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Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- Ultimate Fighter Ratings Flat as Season Comes to an End
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

Episode Eleven of The Ultimate Fighter 3, which aired at 10:00 PM on Thursday, June 15th, drew an overall rating of 1.5. Episode Twelve, which aired at 11:00 PM immediately after Episode Eleven, drew an overall rating of 1.4. These were two of the lowest ratings of the season for The Ultimate Fighter, but are still excellent ratings for cable television.

After drawing ratings in the 1.8 to 1.9 range for its seventh, eighth, and ninth episodes, the last three episodes of TUF 3's regular season drew overall ratings of 1.5, 1.5. and 1.4. While the head-to-head competition from the NBA Finals undoubtedly deserves some of the blame for those decreases, it would simply not be accurate to put all of the blame on the NBA Finals.

In fact, the vast majority of The Ultimate Fighter's second season went head-to-head with Monday Night Football on ABC, a series that drew better ratings for a down week than the NBA Finals generates for its highest-rated games.

While TUF 3 has had to go head-to-head with the NBA Finals for the past two weeks, those two games have only drawn ratings of 6.6 and 6.8. On the other hand, the Monday Night Football games that went head-to-head with TUF 2 ranged from 8.4 to 12.7 in the ratings, with an average rating of 10.0 in those weeks. Though the games of the NBA Finals are the pinnacle of the NBA season, they are not some kind of unstoppable force that crush everything in their path in the ratings.

Ratings Specifics for Episodes Eleven and Twelve
Episode Eleven of The Ultimate Fighter 3 showed the smallest amount of audience growth throughout the hour of any TUF episode this season. The show started off with a 1.5 quarter-hour rating, and peaked with a 1.6 quarter-hour rating for the fight between Ed Herman and Rory Singer.

There were apparently a significant number of TUF viewers who were not aware that there was going to be was going to be a second new episode of TUF airing at 11:00 PM on Thursday night, because the quarter-hour rating immediately fell off from 1.6 to 1.3 for the beginning of Episode Twelve.

The fight between Josh Haynes and Jesse Forbes in the next quarter-hour only drew a 1.3 quarter-hour rating. For whatever reason, the two least-watched fights of the season both involved Jesse Forbes. Episode Twelve rebounded slightly by improving to a 1.6 quarter-hour rating for the fight between Michael Bisping and Ross Pointon.

In the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, the two episodes averaged a 2.3 rating over the course of the two-hour period, which ties those two episodes with Episode Two as the lowest-rated episodes of the season in the advertiser-coveted demographic.

In the slightly broader demographic of 18-to-49-year-old males, Episode Eleven drew a 1.9 rating, making it among the lowest-rated episodes of the season in that demographic, but not quite at the bottom. Episode Twelve drew a 1.6 rating in the 18-to-49-year-old male demographic, which was the lowest rating of the season in that demo.

End of TUF 3 Regular Season vs. End of Previous Regular Seasons
The last two episodes of any given season of The Ultimate Fighter have always featured the second, third, and fourth of the four semi-final fights to determine who will go on to the finals. In these two episodes, TUF 3 performed better than TUF 2 in the ratings, but did not come close to TUF 1's season-closing numbers.

Specifically, Episode Eleven of TUF 3 (featuring Ed Herman's victory over Rory Singer) drew an overall rating of 1.5, while Episode Eleven of the second season (featuring Rashad Evans' victory over Keith Jardine) drew an overall rating of 1.3. Episode Eleven of the first season (featuring Diego Sanchez' victory over Josh Koscheck) tied the series' all-time high overall rating of 2.0, which is a record that still stands today.

Episode Twelve of TUF 3 (featuring Josh Haynes' victory over Jesse Forbes, and Michael Bisping's victory over Ross Pointon) drew an overall rating of 1.4, which fell short of the 1.7 overall rating that was drawn by Episode Twelve of the first season (featuring Forrest Griffin's victory over Sam Hoger, and Stephan Bonnar's victory over Mike Swick). For the final regular episode of the second season (featuring Joe Stevenson's victory over Jason Flue, and Brad Imes' victory over Seth Petruzelli), Spike TV chose to air it on a Tuesday night instead of the show's usual Monday night timeslot, and the disastrous result was an overall rating of 0.9.

An important note related to these numbers is that just because TUF 3's regular season ended on a flat note in the ratings does not necessarily mean that the live season finale will disappoint in the ratings. Right after TUF 2 ended its regular season with two enormously disappointing ratings, the live season finale set the company's all-time record for a live fight special with a 2.0 overall rating. The expectations for TUF 3's live season finale are huge, given the fact that this season performed so much better than the second season in the ratings.

The live season finale of The Ultimate Fighter 3 will air on Saturday, June 24th from 9:00 PM to 12:00 AM. Leading into the finale will be a rebroadcast of all twelve episodes from this season, which will air from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM on June 24th. The first episode of the season, which originally aired in 90-minute form, as been edited down to fit into a 60-minute block.

Without any additional new episodes of TUF before the live season finale, this Thursday night's line-up on Spike TV will simply be a rebroadcast of Episodes Eleven and Twelve, which will air from 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM on Thursday, June 22nd.

The Finals are Set, and Pro Wrestling Starts Ten Minutes Early on Spike TV
With all of the semi-final bouts now having aired on Spike TV (the last of them took place on February 24th), the finals are set to be Michael Bisping vs. Josh Haynes in the light heavyweight division, and Ed Herman vs. Kendall Grove in the middleweight division. Bisping and Herman were the two favorites headed into the season, with Bisping as a particularly strong favorite in a light heavyweight division that consisted of mostly inexperienced fighters.

The product placement was back on the final regular season episodes (actual quote from Episode Twelve: "These new Amp'd Mobile phones are actually televisions!"), and so was Matt Hamill after he disappeared from the show with almost no explanation on Episode Ten. Hamill would have had to fight two times in a three-day period in order to compete in the last light heavyweight semi-final fight, and the doctors simply were not going to allow that due to his arm injury and concussion.

Coming back with Hamill was the trademark Ric Flair cry of, "Whooo!" which Hamill did earlier in the season, and which was also done by Spencer Fisher, complete with the Ric Flair strut, after his win at UFC 60. Given what happened in the final minutes of Episode Twelve, it's ironic that the UFC did not want to acknowledge why fighters were yelling "Whooo!" in order to avoid the pro wrestling connection.

I could have sworn that the evening's pro wrestling entertainment was scheduled to begin last week at 12:00 AM when TNA Impact went on the air, but instead it started a few minutes early at the end of The Ultimate Fighter 3. As all of the fighters were about to leave the gym for the last time, Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock might as well have turned to the cameras and said, "Oh, wait... we need to do another worked pull-apart." The ensuing pull-apart scene could have easily been mistaken for any number of pull-aparts on most episodes of TNA Impact, or any other pro wrestling show.

After Ken Shamrock accused Tito Ortiz of trying to "look like a nice guy" for the cameras all season long, the subsequent cursing and shoving required several of the season's contestants to break up what would have surely been a fist-fight between two men who truly hate each other so very, very much. Dana White could barely contain his Cheshire Cat grin as all of this was taking place. Zuffa, Ortiz, and Shamrock each stand to profit directly from their share of the PPV sales that this whole "they really, really hate each other" farce is sure to generate.

In a big oversight, the same editors who did such a good job of removing any reference to Ric Flair by name failed to remove the part where Ken Shamrock actually said on camera, "I put him [Ortiz] over the first time!" While that particular line was undoubtedly just Shamrock trying to minimize the result of his first fight with Ortiz, that kind of terminology is, again, something that you would normally see on a pro wrestling show.

Other Thursday Night Ratings
Airing head-to-head with UFC Unleashed and both hours of The Ultimate Fighter on Thursday, June 15th was Game 4 of The NBA Finals on ABC, which drew a 6.8 overall rating. This was almost identical to Game 1's overall rating of 6.6 one week earlier.

In addition to the NBA on ABC, the first hour of The Ultimate Fighter on June 15th (from 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM) also went head-to-head with a repeat of CBS' Without a Trace, which drew an overall rating of 7.6 and once again beat the NBA Finals, as well as the second episode of the NBC drama Windfall, which drew a 5.2 overall rating.

The second hour of TUF on June 15th, airing from 11:00 PM to 12:00 AM, went head-to-head in its second half with NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno (4.2 overall rating) and CBS' Late Show with David Letterman (3.8 overall rating).

The repeat of UFC Unleashed that aired from 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM on Thursday, June 15th drew an overall rating of 1.1, which was up from the previous week's 0.9 overall rating.

Airing head-to-head with that hour of UFC Unleashed were a repeat of CBS' CSI (7.6 overall rating), Dateline NBC's interview with a semi-coherent Britney Spears (6.0 overall rating), and a new episode of Fox's So You Think You Can Dance (5.0 overall rating).

The pro wrestling show TNA Impact drew an overall rating of 0.8 in its one-week-only move to midnight on the night of June 15th, which was down from the show's average but was also a strong rating for a show that was airing from 12:00 AM to 1:00 AM.

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