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Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Mixed Martial Arts--- Ultimate Fighter 5 Ties Series Low with Premiere Rating
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

The season premiere of The Ultimate Fighter 5, which aired on Spike TV on April 5th, drew an overall rating of 1.4. This puts the TUF 5 premiere in a tie with the premiere of the very first season of The Ultimate Fighter for the lowest-rated premiere episode in series history, as the TUF 1 premiere also drew a 1.4 overall rating.

The majority of the episode drew a 1.3 rating, but the show-closing fight between Cole Miller and Alan Berube drew a 1.5 rating, increasing the average for the hour.

The pertinent question now is whether or not TUF 5's ratings will decrease as the season progresses, as was the case with TUF 4. It would still be a successful show if it can draw a 1.4 overall rating every week. However, if the ratings were to decrease over the course of the season to the extent that TUF 4's ratings decreased, the show would fall well below the series' ratings expectations and it would be an alarming sign.

The UFC and Spike TV appear to be under the impression that it was the pull-apart quasi-brawls that drew the series-high ratings for TUF 3, as the promotion for this season of TUF in general (and the next episode in particular) is focused heavily on the tease of one or more fights breaking out in the house.

Say what you will about the negative light in which this portrays MMA and its competitors, but they may very well be correct in their belief that it will draw strong ratings. We'll find out in the coming weeks.

TUF 5 Ratings vs. Previous TUF Ratings
On the whole, The Ultimate Fighter 3 (which premiered in April 2006) was the most-watched season to date, and TUF 4 (which premiered in August 2006) was the least-watched season to date. The UFC has publicly dismissed TUF 4's lower ratings on multiple occasions by blaming the lower numbers on having to go head-to-head with the NFL, but that makes no sense because TUF 4 only went head-to-head with a regular season NFL game on one occasion.

The second season of TUF, on the other hand, went head-to-head with regular season Monday Night Football games airing on ABC for all but three episodes of its regular season, and yet TUF 2 drew higher ratings than TUF 4.

Based on the premiere ratings, it appears to be extremely unlikely that TUF 5 is going to be challenging TUF 3 for the mantle of most-watched TUF season. As for whether it will challenge TUF 4's position as the least-watched TUF season, that remains to be seen, but it doesn't look promising based on the season premiere's ratings.

In comparing those three seasons, the trend is not a positive one. In terms of the overall rating, the TUF 3 premiere drew a 2.0 rating, the TUF 4 premiere drew a 1.7 rating, and the TUF 5 premiere last week drew a 1.4 rating.

In the advertiser-coveted 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, the TUF 3 premiere drew a 3.7 rating, the TUF 4 premiere drew a 2.8 rating, and the TUF 5 premiere drew a 1.9 rating.

In the second most coveted advertising demographic for Spike TV and the UFC, 18-to-49-year-old males, the TUF 3 premiere drew a 2.7 rating, the TUF 4 premiere drew a 2.2 rating, and the TUF 5 premiere drew a 1.8 rating.

As you can see, the ratings trends for TUF in the key demographics have taken a complete U-turn over the past 12 months, decreasing rapidly instead of increasing rapidly, as they were at this time last year. However, these are still excellent ratings in the key demographics. The TUF 5 premiere was still the #1 show on cable in the 18-to-49-year-old male demographic on April 5th, and even the UFC's decreased ratings on Spike TV are higher than anything that the IFL is drawing on MyNetworkTV.

The two-hour live broadcast of UFC Fight Night that served as TUF 5's lead-in drew a 1.2 overall rating, making it the lowest-rated live fight special in the UFC's history on Spike TV. We will have a separate report on UFC Fight Night's ratings tomorrow.

Head-to-Head Network Competition
Airing head-to-head on network television with the premiere of TUF 5 on April 5th from 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM, CBS led the pack with a new episode the drama series "Shark," which drew a 10.0 overall rating. ABC came in second place with a new episode of the drama "October Road," which drew a 5.2 overall rating and may be headed towards cancellation if its ratings don't turn around.

NBC came in a distant third place in the hour with a new episode of the comedy "Andy Barker, P.I." airing at 10:00 PM and drawing an overall rating of 2.6 (the series was shortly thereafter removed from NBC's Thursday night line-up, effective immediately). At 10:30 PM, NBC aired a repeat of "My Name is Earl," and the 2.6 overall rating that it drew is not atypical for a repeat airing of a comedy series. Fox does not air national programming in the 10:00 PM hour.

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