For those who thought that UFC being the last sports organization running a live event on television would mean record numbers due to lack of competition, that theory didn’t hold up.
The last UFC show for at least a month, this past Saturday’s empty arena show from Brasilia, Brazil, averaged 672,000 viewers on ESPN.
The number sounds low because of UFC fights of late that had been topping 1 million viewers consistently. But there are a number of circumstances in place here.
The key one is the time slot. The show aired from 3 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Eastern time, meaning most of the show aired outside of prime time. The larger numbers of late have been for prime time shows. In addition, while there were no competing sports events, and people were home more than usual for a Saturday afternoon, people were far more likely to watch news shows.
The number was also the average of five-and-a-half hours, and not just of the main card as ESPN didn’t break them down separately as different shows, as would normally be the case for a televised Fight Night.
The UFC show was first on cable in its time slot in the Male 18-49 demo and first on all of television during those hours in Males 18-34.
Another key point is that the fight was originally scheduled to only be on ESPN+ as a streaming show, and it airing on television wasn’t decided until the last minute, meaning a large number of fans likely didn’t know about it. And the number doesn’t include viewership on the streaming service, which simulcasted the show.
The show was also hurt as far as atmosphere, by not having any fans, but there was no way around that issue.
If there was a takeaway from the show without fans, is that it greatly lessens the appeal for women. In the 18-49 demo, the audience was 79 percent male, considerably higher than most UFC television shows.