Friday night provides the first fall battle of sorts with the 'The Ultimate Fighter' (TUF) reality show on FX at 10 p.m. ET after the Bellator season opener on MTV 2, Epix in HD and in Spanish on mun2 at 8 p.m.
Depending on the length of the live fights, with Bellator hosting a welterweight tournament from Atlantic City, N.J., there is likely to be an overlap most weeks of Bellator's main event against the beginning of TUF.
It's part of a weekend that includes a major live event, a UFC show on Fuel that starts on television at 4 p.m. ET with the fights from Nottingham, England, with a one-hour pre-game show starting at 3 p.m. The other major event scheduled, a Saturday night Strikeforce show, was canceled due to the injury to Gilbert Melendez. Before the cancellation, there would have been seven hours of live televised fights in one night.
Last Friday's Ultimate Fighter did a 0.68 rating and 872,000 viewers for the first regular one hour episode of the season. That was down from the 0.72 rating and 947,000 viewers for the two-hour season premiere. That's a moral victory, because week one to week two usually drops considerably more. These are numbers much lower than the show ever got on Spike, but it's an unfair comparison because of Friday night being far more difficult to draw. A better comparison would be based on what last season did. They are below that level at this point.
If the numbers this season level off at least week's figure, that would be a decent showing. The first season on FX fell to the low-800,000 mark by the latter part of the season. The usual pattern for the show is a big decline after the first week, which didn't happen here, and minor declines for a few weeks with leveling off at that point.
The other number for last weekend was for the UFC 152 prelims, which did 954,000 viewers. That's not any kind of a victory, as it would be the second lowest of the year on FX, and among the five lowest of all-time. The only show it beat was UFC 142, the first time FX aired prelims. It was less than half of the 2 million viewers for the UFC 148 prelims. There is usually some correlation between the viewing audience for the prelims and pay-per-view numbers, which is logical. But there are also times when it's out of whack, such UFC 146 - the all heavyweight show - doing 1.3 million yet significantly better on pay-per-view.
A bad sign from the prelims was the Male 18-34 demographic only did a 0.66 rating. That's considered UFC's prime audience, and it's a number that prelim specials often more than double. A partial reason was that three of the four major networks, NBC, ABC and FOX, were broadcasting college football head-to-head, and that totaled well over 13 million sports fans in a tough night to put up big numbers.
The number is still concerning. Even with UFC numbers being down this year, the company has been able to point to the fact in the key demo that FX is looking for, they deliver big numbers.
For this week, if Ultimate Fighter can stay near the level of last week, it's a positive. Bellator averaged a little under 200,000 viewers weekly in its past season. For Fuel, because the show is airing late afternoon on a station not available in many homes and on a weakly rated station , there really can't be any major expectations.
The last Fuel show, a Wednesday night in prime time, headlined by Chris Weidman vs. Mark Munoz, did 211,000 viewers, the second largest number for any show in the history of the network.