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 that’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. 

Payout Perspective:

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?

Not likely.

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.

4 Responses to “TUF 10 Ratings Present Conversion Problem”

  1. Machiel Van on October 8th, 2009 8:03 AM

    Well, they won’t have to worry about using Junie anymore.

  2. Adam Rutland on October 8th, 2009 9:13 AM

    It seems like the only thing that drives viewers towards the PPV events would be seeing the fighters from TUF on a PPV. This might work with Kimbo and maybe even Roy Nelson if he wins TUF this season, but it doesn’t really seem like any other guys will be PPV worthy anytime soon.

    What do you think about doing another season like TUF 4? If they could get a good selection of actual contenders on the show and mix in 1 or 2 ratings grabbing names, they might be able to build up the popularity of actual PPV worthy guys. Welterweight is filled with tons of guys who have paid their dues and probably deserve better than being on TUF, but maybe if they did a shortened 3 weeks of taping 8 man tourney that guaranteed a title shot they could get top 10 guys to participate. How much money could the UFC afford to pay to get some bigger names on the show?

  3. brent on October 8th, 2009 3:18 PM

    kelsey-excelent point. iv’e been a big fan of tuf and watched every episode since day one, but i have to admit the show will only last a couple of more seasons, if it doesn’t change. what that change is, i don’t know. the show IS supposed to be a COACHES showcase leading to a fight, but like you mentioned, it’s highly unlikely wether the show and it’s lower-level fighter/fights will draw that much extra buys. the only solution i could think of is to make the stakes higher, make it a 7 figure salary at the end and bigger win, ko and submission bonuses. then you will see the likes of king mo, tyrone woodley (i know he’s signded with strikeforce) and todd duffee type fighters come out of the woodwork and try out for tuf, instead of fighters who can’t get anywhere besides going on the show. better fighters=better fights is the only solution i can think of.

  4. EJ on October 8th, 2009 9:40 PM

    Considering how UFC PPV’s have exploded while TUF ratings have gone down over these past couple of years there really is no correlation between the two. The UFC has already shown that they can get people to pony up for their big ppv’s regardless of what is going out in TUF and the same will be so after this season is over. TUF is it’s own creature, we’ve seen that regardless of how good the fights or fighters are there is only so many people who want to see a reality show about fighters trying to make it. Anymore buys that the UFC gets thanks to TUF I doubt will mean that much in the end considering they are already a ppv juggernaut without TUF’s help.

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