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Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Mixed Martial Arts--- IFL Battleground Averages 0.7 Rating Through First 10 Episodes
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

With ten episodes of IFL Battleground having aired on the struggling broadcast television network MyNetworkTV, Battleground has also struggled to increase the audience that tuned in for its premiere, which drew an overall rating of 0.8.

Battleground has averaged an overall rating of 0.7 through its first ten episodes. This is actually equal to MyNetworkTV's primetime average from the network's inception in September 2006 through February 2007, which was the month before the IFL debuted on the network.

In the advertiser-coveted demographic of 18-to-34-year-old males, the first ten episodes of IFL Battleground have averaged a 0.7 rating, which is more than three times MyNetworkTV's previous primetime average of 0.2 in this demographic.

To that extent, IFL Battleground can be considered a ratings success. One of the primary reasons that MyNetworkTV picked up the show in the first place was to increase the network's anemic ratings in the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic, and Battleground has done exactly that.

By just about any other measure, the show cannot be called a ratings success. An overall rating of 0.7 is not sustainable indefinitely – the ratings are going to have to increase eventually. Due to the boost that the show provides MyNetworkTV in the key demographic, the IFL will be given plenty of time by MyNetworkTV to demonstrate overall viewership growth.

IFL's Ratings Have Declined in Recent Weeks
The problem for the IFL in the past several weeks has been that the ratings have been moving in the opposite direction. Instead of gradually increasing over the course of the first couple months, as was the case with the ratings for The Ultimate Fighter when the UFC made its national TV debut on Spike TV, the ratings for IFL Battleground have been gradually decreasing.

The first three episodes of Battleground drew overall ratings of 0.8, 0.7, and 0.8. Episodes Four, Five, and Six each drew overall ratings of 0.7. Episodes Seven and Eight both drew overall ratings of 0.6.

On May 15th, the series bottomed out with a series-low rating of 0.5 for Episode Nine, which featured a combination of the "IFL Ring Card Girl Search" and a countdown of the IFL's greatest knockouts. Episode Ten on May 22nd rebounded slightly to an overall rating of 0.6.

Based on the overall ratings that MyNetworkTV was averaging in primetime before the IFL debuted on its airwaves, Battleground would need to draw ratings of 0.8 to increase the network's overall average, and it would need to draw ratings of 0.7 in order to at least not decrease the network's overall average. As it stands now, Battleground hasn't drawn an overall rating of 0.7 since April 23rd, and it hasn't drawn an overall rating of 0.8 since March 26th.

Even when IFL Battleground debuted on MyNetworkTV and drew much stronger ratings than the network previously drew on Monday nights, an article in Television Week noted that MyNetworkTV officials expected the IFL's ratings "to improve as more young men find the channel."

Through ten episodes, the IFL has averaged 998,000 viewers for each Monday night premiere episode of Battleground. In its first ten episodes on Spike TV, The Ultimate Fighter averaged 1,916,000 viewers for each of its Monday night premiere episodes. Like Battleground, the first season of TUF went head-to-head with a very competitive network sweeps period (February 2005 in the case of TUF; May 2007 in the case of Battleground).

MyNetworkTV's Continued Existence Provides Good News for IFL
There is some good news for the IFL in the face of its stagnant ratings. It was announced earlier this month that ill-fated Fox reality show "Paradise Hotel" is being revived and will start airing on MyNetworkTV in early 2008. Why is this good news for the IFL? Because it means that as plans stand right now, MyNetworkTV is still going to exist in early 2008, which had been a lingering question mark. The network has also ordered several other new shows, including a revival of the cancelled NBC reality series "Meet My Folks," a new Dr. Phil-backed reality show called "Divorce Wars," and several celebrity-themed specials produced by "Access Hollywood."

Throughout much of the 2006-2007 television season, which officially concluded last Wednesday night, it was widely believed within the television industry that MyNetworkTV might cease to exist before the 2007-2008 television season begins in September. The ratings were (and still are) low enough that many financially strapped local MyNetworkTV affiliates could conceivably draw better ratings with syndicated programming than they could draw with the national programming provided to them by MyNetworkTV.

In February, the network abandoned its disastrous initial strategy of having an all-telenovela format (airing original soap operas with new episodes every weeknight in primetime). In April, the network announced that it was discontinuing new episode production on all of its telenovelas and all other scripted programming, although it still plans to air previously-produced telenovelas on Wednesday nights for the next several months.

The network had been scheduled to bring back the novelas on Tuesday nights starting in early June, but those plans were scrapped. A recent article in Media Week stated, "[MyNetworkTV president Greg] Meidel said the decision to not bring the novelas back on Tuesday nights was made because its Monday International Fight League telecasts was not a compatible audience for driving viewers to the more female-skewing novelas the next night."

Still, the fact that MyNetworkTV is ordering production on shows that won't start airing until early 2008 is an encouraging sign for the future of the network, at least to the extent that we can be fairly confident that it will still be in business in early 2008.

However, Battleground will likely have to show some growth in its overall viewership in order to warrant a significant increase in the programming rights fee that MyNetworkTV pays the IFL for the rights to air its programming. Currently, MyNetworkTV is paying $50,000 for each original episode and $20,000 for each replay airing.

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