TUF 10 Ratings Present Conversion Problem
October 8, 2009
Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer details TUF 10’s dominance of the male 18-34 year-old demographic:
About 2.28 million Males 18-34 watched the fight (Kimbo vs. Nelson) on the first broadcast, a 7.86 rating in that demographic, and a new record. Another 450,000 watched the replay.
For the show itself, the 6.86 rating in Males 18-34 and 2 million viewers is more than all but seven regular network television shows s far this season, and more than any other show this season on cable, or any sports event on network or cable besides NFL games. The audience for the show was 74% male, and even with all the talk, more Women 18-34 in general would watch Raw most weeks.
It was the largest in Males 18-34 for any program in the history of Spike television, and thatâ€™s a network that had WWF Raw from 2000-2005, the first several months featuring the build up to the Rock vs. Steve Austin WrestleMania, before Rock left and Austin went heel and the popularity of the show started whittling away. That number would beat any sports programming except the NFL, the World Series, the Final Four and the NBA finals. The show did a 4.05 in Males 35-49, far beyond anything UFC has ever done in that demo.
What’s the significance of The Ultimate Fighter?
It’s purpose is to generate interest and awareness in the UFC product that motivates viewers to attend live events and purchase PPVs; all in an organization where event-related revenue accounts for nearly 75% of total revenue.
Thus, while it’s important that The Ultimate Fighter does great ratings – certainly there’s some short term value there (part of the other 25% of revenues) – it’s even more important that the UFC uses this attention to effectively persuade viewers into purchasing their bread and butter.
That’s a tall order given the current state of the series.
Kimbo is the real ratings driver this season, which begs the question: how does the UFC convert these ratings into viewership at the PPV level when Kimbo isn’t likely to be involved?
They start with advertising the hell out of up-coming UFC events like 104. They also build points of interest into the show that carry over into the PPV programming – e.g., the now “off” Rampage vs. Rashad. But is anything the casual audience is seeing on the show – from a product perspective - really going to motivate them to purchase a PPV?
The Ultimate Fighter is not a great representation of the UFC or MMA in general. The fighters are over-trained and often under-skilled; both of which lead to bouts that display poorly conditioned athletes demonstrating little to no technique. It has essentially become a piece of corollary programming that relies on something other than the core product to drive viewers to the PPV events.
The consumer isn’t stupid, and TUF will only be able rely on the likes of Kimbo, or Junie, or bickering coaches for so long. Then, it faces the very real possibility of returning to its normal levels for TUF 11 – ratings which are essentially maintained by the loyal hardcore fan base that would watch anything branded as the UFC.
And if that’s the case, the UFC will definitely be missing out on an opportunity to convert casual viewers into part of the PPV baseline.