Ratings Recap (5/14/2011) – Bellator, Boxing, & NHL

May 22, 2011

MMA, Boxing, and the NHL went head-to-head last weekend, in what turned out to be a successful night for all parties involved, specifically Bellator, who drew it’s best rating on MTV2 all season long.

Bellator 44, which was headlined by Hector Lombard vs Falaniko Vitale, drew 325,000 viewers. That number was just about double their season average.  The immediate replay of the event drew 145,000 viewers, compared to the 182,000 viewers Bellator 43 drew for the live airing the week before.  The event was so successful, that it set MTV 2’s Saturday night record in the Male 18-49 demographic.

The Bellator show went head-to-head with Showtime boxing that night, which featured Andre Ward vs Arthur Abraham and the replay of Manny Pacquiao vs Shane Mosley, which aired the previous week on Showtime PPV.  The event ended up doing a 1.6 rating, drawing 522,000 viewers according to f4WOnline.com (subscription). The Ward vs Abraham main event did a 1.82 rating drawing 610,000 viewers while Pacquiao vs Mosley did a 1.58.  The 522,000 viewers for one of Showtime’s biggest fights this year is significant to those who had wondered how MMA’s Strikeforce viewership compares to boxing on Showtime.  Strikeforce events in 2011 have done the following viewership numbers:

– 561,000 viewers (853,000 peak), for “Strikeforce: Diaz vs Cyborg” (January, 2011)
– 741,000 viewers (1.1 million peak), “Strikeforce: Fedor vs Silva” (February, 2011)
– 412,000 viewers (520,000 peak), “Strikeforce: Feijao vs Henderson” (March, 2011)
– 528,000 viewers (806,000 peak), “Strikeforce: Diaz vs Daley” (April, 2011)

The NHL was also on display that night as Game 1 between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins aired on Versus during primetime, which drew 1.54 million viewers.  That number was good enough to place it as the third best viewership number for the hockey playoffs this year on the Versus network.

NOTE: The Ultimate Fighter on 5/11 did a 0.8 rating and drew 1.01 million viewers, which places it as the lowest rated episode in the history of TUF. On that same night, the NBA’s Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtic’s game 5 did a 5.0 rating, drawing 6.78 million viewers, while peaking at a 8.0 rating and drawing 10.8 million viewers on the TNT network.  TUF bounced back this week with 1.2 million viewers on Spike TV, which is about what they have averaged for the disappointing season so far.

13 Responses to “Ratings Recap (5/14/2011) – Bellator, Boxing, & NHL”

  1. juan on May 22nd, 2011 12:24 PM

    It’s amazing how well the NHL does financially given the relatively small # of US viewers it attracts. The NHL has the most up-scale fan-base of all the major team sports, which helps. And they sell a lot of merchandise.

    The key is the millions of Canadian fans. It’d be nice to see some #s that add in the Canadian audience for NBA and NHL. NHL would close the gap a great deal in an apples to apples comparison, I think.

    Also, and I might be wrong on this, but NHL games get pre-empted by local broadcasts, right? But NBA playoffs don’t. People in Chicago have to watch Bulls playoffs games on ESPN or TNT. But they have to watch Blackhawks playoff games on Comcast Sportsnet Chicago.

    So a straight NHL Versus to NBA ESPN ratings comparison underestimates the NHL. The NBA still would handily win the ratings battle, but the margin wouldn’t be so large.

  2. Diego on May 22nd, 2011 3:07 PM


    Do you know how much Ward and Abraham made for that fight? I wonder how that compares to SF paychecks.

    Also, is there a final word on the Pacquiao-Mosely PPV buys? Last I heard they were saying somewhere around 1.4-1.5M which would make it the biggest Pacquiao fight to date and validate Arum’s move to CBS-Showtime as a way to broaden the Top Rank audience. If that’s the case, Zuffa may want to re-think dumping Showtime at the end of the deal and SF should plan to do a Countdown 360 show on CBS as a lead in to a PPV – or get on another network.

  3. Jose Mendoza on May 22nd, 2011 11:22 PM


    I think the NHL is doing a great job of capitalizing after the Winter Games and the amount of money being dished out right now for sport properties. Yeah, the NHL ratings are typically not so great in the US.


    Not sure how much they made for the fight, will try to look for that. Well, as with any boxing cards, we can assume that the main event fighters will make millions, easily.

    For the Pac vs Mosely PPV buys, I heard 1 million plus, but the 1.4-1.5M is on the high end. I would assume around 1.2M.

  4. Machiel Van on May 23rd, 2011 7:33 AM


    It’s a tough stretch to compare the potential audience boost for a Manny Pacquiao fight on Showtime PPV with what they can do for Zuffa. First, Strikeforce needs to be folded, but after that Zuffa could perhaps get some UFC events on Showtime. I jsut don’t really see the advantage, as they will never get as many viewers on Showtime as they will on non-premium cable stations. Also, offering some fights on Showtime, some fights on a different station will segment the product. If Zuffa put important bouts on Showtime, they risk the rest of their audience not being able to see those fights, which means the fighters are not given maximum exposure which could help them sell on PPV.

    I think that one or two TV deals is all that Zuffa should seek to hold at any given time (possibly a third if it is with one of the big 4 networks, since everyone has access to those stations). Anything more and the audience will grow confused and possibly disenfranchised. It already hurts Zuffa that so much of their revenue is based in PPV sales (something traditional sports can always point to if compared to the UFC), it will only hurt them more if they lock up even more content on premium TV stations. I think any deal where UFC events are on Showtime, or any premium TV station, is potentially a step backwards.

  5. Diego on May 23rd, 2011 8:43 AM


    I was referring to the exposure the fight received on CBS. Part of the reason Top Rank signed with Showtime is because they were guaranteed slots for their Fight Camp 360 on CBS. Arum has spoken in the past about getting boxing back on network television and exposing a broader audience to boxing (like it used to be in the past). If the PPV buys come in significantly over 1M, I think the argument can be made that the prime time exposure on CBS helped, and Strikeforce may want to follow the same model before their own PPV.

    I don’t think Zuffa are growing their audience on Spike and Versus. Ratings and PPV buys seem to be flattening. CBS may offer them new demographics that don’t normally channel surf Manswers and 1000 Ways to Die.

    It’s not clear yet whether the CBS exposure helped the Pacquiao-Mosely fight, but it’s something to look at.

  6. aubievegas on May 23rd, 2011 12:52 PM


    The local broadcasts on hockey stop at the beginning of the conference finals and in future years will stop at the conference semifinals with the new tv deal

  7. Machiel Van on May 23rd, 2011 2:17 PM


    I did look at the ratings for “Fight Camp 360” before deciding to NOT mention it (http://mmapayout.com/2011/05/fight-camp-360-on-cbs-0-3-rating/). The fight sold based on Pacquiao and Mosley’s names, in addition to Mosley’s lies that he would bring the fight to the Pacman. Top Rank may go to HBO for his next fight as a result. If Fight Camp 360 on CBS for a Pacquiao fight didn’t draw a lot of viewers, it’s nearly unbelievable that a similar show to buildup any MMA fight would do any better (yes, it pains me to say that). Showtime is just not a good fit for Zuffa’s desire to grow. Hopefully they can get a UFC on CBS someday (IF a contract is presented that includes absolutely nothing to do with Showtime), but right now it looks like NBC is more likely, given the impending conversion of Versus into NBC sports (any updates on this development MMAPayout staff?).

    However, I completely agree with you that Spike and Versus are no longer growing their audience. They need a broadcast network deal in order to achieve that, unless they develop a new star who can truly transcend the sport. Until then, ratings and buyrates will likely remain stagnant (of course there may be no football this year, so…).

  8. Diego on May 23rd, 2011 4:32 PM


    The rating was low, but a 0.3 rating on CBS is equivalent to 1.1M viewers which is not bad – and the previous shows did almost double that. None of the people I know who bought the PPV watched the FightCamp show (that’s only 3 people so I admit my sample size is not statistically significant) so I would think that a good number of those 1.1M viewers may have been new eyes that do not normally follow boxing. If you convert only a portion of them to the PPV, that can still add up to significant extra revenue.

    None of the hardcore fans were interested in this fight, and it got panned by the boxing media as well, which suggests that a healthy PPV number (which I’m somewhat arbitrarily defining as anything above 1M buys) would have been helped by the broader exposure on network television. That’s a hypothesis, but I think it could be right.

    Does anyone know the viewership that the 24/7 shows drew on HBO?

  9. Diego on May 23rd, 2011 4:36 PM


    Let me answer my own question – according to earlier posts, 24/7 draws around 500k viewers on HBO. And I would argue that most of those viewers are boxing fans who would probably have bought a Pacquiao PPV anyway. I would rather have the 1.1 to 1.7 M fresh eyes on CBS (if they are indeed fresh eyes). But we’ll see what the final PPV numbers come in at.

  10. Diego on May 23rd, 2011 4:45 PM


    Good call on the HBO v. Showtime move for Pacman’s next fight. I thought Top Rank had signed a multi-fight deal with Showtime, but apparently not. Here’s an interesting look at the numbers:


  11. Jose Mendoza on May 24th, 2011 11:58 AM

    Thanks for that badlefthook link Diego.

    I will tell you guys this, TR and Showtime/CBS were expecting much better ratings than what they got. I believe the event suffered a similar fate to when CBS tried to promote for Strikeforce CBS shows on the network. Luckily for them, Pac vs Mosely was going to sell no matter what. It was a 1 fight deal, and I hear the PPV buys were around 1 mill -1.2 mill, so its up in the air if they go with a similar arrangement again.

  12. John S. on May 24th, 2011 2:39 PM

    According Eastside Boxing (http://www.eastsideboxing.com/news.php?p=21515&more=1) and other sites the Super 6 had a reported budget of $50 million for the originally planned 12 fights (9 fights for the 1st 3 stages, then a semifinal and championship). So that’s about a $4 million dollar purse average per fight so we can guess that Saturdays fight cost at least $4 million and being a semifnal, probably more. Now compare that to Strikeforce’s $700,000 per show budget or the $20-25 million year budget for boxing on Showtime and MMA’s $8 million a year.

  13. Jose Mendoza on May 25th, 2011 1:04 AM


    Thanks for the link and numbers as always. I figured it was around a few million with the pay being bumped up for the semis and finals. As you point out in your comment, MMA is definitely giving them the most bang for their buck. It will be interesting to see what happens by the end of the year in regards to Strikeforce, UFC, and Showtime.

Got something to say?

You must be logged in to post a comment.