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Top FUEL Executive Thrilled With Early UFC Programming Ratings

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Jake Ellenberger. Photo by Esther Lin, MMA FIghting
Jake Ellenberger. Photo by Esther Lin, MMA FIghting

It may be little more than one month into a seven-year deal, but FUEL TV officials are excited by the early returns when it comes to ratings generated by UFC programming.

According to the cable network's executive vice president and general manager George Greenberg, ratings so far have surpassed expectation, with an 80 percent increase in the target demographic of men ages 18-49, and a near 230 percent increase in overall primetime ratings from past ratings periods.

"To say I’m jacked would be putting it mildly," he said.

When it comes to more specific numbers, Greenberg said that recent UFC on FUEL pre- and post-fight shows have fluctuated between 35,000 and 75,000 viewers. And during live fights on FUEL, as many as 250,000 have tuned in to witness the action.

According to Greenberg, those numbers are expected to rise as viewer confusion over where to find the programming subsides.

Those may not sound like blockbuster numbers when compared to ratings generated on past outlets like Spike -- where two million viewers for Fight Nights was about the norm -- but FUEL TV is currently available in around 35 million homes, a fraction of the 99 million Spike boasts.

"If you want to compare it to a platform like Spike three times our size, I can’t help that," he said. "But I can tell you, If you look at the FOX ratings and last FX ratings for the fight, and you look at what it’s done to this place percentage-wise, we are absolutely killing it."

Next Wednesday, FUEL will televise its first full UFC main card with an event emanating from Omaha, Nebraska, headlined by a welterweight bout pitting Diego Sanchez against Jake Ellenberger. The event will be part of a free preview week which will make the channel available in an additional 8 million households.

While that will still leave more than half of the cable TV households unable to tune into the fights, Greenberg said that prolonged success for the channel -- along with viewer demand -- would help increase its reach.

For now, the channel will look to shore up its presentation, as Greenberg said he's looking to add visual aids that will help analysts like Kenny Florian explain fight details to viewers. And the production team will also continue to consider fan feedback. For example, the first UFC on FUEL weigh-in show was heavy on analysis but light on the actual weigh-ins. Greenberg admitted that the offering was "over-produced." Since then, adjustments have been made and the show mainly consists of a short introduction before moving the focus to the scale.

Meanwhile, the channel also looks to expand its UFC-related offerings. Greenberg confirmed that they are still negotiating a deal that would bring the upcoming Brazilian edition of The Ultimate Fighter to FUEL, and other programming is under consideration as well.

In one final note of interest, Greenberg noted that in 2013, UFC programming was likely to increase on the channel. While around 2,000 hours are expected for this year, the following year could see as much as 2,500 hours of UFC-themed broadcasts.