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Ratings Report: Younger viewers more likely to find UFC on new channels last Saturday


Given the unique circumstances on Saturday with baseball, whatever the ratings UFC delivered for its Fight Night from Halifax, Nova Scotia, probably wouldn't be a strong indication of much of anything.

Most of the show aired on different stations than advertised. But FOX did alert viewers constantly during the long-running San Francisco Giants vs. Washington Nationals baseball game with screen crawls and announcements, directing them on where to turn. The prelims, being moved from Fox Sports (FS) 1 to FS 2, were available in only a small percentage of U.S. homes. They were also broadcast on Fight Pass, which had its advantages to the hardcore fan audience, since it was commercial free.

The main show aired mostly on FX, which gave up on broadcasting sports more than a year ago.

There are no great conclusions that can be drawn other than the younger the viewer, the more likely they were to switch destinations. The male 18-34 number for the prelims was stronger than male 35-49 number on FS 2 for the prelims, which doesn't happen with UFC broadcasts these days. The two numbers were virtually identical on FX, while on almost all UFC shows, it's the male 35-49 audience that is the strongest.

The other conclusion is that a big baseball game is nothing special as a lead-in for UFC. Generally a sports broadcast is going to draw its fans, but UFC ratings were heavily boosted earlier this year following a major NASCAR race,.

The Giants vs. Nationals broadcast of the longest playoff game in major league baseball history hit 4.2 million viewers for the final half hour. UFC on FS 1 followed with 799,000 viewers for its final two fights, Raphael Assuncao vs. Bryan Caraway, and the Rory MacDonald vs. Tarec Saffiedine main event.

It also should be noted that it was just past midnight Eastern time when the switch took place, and people who had just watched six plus hours of baseball when they were expecting to watch half that much may not be as apt to continue watching television after midnight.

The good news from a UFC standpoint is that more eyeballs, since the two fights aired on FX and FS 1 simultaneously, saw fights where Assuncao and MacDonald scored wins that look to set both up for future title opportunities. The combined viewership of the two fights was 1,267,000, well above the audience UFC normally gets for Fight Nights. The only Fight Night shows on FS 1 beating that figure were the first show with Chael Sonnen vs. Shogun Rua, and the Lyoto Machida vs. Gegard Mousasi show in February which was the show that benefited from following a major NASCAR race.

It was a big day for FS 1,  with the combination of a Big 12 college football game, the six-plus hour baseball game, and the UFC top two matches, had the biggest day in the history of the station.

But for the rest of the show, the baseball game being on FS 1 led to UFC taking a hit. The prelims from 8-10 p.m. drew only 102,000 viewers. The first two hours of the main card, on FX, drew 386,000 viewers, far less than they would have on FS 1, even though FX is a higher rated station and in more homes. So even when FS 1 picked up the show, those watching on FX didn't switch, but stayed with the broadcast on the station they were watching, which was to be expected, and more viewers were added on FX to see the bigger fights.

The FS 1 audience was almost entirely new viewers that had not been watching UFC.

The show being on a station that it wasn't advertised on made it difficult to draw an audience from. A large amount of the usual UFC viewers who tuned in and saw an extra inning baseball game didn't stay long enough to find out what station UFC was on, or if they did, for whatever reason, didn't tune to FX.

Bellator on Friday night did 609,000 viewers, its lowest number thus far this season. That's not a surprise, given that Daniel Straus vs. Justin Wilcox, from a marquee standpoint, was the weakest main event this season. In addition, when the main event goes 50 seconds, there's no time to build an audience and the overall show rating suffers. The main event hit 780,000 viewers.

Last week's The Ultimate Fighter show, featuring the Carla Esparza vs. Angela Hill fight, did its best original number of the current season with 577,000 viewers. However, it also did the lowest DVR numbers of the season, with 236,000 watching the original episode between Thursday and Saturday, totaling 813,000. For a comparison, the Sept. 24 episode did only 433,000 viewers for the original airing but added 358,000 viewers via DVR over the next three days, to total 791,000.  On Sept. 17, the original airing did 574,000 viewers and set a record for a UFC broadcast on FS 1 with 372,000 viewers via DVR.

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