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Ratings report: Quick fights aren't best thing for TV broadcasters

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

If there is a lesson of the week, it's that quick main events are usually great for the fans, even better for the guy on the winning side of the fight, but for television broadcasters, they are far from the best thing.

This past weekend saw Bellator's Friday night main event, where Brandon Halsey won the middleweight title from Alexander Shlemenko, only last 35 seconds. The next night on FS 1, for the prelims of UFC 178, what many considered the strongest TV main event on a prelim show to date, Dominick Cruz returning after a three-year absence against No. 5 bantamweight contender Takeya Mizugaki, saw Cruz finish the fight in 61 seconds.

The result is that both shows, due to no time to build up numbers for the main event, is they did below average numbers.

Bellator's Friday night average was 656,000 viewers, very slightly below the 670,000 range the Friday night shows have averaged since the move, but down 12 percent from the prior week's show that didn't have a championship match, nor have as strong of an undercard. The first minute of Halsey vs. Shlemenko did 942,000 viewers, a number that would have likely started the growth of the show, peaking when the fight was over.  If the fight had gone three rounds, while it may not have brought the average up to the previous weeks number of the Melvin Manhoef vs. Doug "The Rhino" Marshall fight, it would have pushed the show average past the 700,000 mark.

For the UFC 178 prelims, the story was even more pronounced. The show averaged 698,000 viewers, down 12 percent from the 2014 average, even with the Cruz fight that should have been a difference maker. Minute by minute ratings are not available for the show, but the highest quarter hour was for the Brian Ebersole vs. John Howard fight, at 774,000 viewers. Cruz's fight didn't have the time to draw the highest quarter, and the average was below usual partially because the last 20 minutes of the broadcast had no fighting.

Still, that figure was the highest for any event that day on the station, which included Major League Baseball, college football and NASCAR truck racing.

The number was up from the 436,000 for the prelims from UFC 177, but that was the lowest prelim audience before a pay-per-view ever on FS 1.

The issues at UFC 178, whether it was the wins by Cruz, Demetrious Johnson, Donald Cerrone, Conor McGregor and Cat Zingano, or the controversy stemming from the Yoel Romero vs. Tim Kennedy stool-gate finish, saw the post-fight show do 206,000 viewers on FS 1, which was 13 percent above the average.

The Ultimate Fighter rating for Wednesday was not good live, doing only 433,000 viewers, by far the lowest of the three episodes this season. The show featured a first-round match in the women's strawweight title tournament where Jessica Penne beat Lisa Ellis. However, the first airing of the episode was also viewed by 358,000 people via DVR between Thursday and Saturday. The DVR viewership was the second largest for any episode of the show on FS 1. The 83 percent increase from DVR viewership to first night viewership was a record for the series and likely the largest for any UFC show in history.

For gross numbers, the prior week's show did 574,000 viewers the night it aired and the record-setting total DVR viewership of 372,000.

The mentality for this season, and really the last three seasons of Ultimate Fighter, is that unlike the live events, where most viewers watch them as they take place, an increasing percentage of the Ultimate Fighter viewers are watching at their convenience.

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