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Monday, November 06, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- Ultimate Fighter Ratings Tie Series Low
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

Two weeks after Episode Nine of The Ultimate Fighter 4 set a new series low with a 1.0 overall rating, Episode Eleven tied that mark on Thursday, October 26th. The two episodes' ratings of 1.0 are the two lowest ratings ever drawn by any regularly scheduled new episodes of The Ultimate Fighter.

The previous week, Episode Ten of TUF 4 had shown mild improvement by drawing a 1.2 overall rating, but it was back to 1.0 with Episode Eleven. This season has been the least-watched to date, with an average overall rating of 1.3 through eleven episodes.

Episode Eleven did draw a slightly higher rating among 18-to-34-year-old males than Episode Ten (1.8 to 1.7), but neither of those two ratings approach the 2.9 rating that Season Three of TUF was averaging in the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic through eleven episodes.

The actual fight on Episode Eleven, Travis Lutter vs. Pete Sell, drew a 1.1 rating, which makes it the second least watched fight of the season thus far.

Major League Baseball Has Minimal Impact on TUF's Ratings
One might think that going head-to-head with the World Series would have been a significant factor in lowering TUF's ratings from the previous week, but the ratings from the past few weeks actually contradict that notion fairly decisively.

On October 12th, Episode Nine of The Ultimate Fighter 4 drew a 1.0 overall rating when it went head-to-head with an MLB playoff game that drew an overall rating of just 5.5, which is hugely disappointing for an MLB playoff game.

One week later on October 19th, Episode Ten of The Ultimate Fighter 4 had to go head-to-head with Game 7 of the National League Championship Series, which drew a vastly improved 9.3 overall rating. So, what happened to TUF's ratings when the head-to-head baseball competition was up 70 percent in the ratings from the previous week? TUF's ratings actually went up 20 percent, from 1.0 to 1.2.

In the case of the most recent episode of TUF, Episode Eleven, it drew a 1.0 overall rating, but it actually faced a virtually identical level of MLB competition. Episode Eleven went head-to-head with Game 5 of the World Series, which drew a 9.4 overall rating. That's a difference of just one percent from the 9.3 rating that was drawn by Game 7 of the NLCS a week earlier, which means that Episode Ten and Episode Eleven of TUF 4 went head-to-head with essentially the same MLB audience.

As a result, it would be inaccurate to say that Episode Eleven of TUF 4 faced competition that was any stiffer than Episode Ten's competition, or that going head-to-head with the World Series had any demonstrable effect on Episode Eleven's ratings.

World Series Draws Fewer Young Males than UFC: Final Chapter
MMAWeekly has extensively covered the ratings that were drawn by UFC: The Final Chapter on October 10th (headlined by Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock III), which was by far the most-watched UFC broadcast of all time. Now there's another footnote to add, as The Final Chapter actually outdrew the World Series in one specific demographic.

Among 18-to-24-year-old males, which is a demographic that has shown less and less interest in baseball in recent years, the five-game average for the World Series was 504,000 viewers per game. In the same demographic, The Final Chapter averaged 532,000 viewers on October 10th.

While the World Series still drew a much larger average audience (15.8 million viewers, compared to 4.2 million for The Final Chapter), it's still extremely impressive for the UFC to be able to say that one of its broadcasts beat the World Series among 18-to-24-year-old males. That statistic is certain to cause the UFC to gain additional advertisers among those that target 18-to-24-year-old males with their products.

In the broader picture, it was not a good postseason for Major League Baseball, as the 2006 World Series' average of 15.8 million viewers per game was the lowest in television history for the World Series. The 2005 World Series drew an average of 17.2 million viewers, which was also viewed as a big disappointment at the time.

Head-to-Head Network Competition on October 26th
Besides the aforementioned Game 5 of the World Series, Episode Eleven of The Ultimate Fighter 4 faced the weakest head-to-head network competition in several weeks as CBS, ABC, and NBC braced themselves for November sweeps with the usual late October repeats.

Airing from 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM on October 26th, a repeat of the CBS freshman drama Shark won the hour with a 7.1 overall rating. ABC pulled struggling drama Six Degrees from the October 26th line-up and replaced it with an additional repeat of Grey's Anatomy. The repeat of Grey's Anatomy drew a 7.0 overall rating, which is actually higher than the 6.0 overall rating that was drawn by the most recent new episode of Six Degrees. Despite NBC's previous announcement that ER would not air any repeats this season, ER did air in repeat form on October 26th, and it drew a predictably bad 5.1 overall rating (ER has always performed horribly when it airs in repeat form).

Airing head-to-head with UFC Unleashed from 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM, a new episode of Deal or No Deal on NBC drew a 7.0 overall rating, and a repeat of CSI on CBS drew a 10.8 overall rating, which made it the night's most-watched show. Meanwhile, a repeat of Grey's Anatomy on ABC drew an 8.4 overall rating. On the five occasions when both series have aired new episodes head-to-head with each other, Grey's Anatomy has beaten CSI in each of them, but it comes as no surprise that CSI won a battle of repeats because CSI performs better than any other show on television in repeat form. Along with the 2006 Winter Olympics, you can add the 2006 World Series to the list of major events that have lost head-to-head ratings battles with repeats of CSI.

Bookending Episode Eleven of The Ultimate Fighter 4 on Spike TV were UFC Unleashed and TNA Impact. Unleashed drew an overall rating of 0.8, which was the lowest rated airing of the series since August 10th, while TNA Impact drew an overall rating of 0.8 for the second consecutive week.

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