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UFC on FOX 28 overnight rating is a moral victory

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Jeremy Stephens
Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

While Saturday night’s Jeremy Stephens win over Josh Emmett did, based on the fast national ratings, one of the lower ratings in the history of the series, the early number of 1,826,000 viewers is hardly negative news.

Stephens vs. Emmett, a shaky main event due to the relative lack of star power of Emmett who was largely unknown prior to a surprise win over Ricardo Lamas, was widely expected to set a record low for the series. Between the main event and the network competition, going against both the Olympics on NBC and the Golden State Warriors vs. Oklahoma City Thunder game on ABC, things didn’t look pretty.

The number beat the previous FOX show by 15 percent, although that Jan. 27 special did the all-time record-low 1,593,000 in similar fast nationals. Last month’s special was headlined by a Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza vs. Derek Brunson main event. It also beat the 1,640,000 previous record low set on July 22 for a Chris Weidman vs. Kelvin Gastelum main event.

FOX was still last among the four networks that programmed nationally last night, in total viewers, and third, beating 48 Hours on CBS, in the key 18-49 demo with an 0.55.

Another key comparison point is under similar competition, Premiere Boxing on FOX on February 17 did only 1,058,000 viewers and an 0.25 in the 18-49 demo for a show headlined by Victor Ortiz vs. Devon Alexander, who are arguably bigger names in boxing than Stephens and Emmett are in MMA.

The Olympics on the fast nationals did 9,479,000 viewers and the NBA game did 3,255,000 viewers.

All three number will be adjusted in the final ratings, which come out on Tuesday.

Because of the nature of most television programming, which isn’t live, and is staggered for the west coast, the fast nationals measure what is on the FOX affiliates from 8-10 p.m. in the Pacific time zone, meaning they are measuring local programming which is usually lower rated. They also fail to measure anything after 10 p.m., and with UFC, that is the most viewed portion of the show.

In this case, the numbers won’t rise as much as usual. With Stephens vs. Emmett ending in a knockout under controversial circumstances at 1:35 of the second round, the fight ended at 10:06 p.m. The show itself signed off at 10:18 p.m. The longer the main event, the more it benefits the overall number. In addition, the San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose television market, one of the biggest in the country, didn’t air the show on KTVU-TV.

Some cable systems in that market carried the show on KTVU-Plus, a little watched secondary channel that few are familiar with. Others in the area would have been forced to watch it on FOX Sports Go or FOX Now, the company’s streaming services.

Aside from the show doing better than expected, probably the most interesting take will be the streaming numbers. If the numbers are at record levels, it will tell that a substantial number of displaced Northern California viewers opted to watch it through streaming when not available on traditional television. If the streaming numbers are at usual levels, it’s a sign that the casual television viewer of UFC would not make that switch.