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Saturday, September 23, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- Ultimate Fighter Ratings Up Slighly, But Still Lower than Previous Seasons
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly
The fifth episode of The Ultimate Fighter 4 drew a 1.2 overall rating on Thursday, September 14th, which was up slightly from the previous week's overall rating of 1.1. As expected, the impact of Episode Four airing head-to-head with the NFL was minimal, as the ratings for Episode Five did not change very much without the NFL as head-to-head competition.
Only two episodes in the history of The Ultimate Fighter have drawn a lower overall rating than 1.2 while airing on the show's normal night, and one of those episodes was the aforementioned Episode Four from earlier this month. Ratings are always rounded to the nearest tenth of a ratings point, and while there are many times when the exact rating is 1.65 or 1.66 rating and it gets rounded up to 1.7, in this particular case the exact rating drawn by the show was 1.245.
The repeat of UFC Unleashed that aired as TUF's lead-in on September 14th drew a 1.1 overall rating, which matches the overall rating that was drawn by the previous week's new episode of TUF.
Leading out of The Ultimate Fighter was TNA Impact at 11:00 PM, which once again drew a 0.7 overall rating. TNA Impact has been on a ratings free-for-all ever since part-company-owner Jeff Jarrett was given the promotion's world title belt and made the centerpiece of the weekly TV show.
Quarter-Hour and Specific Demographic Ratings
In the overall quarter-hour ratings, which track the level of viewership over the course of an episode, the fifth episode of TUF 4 started out with a 1.2 rating and stayed virtually unchanged throughout the hour, as the Din Thomas vs. Mikey Burnett fight at the end of the episode drew a 1.3 rating.
Episode Five drew a 1.9 rating in the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, which was up slightly from the previous week's 1.7 rating in that demographic. However, this was also just the fifth time in the history of TUF that a new episode has drawn a rating of less than 2.0 in the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic.
Season-to-Date Averages Down from Previous Seasons
Through five episodes, The Ultimate Fighter 4 is averaging a 2.3 rating in the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, which is down from season three's 3.0 average over the same span of episodes.
In terms of overall viewership, TUF 3 was averaging a 1.7 overall rating through five episodes, while TUF 4 has averaged a 1.4 overall rating through five episodes. One might think that this is simply a case of TUF 3 being an extraordinary ratings success that can't be matched, but that is not the case. Even TUF 2, which ended up drawing the lowest average ratings of any TUF season, was averaging a 1.6 overall rating through five episodes.
On an episode vs. episode basis, Episode Five of The Ultimate Fighter 4 drew a 1.2 overall rating. At the same point in previous seasons, Episode Five of the third season drew a 1.7 overall rating, highlighted by the fight between Rory Singer and Solomon Hutcherson. Episode Five of the second season drew a 1.5 overall rating, highlighted by the fact between Rashad Evans and Tom Murphy. Episode Five of the first season drew a 1.7 overall rating, highlighted by the Chris Leben-Josh Koscheck-Bobby Southworth brouhaha.
As detailed last week on MMAWeekly, there are numerous possible reasons for TUF 4's lower ratings. Among these possible reasons are that viewers have not become attached to the characters in the way that they became attached during previous seasons; or that the lack of air time or character development for the coaches/trainers has turned off a lot of viewers; or that the general concept of Season Four is simply not appealing to the masses in the way that it is appealing to the hardcore fanbase; or a combination of these factors.
Free Publicity on Network TV Could Lead Some Viewers to Watch TUF This Week
It will be interesting to see whether the ratings for Episode Six of The Ultimate Fighter 4 are helped to any significant degree by what was essentially a free ten-second advertisement for the UFC on one of the biggest shows on television. On ABC's hit reality series Dancing with the Stars that aired on Tuesday, September 19th, contestant Willa Ford said during her pre-dance video package, "My friend Chuck Liddell is in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and he taught me that sometimes you get knocked down and you just have to get right back up." While she said this, clips aired of Liddell and of the UFC in general.
Even though it only lasted ten seconds, it can't be overstated how much exposure this brought to the sport. Dancing with the Stars is one of the most-watched shows on television. While the ratings for this Tuesday's episode are not yet available, last Tuesday's two-hour season premiere averaged a monstrous 13.2 rating, which is the second highest rated episode in Dancing with the Stars' history, behind only the season two finale.
If one-tenth of the people who saw the brief UFC clip on Dancing with the Stars this week have their curiosity piqued and seek more information about the UFC, it could have a positive effect on TUF's ratings in future weeks.
Willa Ford was, surprisingly, in the bottom three of the competition last week, but if she's still on the show next week, it would only make sense for her to have Chuck Liddell as one of her invited guests in the audience.
Each contestant is allowed to bring several friends or family members to sit in the audience for any given episode of the show, and these people are then shown on camera numerous times throughout the show. The invited guests can be present in the audience for a single episode, the entire season, or anywhere in between. If Liddell were to be shown or mentioned in the audience, which frequently occurs with the contestants' guests, the exposure for the UFC product would be immense.
Network TV Competition on September 14th
Airing head-to-head with TUF on September 14th from 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM, a repeat of CSI on CBS drew a 9.8 overall rating, while the final regular weekly edition of the ABC newsmagazine Primetime drew a 5.6 overall rating. Meanwhile, a repeat of ER on NBC drew a 3.6 overall rating. ER generally performs very poorly in repeats, which is why NBC is going to air only new episodes of ER this season (the show will take a hiatus in the winter in order to make this possible).
Airing head-to-head with UFC Unleashed on September 14th from 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM, a repeat of CSI on CBS drew a 9.9 overall rating, a repeat of Grey's Anatomy on ABC drew a 6.3 overall rating, a new episode of Celebrity Duets on Fox drew a 3.9 overall rating, and the repeat combination of My Name is Earl and The Office averaged a 3.6 overall rating on NBC.
Network Competition to Get Much Stronger
In terms of the overall number of people who are watching other shows on their televisions that air at the same time as TUF, the first five weeks were actually the easiest of TUF's season. Starting with Episode Six on September 21st, TUF will be airing head-to-head with the new fall season on the major broadcast networks instead of the repeat programming that it has faced in recent weeks.
While the most likely scenario is that the new fall season will have a minor negative effect on TUF's ratings, it could actually be beneficial to TUF in a way because it means that there will be more people in front of their televisions who might stumble upon TUF, enjoy what they see, and keep watching, but in general it's a less formidable task to have to go head-to-head with repeat programming.
Starting on September 21st, UFC Unleashed (TUF's lead-in show) will have to go head-to-head with new episodes of CSI and Grey's Anatomy, which averaged a combined rating of 30.0 last season (yes, that's 30% of American TV households). New episodes of CSI averaged a 16.7 overall rating on Thursday nights last season, while new episodes of Grey's Anatomy averaged a 13.3 overall rating on Sunday nights last season.
Of course, there's no telling what's going to happen to people's viewership patterns when the two shows air head-to-head, but the sheer volume of people (it could be 30% of the country) watching one of those two shows will almost certainly have a negative effect on the ratings of UFC Unleashed. The ratings of a show's lead-in always has some effect on the show, whether it's a big effect or a small effect, so this could conceivably hurt TUF's ratings.
As for TUF itself, it's not going head-to-head with CSI or Grey's Anatomy, but it is going head-to-head with a line-up that is still likely to have some effect on TUF's ratings. Even if TUF's ratings increase in future weeks, it is likely to be a smaller increase than it otherwise would be without strong head-to-head competition.
NBC's ER will be back with new episodes starting on September 21st, and while ER is no longer considered the ratings powerhouse that it once was, it still averaged a 9.4 overall rating for new episodes last season, which is excellent by any standard other than the one that was set by previous seasons of ER.
Also in the 10:00 PM hour, CBS will try to launch the new drama "Smith" off the back of its lead-in, CSI; while ABC will try to launch the new drama "Six Degrees" off the back of its lead-in, Grey's Anatomy. The sheer number of people watching all of these shows will likely have a minor negative impact on TUF's ratings in future weeks.