Any thoughts that Ultimate Fighter delivering a season-high rating on Oct. 5 indicated a turnaround in the rapid ratings decline of the show were answered this past Friday in the most sobering tone possible.
The show that put the company on the map fell to yet another record low rating. It wasn't just a record low, but a number that was 19 percent lower than the previous mark set two weeks earlier.
The show did a 0.49 rating and 624,000 viewers, down 42 percent in audience from an 0.8 rating and 1.06 million viewers the prior week where the number was bolstered by airing directly after a live Fight Night show from Minneapolis. The hope was that the increase in audience last week would hook new viewers on the show, but instead, it looks like the opposite happened. For the first time ever, an episode of TUF wasn't even among the top 100 shows on cable on Friday.
The show did an 0.64 rating in Males 18-34, its target demographic, putting it in sixth place in that demo on cable in the time slot. While airing on Friday has been a major culprit in the decline of the show, Friday's number was only half of what the show did in its first Friday night airing on FX in March. The fact is there has been a steady and significant decline on Friday, so the decline is far more than just the night the show is airing on.
The worst part is with the consistent declines since week one this season, with the exception of Oct. 5, there is no indication that this is even the bottoming out point. There was sports competition for Ultimate Fighter was the New York Yankees vs. Baltimore Orioles game that did 5.91 million viewers on TBS, enough that it likely played a factor in some of the decline.
All the weekend rating news wasn't bad for UFC, although you have to go to another continent for the major positive.
In Brazil on Globo, the top-rated network in the country, coverage of UFC 153 did a 20 rating and a 54 share according to Ibope, the Brazilian ratings service. No audience number was available, but based on prior UFC shows that have done similar ratings, it would be somewhere between 20 million and 25 million viewers.
What that means is that one out of every five home in Brazil was watching the fights, and even more impressive, more than half of the television sets that were on during that period were watching the fights. The number is even more impressive because the network coverage, which only aired the Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Dave Herman and Anderson Silva vs. Stephan Bonnar fights, aired from 12:40 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. in Rio de Janeiro.
On FX, the two-hour preliminary special in the U.S. did approximately 1 million viewers. The number is along the same lines as the previous two shows, with UFC 150 doing 974,000 and UFC 152 doing 955,000. There was no UFC 151, since the show was canceled. While it would make sense that the numbers of people watching prelims would correlate to how well the show will do on pay-per-view, that is very often not the case. UFC 152, for example, is estimated at having done more than double the number of pay-per-view buys in North America as UFC 150, even though the prelim television numbers were almost identical.
The other weekend number, for Bellator 76 on Friday night, was so-so at best. The show, featuring the company's biggest drawing card in its early years, Eddie Alvarez, in a bout with an exciting opponent, Patricky "Pitbull" Freire, did 175,000 viewers, falling right in the middle of the three shows so far this season.
It was the second straight fight Alvarez didn't pull in big numbers. His April 20 fight with Shinya Aoki only did 109,000 viewers, among its lowest ever since Bellator got on MTV 2. And you could argue from an international standpoint, Alvarez vs. Aoki was the biggest fight in the history of the promotion. Alvarez's lightweight title loss to Michael Chandler on Nov. 19, 2011, did 269,000 viewers, even more impressive since the show was going head-to-head with a UFC pay-per-view show.