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Thursday, October 19, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- Ultimate Fighter Draws Series-Low 1.0 Rating
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

Just two days after every UFC ratings record in the book was shattered by Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock III on Spike TV with a 3.1 overall rating, Episode Nine of The Ultimate Fighter 4 drew an overall rating of 1.0 on Thursday, October 12th.

The overall rating of 1.0 is the smallest in the history of The Ultimate Fighter for a regularly scheduled new episode. The previous week's overall rating of 1.1 had tied the previous all-time low for a new episode on any season of TUF, but the latest rating of 1.0 has set a new all-time low in the record books.

It's important to keep this in perspective, as a 1.0 overall rating is still a hit on cable TV. Nonetheless, it is hugely disappointing for both Zuffa and Spike due to the ratings that were drawn by the series' first three seasons.

Ortiz-Shamrock Viewers Don't Tune Into TUF Two Days Later
The low ratings for TUF are troubling not just because of the actual ratings, but also because this episode of TUF came just two days after more people than ever before were exposed to the UFC product and saw commercials for The Ultimate Fighter. The average number of viewers at any given time for UFC: The Final Chapter on October 10th was 4.2 million, compared to 1.5 million for the new episode of TUF that aired two days later.

Instead of a certain percentage of the massive Final Chapter audience trying out TUF to see if they like it, which is the ratings trend that one would normally expect in such a scenario, TUF's ratings were actually down from the previous week. The same was the case for UFC Unleashed, which drew a 0.9 overall rating, marking the first time since August 10th that UFC Unleashed drew an overall rating of less than 1.0 in its regular timeslot.

Portion of Unleashed Audience Tunes Out Again; Lytle vs. Thomas Doesn't Draw
For the second consecutive week, the people who turned off Spike TV when The Ultimate Fighter started at 10:00 PM actually outnumbered the people who tuned into Spike TV when TUF started at 10:00 PM. The end of a UFC Unleashed repeat drew a 1.1 quarter-hour rating leading up to 10:00 PM, and then the first quarter-hour of TUF drew a slightly smaller 1.0 rating.

In addition, the first semi-final match-up was the least watched fight so far this season. Previously, the least-watched fight of the season had been Patrick Cote vs. Jorge Rivera in Episode Eight (the fight drew a 1.2 rating), but the Episode Nine semi-final fight between Chris Lytle and Din Thomas drew a 1.0 rating.

Episode Nine Comparisons
Compared to Episode Nine of previous TUF seasons, the 1.0 overall rating that was drawn by Episode Nine of this season does not stack up. Episode Nine of the first season featured Forrest Griffin's victory over Alex Schoenauer and drew a 1.5 overall rating. Episode Nine of the second season featured Rashad Evans' victory over Mike Whitehead and drew a 1.1 overall rating, which was the series' all-time low at the time. Episode Nine of the third season featured Matt Hamill's victory over Mike Nickels and drew a 1.8 overall rating.

Through nine episodes, The Ultimate Fighter 4 is the least-watched season of TUF to date, with an average overall rating of 1.3. Prior to Season Four, only two regularly scheduled new episodes of The Ultimate Fighter in series history had ever drawn overall ratings lower than 1.3.

Key Demographic Increases Slightly; Serra vs. Carter Could Boost the Ratings
One bright spot for Episode Nine's ratings is that while other demographics decreased, the rating among 18-to-34-year-old males increased slightly, as it went from 1.7 for Episode Eight to 1.9 for Episode Nine. However, the rating of 1.9 is still down drastically from Season Three's average-through-nine-episodes of 3.0 in the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic. It's also lower than Season Four's own average-through-nine-episodes of 2.2 in this demographic. Still, it's some good news amidst a lot of bad news.

If ever there was an episode of The Ultimate Fighter 4 that was going to pop a rating, it would be this week's Episode Ten, featuring the heavily-hyped semi-final fight between Matt Serra and Shonie Carter. In addition to the fact that commercials on Spike TV have been promoting the fight all week, a significant portion of this season has been dedicated to building up this particular fight, as Serra and Carter have been the most prominently featured contestants on the season by a large margin.

It's hard to tell with the ratings trending downward the way they are, but one would expect the Serra-Carter fight to cause a slight ratings increase, and if the fans who tune in specifically for the Serra-Carter fight enjoy what they see on the show in general, a decent percentage of them will also tune into Episodes Eleven and Twelve as well. That's what Zuffa and Spike have to be hoping for, but there have been other heavily-hyped events this season that have had little-to-no impact on the ratings (including Serra's first fight on the show, and the commercials early this season which hyped that one of the contestants was getting kicked off the show on the following episode).

Network Competition on October 12th, and Ratings for Spike TV's Scream Awards
Airing head-to-head with The Ultimate Fighter on Thursday, October 12th from 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM, ABC's Six Degrees continued its slow march towards cancellation with an overall rating of 6.3. Meanwhile, CBS' Shark came closer to toppling NBC's ER in the ratings, but fell just short, as Shark drew a 9.2 overall rating and ER drew a 9.4 overall rating.

Airing head-to-head with UFC Unleashed in the 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM hour, Grey's Anatomy on ABC eliminated any doubt that it is here to stay as the most-watched show on Thursday nights, and also the most-watched show on all of television (at least until American Idol comes back in January). Grey's Anatomy out-drew CBS' CSI for the fourth consecutive week, as Grey's Anatomy drew a 14.6 overall rating and CSI drew a 13.3 overall rating. While it's still one of the most-watched shows on television, CSI has lost the "untouchable" aura that it had just five months ago.

Also in the 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM, NBC's Deal or No Deal drew a 6.2 overall rating, as it continues to be put in a sacrificial position by NBC because the network knows that Deal or No Deal is going to draw a decent rating no matter how difficult its timeslot. A Major League Baseball playoff game drew a 5.5 overall rating on Fox, which was down significantly from the 6.4 overall rating that the first LCS broadcast drew on Fox in October 2005.

Airing immediately after the record-breaking broadcast of UFC: The Final Chapter on Tuesday, October 10th, the Spike TV Scream Awards can be described as nothing less than a ratings disaster. Despite the fact that its lead-in drew a 3.1 overall rating, the Scream Awards broadcast drew an overall rating of 0.9.

To put into perspective how much of a disappointment this is, keep in mind that any show on television that retains less than 50 percent of its overall lead-in audience is generally viewed as a monumental failure. The Scream Awards retained just 29 percent of UFC: The Final Chapter's overall viewership, 29 percent of The Final Chapter's 18-to-34-year-old male viewership, and 28 percent of The Final Chapter's 18-to-49-year-old male viewership.

The episode of the pro wrestling show TNA Impact that aired immediately after The Ultimate Fighter on Thursday, October 12th also drew a 0.9 overall rating, but its lead-in was less than one-third the size of the Scream Awards' lead-in. The October 12th edition of TNA Impact retained 90 percent of The Ultimate Fighter's overall viewership, 68 percent of The Ultimate Fighter's 18-to-34-year-old male viewership, and 77 percent of The Ultimate Fighter's 18-to-49-year-old male viewership.

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