There was quite a bit of hand-wringing among MMA fans this weekend over Spike TV showing UFC 120
on tape delay from London, leading to some fans finding out the results of the fights before they aired in the United States. But Spike TV says that the hand-wringing has been limited to a relatively small number of fans, and that the majority of viewers prefer to watch the fights in prime time.
"We actually don't get many viewer calls," said David Schwarz, VP Communications at Spike. "I've never received any and I know it's very minimal. ... Our research says Saturday night is fight night -- guys are home, they get together with their friends and it's a natural time to watch the fight."
Schwarz says that although UFC 120 ratings were lower than the last European card, UFC 105 in November 2009, Spike continues to be pleased with the ratings for its UFC cards in Europe, and that the network believes it will get more viewers in the evening than the afternoon.
"We air when most of the viewers are there, which is prime time," Schwarz said.
In 2010, it's harder than ever to avoid "spoilers," and many hard-core MMA fans find it difficult to avoid finding out the results online. But Schwarz says the hard-core MMA fans who are reading MMA web sites on a Saturday afternoon are a minority of the audience.
"We love the dedicated fans," Schwarz said. "We keep giving them more great stuff, from the Pride library, with Countdowns and Primetimes, we understand that they like the immediacy of it. But for the majority, this works."
And although many fans said they were disappointed to learn UFC 120 results from the ESPN crawl while watching college football on Saturday afternoon, Schwarz said he doesn't see that as a problem.
"If I find out Carlos Condit knocked out Dan Hardy, I want to see that," Schwarz said. "Sometimes if I see that on the ticker it makes me think -- I've got to check that out."
Schwarz said he expects Spike to air UFC 122
on tape delay from Germany on November 13.
"Currently, that's the plan," Schwarz said. "That's not to say we wouldn't ever do it in the afternoon."
Although viewers in much of the rest of the world were able to watch UFC 120 on live television, Schwarz said it's hard to make that work logistically for Spike. The tape delay allows Spike to make changes such as inserting commercial breaks that weren't part of the live international broadcast, and air better fights, such as replacing Claude Patrick's rather dull unanimous decision win over James Wilks with Alexander Gustafsson's more exciting submission win over Cyrille Diabate.
Ultimately, viewers vote with their remote controls, and Spike says the viewers are voting for the UFC in the evening.
"The ratings are pretty solid," Schwarz said. "Prime time suits the audience because they're home and watching TV."