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Sunday, November 09, 2008
Mixed Martial Arts--- UFC 89 Minute-by-Minute TV Ratings
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

Using minute-by-minute Neilsen ratings data, MMAWeekly has calculated the average viewership for each individual fight that aired on Spike TV's tape-delayed premiere broadcast of UFC 89 on October 18.

Viewership levels are based on live viewership, plus same-day DVR, rounded to the nearest 1,000 viewers, and the times listed are ET/PT. The indicated times begin at the opening bell of a fight and end at the minute in which the winner of the fight is known. In the case of a fight that ends in submission or KO/TKO, the ending time is obviously when the fight ends. In the case of a judges' decision, the ending time is the minute in which the judges' decision is announced. In the case of a doctors' stoppage, the ending time is the minute in which the fight is officially stopped by the doctor. The ending time is always the minute in which the winner if the fighter is known.

The reason that the match lengths are longer for UFC 89 and for some of the previous U.K. shows that the UFC has aired on Spike TV is because on most of those shows, the 60-second rest periods in between the rounds of a fight were stretched into commercial breaks lasting between two and three minutes.

Most-Watched Individual Fights on UFC 89 Premiere Broadcast
Based on Average Number of Viewers using Minute-by-Minute Ratings

1. Michael Bisping vs. Chris Leben--- 3.278 million viewers (Aired from 11:31 PM to 11:57 PM)

2. Keith Jardine vs. Brandon Vera--- 3.041 million viewers (Aired from 10:50 PM to 11:14 PM)

3. Luiz Cane vs. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou--- 2.738 million viewers (Aired from 10:14 PM to 10:26 PM)

4. Chris Lytle vs. Paul Taylor--- 2.475 million viewers (Aired from 9:39 PM to 10:04 PM)

5. Marcus Davis vs. Paul Kelly--- 2.123 million viewers (Aired from 9:14 PM to 9:24 PM)

Viewership Gains
In terms of the increase or decrease in average viewership compared to the previous fight on the broadcast, the Lytle-Taylor fight gained 352,000 viewers, which was the largest gain of the broadcast; the Cane-Sokoudjou fight gained 263,000 viewers; the Jardine-Vera fight gained 303,000 viewers; and the Bisping-Leben fight gained 237,000 viewers, so the main event actually gained the smallest amount of viewers on the broadcast. This statistic does not apply to the Davis-Kelly fight because it was the first fight on the broadcast.

Comparisons to Fighters' Previous Matches
Compared to some of these fighters' previous matches (the ones for which minute-by-minute ratings are available), the Bisping-Leben viewership of 3.278 million viewers was down from the 5.475 million viewers who watched Bisping fight Matt Hamill on September 8, 2007; and it was down from the 3.487 million viewers who watched Bisping fight Josh Haynes on June 24, 2006; but it was up from the 3.080 million viewers who watched Bisping fight Elvis Sinosic on April 21, 2007.

The Jardine-Vera viewership of 3.041 million viewers was down from the 3.847 million viewers who watched Vera fight Reese Andy on July 19, 2008; but it was up from the 2.665 million viewers who watched Jardine fight Wilson Gouveia on June 24, 2006.

The Lytle-Taylor viewership of 2.475 million viewers was down from the 5.023 million viewers who watched Taylor fight Marcus Davis on September 8, 2007.

The Davis-Kelly viewership of 2.123 million viewers was down from the 5.023 million viewers who watched Davis fight Paul Taylor on September 8, 2007.

Top 20 List
For perspective on the broader picture, below is the list of the top 20 most-watched fights in U.S. MMA history.

After the original publication of this list, many readers wrote to ask whether the absence of Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar from the TUF 1 finale was an oversight. It was not, as the fight did not come close to making the top 20 list. Contrary to statements that 10 million people were watching that fight at one point, the actual peak audience for the fight in any single minute was 3.662 million at 10:38 PM.

This list excludes pay-per-view events because accurate data on viewers per household is not made readily available for PPV events. However, in terms of the number of households, it is known that the biggest PPV buyrate in U.S. MMA history was 1,050,000 households for Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz on December 30, 2006; and that the second biggest PPV buyrate in U.S. MMA history was 775,000 households for Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock on July 8, 2006. Without knowing how many viewers were in each household for these PPV events (which you do know with Neilsen TV ratings), it's impossible to say how many total viewers watched those fights.

CBS is in approximately 112.8 million U.S. households, while Spike TV is in approximately 97.3 million U.S. households.

These are just the most-watched fights in U.S. MMA history, not the most-watched fights in worldwide MMA history. In Japan, a fight would need to draw over 30 million viewers to crack the top five.

Most-Watched Individual Fights in U.S. MMA History

Based on Average Number of Viewers using Minute-by-Minute Ratings

1. EliteXC on CBS (5/31/2008): Kimbo Slice vs. James Thompson--- 7.281 million viewers (Aired from 11:27 PM to 11:40 PM)

2. UFC on Spike TV (10/10/2006): Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock--- 6.524 million viewers (Aired from 9:42 PM to 9:45 PM)

3. EliteXC on CBS (10/4/08): Seth Petruzelli vs. Kimbo Slice--- 6.451 million viewers (Aired from 11:08 PM to 11:08 PM)

4. EliteXC on CBS (5/31/2008): Robbie Lawler vs. Scott Smith--- 5.867 million viewers (Aired from 10.39 PM to 10:57 PM)

5. UFC on Spike TV (9/8/2007): Quinton Jackson vs. Dan Henderson--- 5.811 million viewers (Aired from 11:29 PM to 12:03 AM)

6. EliteXC on CBS (5/31/2008): Gina Carano vs. Kaitlin Young--- 5.508 million viewers (Aired from 10:09 PM to 10:17 PM)

7. UFC on Spike TV (9/8/2007): Michael Bisping vs. Matt Hamill--- 5.475 million viewers (Aired from 10:41 PM to 11:06 PM)

8. EliteXC on CBS (10/4/08): Jake Shields vs. Paul Daley--- 5.338 million viewers (Aired from 10:34 PM to 10:44 PM)

9. EliteXC on CBS (10/4/08): Gina Carano vs. Kelly Kobold--- 5.171 million viewers (Aired from 9:45 PM to 9:59 PM)

10. EliteXC on CBS (10/4/08): Andrei Arlovski vs. Roy Nelson--- 5.154 million viewers (Aired from 10:12 PM to 10:20 PM)

11. UFC on Spike TV (10/10/2006): Kendall Grove vs. Chris Price--- 5.100 million viewers (Aired from 9:13 PM to 9:17 PM)

12. UFC on Spike TV (9/8/2007): Cheick Kongo vs. Mirko Cro Cop Filipovic--- 5.098 million viewers (Aired from 9:58 PM to 10:24 PM)

13. UFC on Spike TV (9/8/2007): Marcus Davis vs. Paul Taylor--- 5.023 million viewers (Aired from 9:35 PM to 9:39 PM)

14. UFC on Spike TV (7/19/2008): Anderson Silva vs. James Irvin--- 4.795 million viewers (Aired from 11:38 PM to 11:38 PM)

15. EliteXC on CBS (5/31/2008): Joey Villasenor vs. Phil Baroni--- 4.348 million viewers (Aired from 9:47 PM to 9:48 PM)

16. UFC on Spike TV (10/10/2006): Jason MacDonald vs. Ed Herman--- 4.297 millon viewers (Aired from 8:44 PM to 8:47 PM)

17. UFC on Spike TV (9/8/2007): Houston Alexander vs. Alessio Sakara--- 4.204 million viewers (Aired from 9:13 PM to 9:14 PM)

18. UFC on Spike TV (10/10/2006): Matt Hamill vs. Seth Petruzelli--- 4.007 million viewers (Aired from 8:09 PM to 8:28 PM)

19. UFC on Spike TV (7/19/2008): Brandon Vera vs. Reese Andy--- 3.847 million viewers (Aired from 10:58 PM to 11:19 PM)

20. EliteXC on CBS (5/31/2008): Brett Rogers vs. Jon Murphy--- 3.824 million viewers (Aired from 9:26 PM to 9:27 PM)

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