Nine of the third season drew a 1.8 overall rating, Episode Nine of the first season (featuring Forrest Griffin vs. Alex Schoenauer) drew a 1.5 overall rating. Episode Nine of the second season (featuring Rashad Evans vs. Mike Whitehead) was actually the low point in series history from a ratings standpoint, as it drew an overall rating of just 1.1. The Ultimate Fighter 3 has now drawn overall ratings of 1.7 or higher for the past five consecutive weeks, which has never happened before in the history of the series.

Episode Nine of TUF 3 started with a 1.6 quarter-hour rating, and peaked with a 2.0 quarter-hour rating for the fight between Matt Hamill and Mike Nickels.

Semi-Finalists Are Now Set; Possible Semi-Final Match-Ups
With Matt Hamill dominating Mike Nickels in the final preliminary fight, despite having an injured arm that he could barely use, the complete semi-finals for The Ultimate Fighter 3 are now set. The light-heavyweight semi-finals will consist of Matt Hamill, Michael Bisping, Josh Haynes, and Jesse Forbes. The middleweight semi-finals will consist of Ed Herman, Kalib Starnes (broken fibula and all), Rory Singer, and Kendall Grove.

The UFC would obviously love to have the finals in each weight class come down to a Team Shamrock fighter against a Team Ortiz fighter, so that Shamrock and Ortiz can be in opposite corners on the live season finale on June 24th, thus helping to sell their July 8th PPV showdown.

That may prove to be impossible with the light-heavyweights due to the fact that three of the four semi-finalists are from Team Ortiz. However, it can happen and likely will happen with the middleweights.

It seems overwhelmingly likely that the UFC will match teammates up against each other in the middleweight semi-finals, and the Episode Ten preview even hinted at such a move. This would mean that Team Ortiz members Rory Singer and Kendall Grove would fight one another in one of the middleweight semi-final bouts, while Team Shamrock members Ed Herman and Kalib Starnes would fight one another in the other semi-final bout. This is the only way to guarantee that there is at least one Team Shamrock vs. Team Ortiz match-up in the finals.

One other thing that was alluded to in the Episode Ten preview is the possibility that Matt Hamill might have to leave the show due to an elbow injury. The tease of, "Who's going to walk through the door?" could have just been included in the episode preview as a red herring (much like Rashad Evans jokingly telling his teammates that he had to leave the show in season two), or it could be that Hamill really did have to leave the competition due to his elbow injury. If that did happen, the logical choice for a light-heavyweight to replace him would be Tait Fletcher, who arguably deserves to be in the semi-finals more than Jesse Forbes.

Other Thursday Night Ratings
With the majority of network TV in repeats for the summer, TUF 3 did not have much in the way of significant network TV competition on June 1st. Airing head-to-head with TUF from 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM were a repeat of CBS' Without a Trace (8.4 overall rating), a repeat of NBC's ER (3.8 overall rating), and a new episode of the ABC newsmagazine Primetime (5.6 overall rating).

A repeat of UFC Unleashed on Spike TV, airing from 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM, drew a 1.3 overall rating, demonstrating once again the durability that makes Unleashed worth every penny that Spike TV pays for it in rights fees. Network television competition for the repeat of Unleashed included a repeat of CBS' CSI (9.1 overall rating), ABC's presentation of the National Spelling Bee (5.3 overall rating), a new episode of Fox's So You Think You Can Dance (5.0 overall rating), and two repeats of NBC's The Office (which averaged a 3.1 overall rating).

After TUF 3 went off the air on June 1st at 11:00 PM, the episode of TNA Impact that followed on Spike TV drew an overall rating of 1.1. It was the third consecutive episode of TNA Impact that tied the series' all-time high of 1.1. The overall rating for the May 25th episode of TNA Impact was originally reported as 1.2 in some outlets, but it was actually 1.1.

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