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UFC Fight Night viewership cut in half from debut show

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

If the Aug. 17 ratings of the first UFC event on Fox Sports 1 showed that UFC fans will find an unfamiliar channel to see fights they are interested in, the ratings of the second such special Wednesday night told a very different message.

UFC's second live event on its new home, headlined by the Carlos Condit vs. Martin Kampmann rematch, did a 0.69 rating and 824,000 viewers, less than half of the 1.38 rating and 1.78 million viewers that the debut show did.

The audience was significantly lower than the least-watched live main card on FX, the Dec. 14 event, that did 972,000 viewers. It should be noted that was the first of two straight nights of live events on FX, held on a Friday, which has been an historically bad night for MMA on television. That was also a far weaker show on paper, with  Ross Pearson vs. George Sotiropolous as the main event and the other top matches being the finals of the TUF Smashes series that didn't even air on U.S. television.

No UFC Fight Night on Spike ever came near the number. A comparison is that the first Condit vs. Kampmann fight, on April 1, 2009, on Spike, did 1.9 million viewers. And Condit by all rights, given his high-profile fights of late with Nick Diaz, Georges St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks, should be a significantly bigger star than in 2009. But it's a different era, with an unfamiliar channel and so much more UFC programming that fans are going to skip more and wait for the biggest shows.

During UFC's run on Versus, four of the six shows did less than 824,000 viewers. But Versus at the time was in 75 million homes compared to the 89 million Fox Sports 1 is in. Only one event on Versus, headlined by Kampmann vs. Diego Sanchez, realistically did worse when you factor in available homes, doing a 0.67 rating.

The message is that for a rank-and-file show, nowhere near the same number of fans are going to search for it on a new station, and a large percentage of UFC fans will skip even a free show with solid names when there is a better show the same week.  And make no mistake about it, FS 1 is on the ground floor and it will likely take years of building to where it is established even at the level of FX or Spike.

Wednesday's show was also weakened by divided hype. UFC has three events in eight days, and the big one is Saturday night's UFC 164 pay-per-view.

The show peaked with the Condit vs. Kampmann main event, as the final 15 minutes of the show did 1,017,000 viewers.

The prelims on Fox Sports 2 did a 0.25 rating and 109,000 viewers.

For FS 1, the show was a big success, as the station was averaging about 160,000 viewers in prime time. It was the third most-watched show in the 12-day old station, behind the main card fights on Aug. 17, and the prelims of that same show.

The show wasn't going to be near the level of the first show because the card wasn't as strong to the average fan.  Still, a 54 percent drop in viewers isn't a good sign for the UFC, even if it's about five times what the station itself usually averages in prime time.  In comparison, a live boxing event produced by Golden Boy on Aug. 19 on FS 1 did less than 160,000 viewers.

On the plus side, FS 1 did beat ESPN in the key 18-49 demo on Wednesday night, doing a 0.55, more than doubling the Boston Red Sox vs. Baltimore Orioles game.  It was a number down 59 percent from the first show.  And there was no other significant sports competition on Wednesday, with the closest thing being World Wrestling Entertainment's "Main Event" show on Ion, which did 1.2 million viewers on a station that reaches about 101 million homes.