Whether MMA and boxing are truly competition, it is likely that this past Saturday night's Premier Boxing on NBC will end up doing more viewers, but less in the key demos than this coming Saturday's UFC show on FOX.
The boxing show headlined by Danny Garcia's majority decision over Lamont Peterson did a 1.94 rating and 2.88 million viewers, hitting an audience peak of 3.4 million during the main event. The average viewership was down from 3.37 million viewers for the March 7 debut show on the network, headlined by Keith Thurman's win over Robert "Ghost" Guerrero.
The UFC has averaged 2.89 million viewers for its three FOX shows in April since the company's seven-year pact went into effect. But that's misleading due to the success of the 2013 show, headlined by Benson Henderson's lightweight title defense against Gilbert Melendez, that did 3.74 million viewers.
Last April's UFC show on FOX did a 1.6 rating and 2.5 million viewers with Fabricio Werdum vs. Travis Browne for a heavyweight title shot. Saturday's show with Lyoto Machida vs. Luke Rockhold, with a potential middleweight title shot going to the winner, may be slightly stronger from a main event standpoint. But last year's show was slightly stronger underneath, with Donald Cerrone and Miesha Tate on the bill. So if you're projecting numbers for Saturday, they shouldn't be much different from a year ago.
But the average viewer of the boxing telecast was 53 years old, more than a decade older than the UFC audience. In the target 18-49 demo, Saturday's boxing show did a 0.8 and last year's UFC show did a 1.1.
It's also notable that for NBC's second prime time foray into boxing, it was its oldest audience that was the most loyal.
Males 18-34 were down 44 percent from the March 7 debut. Males 35-49 were down 21 percent. But males above the age of 50 were only down 4 percent. What that said was that NBC was successful in getting younger people to try out boxing on the first show, but the ones they hooked the most were the older viewers, the same age group least likely to be UFC fans.
The boxing audience was also stronger as the audience ages, doing a 0.50 among males 12-17, a 0.69 in Males 18-34, a 1.47 in Males 35-49 and a 2.35 in Males above the age of 50.
It's likely that with more publicity and greater hype for the first show, as being NBC's first prime time boxing show in decades, that this led to more younger viewers sampling the product who didn't come back with the novelty hype gone.
The MMA audience was split three ways with a head-to-head battle this past Friday night, with Bellator on Spike, World Series of Fighting on NBC Sports and the Resurrection Fighting Alliance on AXS.
Bellator, headlined by Will Brooks defending the lightweight title against Dave Jansen, did 655,000 viewers. That's slightly below Bellator's 2015 average of 693,000 viewers. Part of that could be the competing shows. But it also showed Brooks isn't a major numbers mover, even though one could argue that he's Bellator's best all-around fighter. Brooks has had two wins over Michael Chandler, another of the company's biggest home-grown stars, on high-profile shows. But he still hasn't broken through on his own as a major television draw. The peak of the show, during the title match, was 900,000 viewers.
World Series, for a show where two headliners, Melvin Guillard and Ronnie Markes, fell out in the days before the event, did 128,000 viewers. With a main event thrown together at the last minute with David Branch faces Markes' replacement, prelim fighter Jesse McElligott, they did a little better than half of what they usually do. The show also featured the debut with the promotion of Ben Fodor aka Seattle vigilante crime fighter Phoenix Jones, who lost his debut fight.
AXS doesn't subscribe to ratings services so there are no numbers available on how they did in their traditional Friday night slot.