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Thursday, February 01, 2007
Mixed Martial Arts--- UFC Fight Night 8 Draws Solid Ratings; Pros vs. Joes Draws Strong Premiere Ratings
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

The two-hour broadcast of UFC Fight Night 8 on Spike TV drew an overall rating of 1.7 on Thursday, January 25th. The overall rating and the specific demographic ratings were close to the UFC's averages for live fight specials on Spike TV, and they were also up from the ratings that were drawn by the previous UFC Fight Night special on December 13th.

Comparisons to UFN 7 and UFC's Averages-to-Date
Compared to the two-hour broadcast of UFC Fight Night 7 on December 13th, UFC Fight Night 8 was a big success from a ratings standpoint.

UFN 7 drew a 1.3 overall rating, while UFN 8 drew a 1.7 overall rating. UFN 7 drew a 2.0 rating in the key demographic of 18-to-34-year-old males, while UFN 8 drew a 2.3 rating in this demographic. In the broader 18-to-49-year-old male demographic, UFN 7 drew a 1.6 rating and UFN 8 drew a 2.0 rating.

Compared to the UFC's averages for the first twelve live fight specials that it aired on Spike TV (from April 2005 to December 2006), UFC Fight Night 8 was on par in terms of overall viewership and slightly below average in the key demographics.

The UFC's first twelve live fight specials on Spike TV drew an average overall rating of 1.7, which is identical to the overall rating that was drawn by the company's thirteenth live fight special, UFN 8. However, UFN 8's rating of 2.3 in the coveted 18-to-34-year-old male demographic falls short of the prior UFC average of 2.9 in that demographic. Also, UFN 8's rating of 2.0 in the 18-to-49-year-old male demographic falls short of the prior UFC average of 2.3 in that demographic.

Jake O'Brien vs. Heath Herring Out-Draws Rashad Evans vs. Sean Salmon
The surprise of the night was that the biggest ratings draw was not the main event match-up of Rashad Evans vs. Sean Salmon. The biggest draw of the night was the fight between Heath Herring and Jake O'Brien, which was the first live UFC fight since last October to break the 2.0 barrier in the ratings.

The lowest-rated fight of the evening was the fight that opened the live TV broadcast. This is almost always the case because a large percentage of the people who watch a live UFC special over the course of its two-hour duration are people who were not aware that the event was going to be taking place until after it started. Word of mouth and viewers stumbling upon the broadcast while flipping channels both play a big role in the ratings for every live UFC special, as evidenced by the fact that the ratings always start out low when not as many people are aware that there's a live UFC special airing on Spike TV.

In the opening fight of the broadcast, Hermes Franca defeated Spencer Fisher by TKO, and the fight drew a 1.5 overall rating, which is actually a higher rating than most UFC "opening fights" draw on Spike TV.

The biggest jump of the night for UFN's ratings came for the next fight, Jake O'Brien's unanimous decision victory over Heath Herring. That fight drew a 2.1 overall rating, creating more of an audience increase from the previous fight than the audience growth on the entire UFN 7 broadcast in December. During that broadcast, the largest audience growth was from 1.1 to 1.4.

The viewership level decreased slightly after the O'Brien vs. Herring fight, and it never reached the 2.0 level again. Ed Herman's submission victory over Chris Price drew a 1.8 overall rating, and then the main event fight between Rashad Evans and Sean Salmon was responsible for moderate ratings growth, as it drew a 1.9 overall rating.

While it was somewhat surprising for Evans vs. Salmon to have not drawn the highest rating of the broadcast, the fight still drew a high enough rating to be the second most watched fight on the last three UFC live specials (behind only O'Brien vs. Herring).

Pros vs. Joes Draws Strong Ratings for Season Premiere
The January edition of UFC Fight Night was specifically scheduled to take place on Thursday the 25th in order to serve as a steady lead-in for another show on Spike TV, which has been the case in some form or another for every single live UFC fight special on Spike TV since UFN 4.

In this case, the show being promoted was the second season premiere of Pros vs. Joes, and the show came through by actually out-drawing the UFC Fight Night special that served as its lead-in. It was only the second time that a non-UFC show has out-drawn its live UFC lead-in, with the first show being Blade: The Series last June.

Pros vs. Joes drew an overall rating of 1.9, building on UFN's overall rating of 1.7. Pros vs. Joes also drew a 2.6 rating in the 18-to-49-year-old demographic, building on UFN's 2.0 rating in this demographic. Most impressively of all, Pros vs. Joes drew a 3.3 rating in the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, building on UFN's rating of 2.3 in this demographic.

Compared to the launch of Blade: The Series following a UFC Fight Night special last June, Pros vs. Joes lost slightly when it comes to the overall rating (1.9 to 2.0), but Pros vs. Joes handily out-drew Blade: The Series' premiere in the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic (3.3 to 2.6) and in the 18-to-49-year-old male demographic (2.6 to 2.2).

Of course, as with any TV series (and any individual season of any TV series), the question is whether or not Pros vs. Joes can maintain ratings that are close to this level over the long haul.

The strong first week ratings won't mean all that much if the ratings fall off drastically in subsequent weeks and the series ends up being cancelled, which is what happened to Blade: The Series. Blade went from drawing a 2.0 overall rating in its first week to averaging a 0.9 overall rating in its remaining weeks, and it experienced similarly drastic drop-offs in the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic (from 2.6 down to 1.0) and in the 18-to-49-year-old demographic (from 2.2 down to 0.9).

Other Spike TV Ratings from January 25th
Airing from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM and leading into the UFC Fight Night special on Spike TV was a new episode of UFC Unleashed, which drew an overall rating of 0.6. The last time that a new episode of UFC Unleashed aired at 7:00 PM, it drew an overall rating of 0.9 back on August 17th (the night of TUF 4's premiere).

After the two-hour broadcast of UFC Fight Night and the one-hour broadcast of Pros vs. Joes, the Spike TV original series Afro Samurai aired from 11:00 PM to 11:30 PM and drew an overall rating of 0.7, which was actually an increase from the series' previous average of 0.5.

Airing from 11:30 PM to 12:00 AM, Wild World of Spike drew an overall rating of 0.5, which was up slightly from its previous average of 0.4. Needless to say, the ratings that have been drawn by Afro Samurai and Wild World of Spike have left a lot to be desired, and the low ratings can't be blamed on the late timeslot because TNA Impact was able to consistently draw ratings of 0.8 or higher in the same timeframe (11:00 PM to 12:00 AM).

The latest episode of Inside the UFC aired on Spike TV from 12:00 AM to 12:30 AM, and it drew an overall rating of 0.4. The ratings for Inside the UFC have decreased ever since Spike TV took away its UFC lead-in.

In the five-week period when Inside the UFC had repeats of UFC Unleashed and one new episode of UFC All Access as its lead-ins, the series was averaging a 0.6 overall rating, which was actually considered a fairly good rating for a show that airs at midnight. In the four weeks since then, with lead-ins of Afro Samurai and Wild World of Spike, the series has drawn overall ratings in the 0.3 to 0.4 range.

Head-to-Head Network Competition
Airing head-to-head with UFC Fight Night 8 on Thursday, January 25th from 8:00 PM to 9:00 PM, a repeat of CSI Miami on CBS led the pack with an overall rating of 8.1, while a repeat of the ABC series Ugly Betty drew a 6.9 overall rating. NBC's repeats of My Name is Earl and The Office drew overall ratings of 5.3 and 4.8, respectively, which are fairly strong ratings for repeats of comedy shows.

Bringing up the rear was Fox, which managed to draw only a 3.5 overall rating for a repeat of 'Til Death and a 3.2 overall rating for a new episode of The War at Home. Neither series is going to be on the air for very long if they keep drawing ratings in that range. The War at Home's ratings have fallen off drastically ever since Fox moved the series from Sunday nights and put it head-to-head with The Office and Ugly Betty on Thursday nights.

Airing head-to-head with UFC Fight Night in the 9:00 PM to 10:00 PM hour, a new episode of Grey's Anatomy on ABC out-drew a new episode of CSI on CBS, which was shocking when it first happened last fall but is now considered commonplace. Grey's Anatomy drew a 14.0 overall rating, while CSI drew a 13.1 overall rating.

In the meantime, NBC's repeats of Scrubs and 30 Rock drew overall ratings of 3.2 and 2.5, respectively. Despite its critical acclaim, 30 Rock is probably not going to get renewed for a second season unless its ratings increase in the coming months. Fox again came in last place with a 2.5 overall rating for a new episode of The OC. That is exactly the kind of number that caused Fox to make the decision to end The OC, which was drawing more than double its current audience just two years ago.

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