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Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- Ratings for The Ultimate Fighter Drop in Week Three
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

The third episode of The Ultimate Fighter 4 drew an overall rating of 1.4, which was down from the 1.6 overall rating that was drawn by the previous week's episode.

In the advertiser-friendly 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, Episode Three of TUF 4 drew a 2.4 rating, which was down from the previous week's mark of 2.7. In the 18-to-49-year-old male demographic, Episode Three drew a 1.7 rating, which was down from the previous week's mark of 2.1.

MTV Video Music Awards Influence TUF Ratings... To a Degree
Some of the decrease in viewership for this particular episode can be blamed on the fact that it aired head-to-head with the MTV Video Music Awards. However, the primary demographic for the VMAs is actually 12-to-24-year-olds, whereas TUF's top demographic is 18-to-34-year-olds.

There is a substantial amount of overlap among 18-to-24-year-olds, but there is not as much across-the-board overlap as one might expect. Also, the Video Music Awards show continued its annual free-for-all in the ratings, as the 2006 installment of the show drew a 4.4 overall rating, down almost 30 percent from 2005, which was down significantly from 2004.

Season-to-Date Averages for TUF 4 Fall Just Short of TUF 3
With three episodes of the TUF 4 season now having aired, the season-to-date averages are down slightly from the third season.

Through three episodes, TUF 4 is averaging a 1.6 overall rating, compared to a 1.7 overall rating for TUF 3 at the same point in its season. Among 18-to-49-year-old males, TUF 4 is averaging a 2.0 rating so far, whereas TUF 3 was averaging a 2.2 rating through three episodes.

In the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, TUF 4 is averaging a 2.6 rating through three episodes. That's an excellent rating for any show to draw in the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, but it's also down significantly from the 3.0 average that TUF 3 was drawing in the same demographic through three episodes.

Episode Three of TUF 4 featured a quick fight in which Chris Lytle submitted Pete Spratt. Episode Three of the third season also featured a one-sided fight that ended by submission, as Kendall Grove defeated Ross Pointon. The difference from a ratings standpoint is that the Grove-Pointon fight drew a 2.3 rating in the minutes immediately before, during, and after the fight, whereas Lytle vs. Spratt drew a 1.6 rating in the same timeframe.

Portion of UFC Unleashed Audience Tunes Out When TUF Starts
This particular episode of TUF got off to a very slow start in the ratings, as the opening 15 minutes of the show drew an average rating of just 1.3. This was actually a decrease from the final 15 minutes of the UFC Unleashed episode that preceded TUF, as that quarter-hour drew a 1.4 rating.

While there were many people who tuned in to Spike TV at 10:00 PM specifically to see The Ultimate Fighter, these people were actually outnumbered by the people who were watching UFC Unleashed and chose to change the channel instead of keeping it on Spike TV when TUF started at 10:00 PM.

This is the first time ever that we have such an occurrence on record. There have been times when the quarter-hour rating stayed the same rather than increasing when TUF started at 10:00 PM, but this was the first time that the number of viewers actually decreased.

Though it's only a slight ratings fluctuation at this point, this is generally not a good sign for TUF 4 because it means that there are a decent number of people who are interested in seeing the UFC in general and will stay tuned to finish watching UFC Unleashed, but who are not interested in TUF 4 for whatever reason and choose not to keep watching when TUF starts at 10:00 PM.

The entire hour of UFC Unleashed averaged a 1.2 overall rating, which marks the second week in a row that UFC Unleashed drew an overall rating that was just 0.2 lower than the episode of The Ultimate Fighter that followed it.

Will the "Someone Might Get Kicked Out" Tease Boost the Episode Four Ratings?
At the end of Episode Three, the teaser for next week's episode hinted that a fighter might be kicked off the show next week for breaking the house rules. Fighters have broken the house rules and gotten away with it on prior seasons of TUF (specifically the rule about not leaving the property without permission), but it's still a possibility that someone actually was kicked off the show this season for wandering off the property.

Given that the segments with recaps of each fighter's UFC career have been airing right before they fight on the show, it made absolutely no sense for Jeremy Jackson's UFC career to be recapped in the middle of Episode Three for no apparent reason.

One of the only logical explanations is that the editors knew in post-production that Jackson had been kicked off the show before he got a chance to fight, and there would be no opportunity to air Jackson's recap footage right before his TUF fight if he didn't have a TUF fight. This is pure speculation, though, and it's also possible that the editors and producers threw that out there intentionally as a red herring.

It will be interesting to see if the tease of someone potentially getting kicked off the show will increase the ratings for Episode Four. Ultimately, the answer to that question is almost completely dependent on whether or not most viewers care about or have grown attached to the fighters on this season of the show.

In the end, that is what determines the ratings success or comparative failure of any season of TUF: Do viewers get attached to the fighters and/or coaches? If a viewer cares about or gets emotionally invested in what happens to the fighters, or the coaches/trainers, or preferably both, they will keep watching throughout the season and maybe even encourage their friends to check out the show (see TUF 3 with its increasing ratings as the season went on).

In the second season, the ratings collapsed as the season progressed (even before the WWE lead-in was lost), in great part because there were several occasions when the fighters on the show were disrespected, treated like trash, or portrayed as wimps, even in cases like Rob MacDonald's where they were fighting through major injuries. Not enough viewers got emotionally attached to the fighters or coaches, and many of them stopped watching before the end of the season.

On the first three episodes of TUF 4, trainers Randy Couture and Georges St. Pierre have barely even been on the show, but the producers and editors have done a good job of establishing some of the fighters' personalities, with an emphasis on Shonie Carter and Matt Serra.

With commercials airing throughout the week hyping the fact that one of the fighters could be kicked off the show on Episode Four, the ratings for this episode will likely be indicative of how much viewers care about this season's cast as a whole.

Network TV Competition: The Calm Before the "New Fall Season" Storm
For the second consecutive week, the pro wrestling show TNA Impact drew an overall rating of 0.8 following The Ultimate Fighter on Spike TV. The ratings for TNA Impact have dropped an alarming 20 percent in the weeks since TNA part-owner and head writer Jeff Jarrett was given the promotion's world title belt.

Airing head-to-head with The Ultimate Fighter 4 on August 31st from 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM, the finale of the now-cancelled NBC drama Windfall drew a 3.6 overall rating. Also, ABC's newsmagazine Primetime drew a 5.1 overall rating, and a repeat of Without a Trace on CBS drew a whopping 8.1 overall rating.

Airing head-to-head with UFC Unleashed from 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM, two repeats of The Office on NBC drew overall ratings of 3.9 and 3.8, respectively. The series premiere of Celebrity Duets, featuring a completely incoherent Little Richard as one of the judges, was replayed on Fox and drew a 3.7 rating in this hour.

Also in the 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM hour, in what may or may not be a preview of things to come when both series begin their new seasons on September 21st, a repeat of the CBS drama CSI easily topped a repeat of the ABC drama Grey's Anatomy in the ratings. CSI drew an 8.1 overall rating, while Grey's Anatomy drew a 5.9 overall rating.

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