UFC hard sell for advertisers while on Versus

February 20, 2012

The Sports Business Journal reported on the drop in ratings of NBC Sports Network as it rolled out its new name and brand last month. The article also comments on the fact that NBC found it difficult finding advertisers for the UFC when it was on the network.

For those that don’t know, NBC Sports Network was known as Versus prior to its re-branding at the start of the year. The SBJ article (subscription required) stated that NBC had a hard time finding advertisers for the UFC. Yet, UFC programming averaged 124,000 viewers on Versus. These ratings doubled the average for the channel. The article also states that the loss of the UFC has hurt NBC Sports Network ratings. Still, NBC described the UFC as “off brand,” a show that brought ratings but the network had a hard time finding a way to monetize it.

Payout Perspective:

While the UFC portion of the NBC Sports Network article was a small example compared to the overall theme of the article which was the slow start for the network, its an interesting take of the pull of the UFC. Its also an example of the obstacles the UFC still faces in trying to appeal to mainstream advertisers. We will see in the coming year if the UFC has problems on Fox, FX or Fuel with retaining and obtaining mainstream advertisers.

21 Responses to “UFC hard sell for advertisers while on Versus”

  1. Diego on February 20th, 2012 6:00 PM

    I take offense at the suggestion that Condom Depot and The Gun Store are not mainstream advertisers.

  2. mmaguru on February 21st, 2012 6:34 AM

    LOL… I agree Diego

  3. Weezy on February 21st, 2012 10:22 AM

    Well, now that the UFC is gone the channel should do great. Oops, just read this:


    Looks like soon they’ll be wishing for the good old days again.

  4. Weezy on February 21st, 2012 10:34 AM

    By the way, here was LIVE telecast viewership for the six UFC on Versus events:

    UFC on Versus 1: 1,240,000 average (headlined by Jon Jones vs. Hamill)
    UFC on Versus 2: 991,000 average (headlined by Jon Jones vs. Matyushenko)
    UFC on Versus 3: 681,000 average (headlined by Sanchez vs. Kampmann)
    UFC on Versus 4: 744,000 average (healdined by Kongo vs. Barry)
    UFC on Versus 5: 766,000 average (headlined by Hardy vs. Lytle)
    UFC on Versus 6: 789,000 average (headlined by Cruz vs. Johnson)

    To put that in some perspective, NHL on Versus a few years ago averaged approximately 246,000 viewers per game and Versus paid them about $65 million per year. (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NHL_on_Versus#2007.E2.80.9308)

    Versus/NBC Sports now has a deal with boxing

  5. Weezy on February 21st, 2012 10:42 AM

    264,000 average viewers for first “Fight Night” boxing event on Versus/NBC Sports, for what it’s worth.

  6. Weezy on February 21st, 2012 10:42 AM

    264,000 average viewers for first “Fight Night” boxing event on Versus/NBC Sports, for what it’s worth.

  7. Weezy on February 21st, 2012 11:09 AM

    On the flip side, outstanding television viewership in Germany for boxing. Klitschko vs. Chisora averages 12.9 million viewers there. German and British boxing ratings seem to combine to compare to Brazilian UFC television ratings. Boxing is very healthy in Europe.

  8. Diego on February 21st, 2012 1:50 PM


    A couple of questions in case you have the information handy:

    Do you know how much was paid for the rights to broadcast the fight in Germany?
    Do you know how the fight did on Epix and what Epix is paying to broadcast?

  9. Diego on February 21st, 2012 2:07 PM

    The SBJ consistently comes up with articles that make me scratch my head. Versus was showing PBR, cycling, the NHL and MMA. That means their sales team needs to be prepared to deal with diverse product offerings. I can’t imagine that the advertisers who want to buy a spot on the Tour de France telecast are the same as those who want to buy a spot during a bull riding competition or a hockey game.

    If you can bridge the differences in those products and find a way monetize that viewership (which is the point of having a TV or basic cable channel) then it shouldn’t be a huge leap to find advertisers for MMA. How is MMA “off brand” but PBR and the Tour de France fit perfectly side by side? That makes no sense to me. It sounds like the channel itself has a problem deciding what it wanted to be and couldn’t brand itself to advertisers. The whole operation sounds “off brand”.

  10. Machiel Van on February 21st, 2012 2:33 PM


    Jones vs Hamill was on SPIKE at the TUF 10 Finale. You’re thinking of Jones vs Vera.

  11. Machiel Van on February 21st, 2012 2:34 PM

    Also, what’s with the “averaged 124,000 viewers”? Is that because replays and Countdown shows pulled down the average? The live events did much, much better. Seems like a spin.

  12. JamesG on February 21st, 2012 3:27 PM

    Are they talking about UFC and WEC programming combined? There was very little UFC outside the live events but lots of WrekCage and WEC main card replays.

  13. JamesG on February 21st, 2012 3:35 PM


    Don’t forget all the hours of hunting and fishing. That channel was a cluster-F and hasn’t gotten much better yet.

    I expected that they would make more changes with the rebranding, but outside tweaking the studio shows and replacing MMA with a few boxing cards it’s about the same. Are they waiting until closer to the Olympics when they’ll get more exposure?

  14. BrainSmasher on February 21st, 2012 3:44 PM

    You have to realize they are talking about ALL Verses UFC programs. Verses ran very few events. But what they did do is have hours worth of post fight coverage and pre figth coverage that didnt get very good ratings. Thats why they got a low average. Also im not sure what they expected from these post fight shows anyway. They were very low quality compared to that of Fuel who have the same guys who anchored Verses shows, Areil Helwanni. But Fuel also has Jay Glazer who is a big name in sport with good production rather than using sports variety show hosts who dont follow MMA as the the brains that discuss the nights action. Verses problems wasnt the product but rather their packaging, marketing and flat out management.

    In the article posted above the president called many programs “off brand” not just the UFC and cut them from the program. It seems the guy cut whatever he wasnt qualified to make work. I have never heard of something that gets ratings that someone couldnt make work. Now some work better than others but to flat cut the program because you cant make it work is crazy. Like Diego said the network has no identity. They have all these programs appealing to sepperate demographics with nothing that remotely resembles a good lead in to strength the ratings for any of them. That is something you expect from a low level channel who is trying to cater to niche sports to get any rating they can. But Verses rose above that and NBC is trying to raise the bar above what Verses was. You have to have an identity.

  15. Weezy on February 21st, 2012 4:49 PM

    Machiel, good point. Thanks for the correction. Diego, good question about the German television rights fees. I’m sure RTL paid a nice sum of money but I don’t know how much. I’ll do some digging and see what I can find. As for Epix, I can almost guarantee you their viewership was nothing spectacular. Television viewership in Europe for the Klitschkos really does good numbers, though. They’ve never seen anything like it over there.

  16. Weezy on February 21st, 2012 6:00 PM

    RTL paid $15 million Euros (or $19.8 million U.S.) for five fights (3 from Wladimir and 2 from Vitali). So about $4 million U.S. dollars per show, basically. I think the deal ended with this fight against Chisora. Renegotiation time. No boxers in the world besdies Mayweather and Pacquiao could generate those kinds of network television numbers.

  17. Joe on February 21st, 2012 7:56 PM

    You frauds can come up with any excuse you want, the fact is UFC is boring as hell all they do is rassil make pretend fight Super Bowl of fighting. Boxing is doing worse. Dana white brain washed a whole genaration of white kids into thinking they could be fighters just to make a killing at the gate. Those eyetalian frettatas brothers are laughing all the way to the bank. That station house casino should have been busted out years ago had it not been for the UFC . Yeah I said it.

  18. Diego on February 22nd, 2012 6:04 AM

    Wassamatta Joe? Dontcha like rasslin’?

  19. Machiel Van on February 22nd, 2012 8:03 AM

    I missed ol’ Trolling Joe 🙂

  20. BrainSmasher on February 22nd, 2012 1:30 PM


    The UFC had white people fighting 8 years before the “frettatas brothers” got involved.

  21. CodeMaster on February 22nd, 2012 5:13 PM

    It is hard to trust the Sports Business Journal article quoting NBC/Versus commenting on a hot commodity (UFC) it no longer has in its lineup. If I were at NBC sports, I would not be saying that the loss of the UFC was painful–but rather, I would probably spin it so that it seemed like no loss at all.

    MMA has a tougher time, still, getting sponsors than other sports. As long as they pull in the demo and ratings–money talks–and this problem will be gone eventually.

Got something to say?

You must be logged in to post a comment.