Payout Perspective: UFC-FOX TV Deal Q1/2012 Performance Review

April 5, 2012

Last year, UFC and FOX announced a huge 7 year TV deal worth as much as $90-$100 million per year, which would move UFC programming from Spike TV to FOX, FX, FSN’s, and Fuel TV.  Now that Q1 of 2012 has passed, we look back and analyze what type of impact UFC programming had on the FOX properties and how the new platforms have impacted the UFC.

NETWORK: FOX (112M households) Q1 Ratings:


  • UFC on FOX 1: Velasquez vs Dos Santos: 5.7M, 3.1 household rating  (1 Hour Block, 1 Fight)
  • UFC on FOX 2: Evans vs Davis: 4.7M, 2.6 household rating (2.5 Hour Block, 3 Fights)

Q1 Average: 5.2M … Trend: Down




NETWORK: FX (99M households) Q1 RATINGS:


  • TUF Live Episode 1 – 1.3M
  • TUF Live Episode 2 – 1.1M
  • TUF Live Episode 3 – 1.2M
  • TUF Live Episode 4 – 1.054M

Q1 Average: 1.16M Viewers, Trend: Down

TUF Season Average Rating (last 5 seasons) on Spike TV:

  • TUF 14 Season on Spike TV (2011) Averaged 1.5M viewers
  • TUF 13 Season on Spike TV (2011) Averaged 1.3M viewers
  • TUF 12 Season on Spike TV (2010) Averaged 1.74M viewers
  • TUF 11 Season on Spike TV (2010) Averaged 1.65M viewers
  • TUF 10 Season on Spike TV (2009) Averaged 3M viewers

TUF Season Average (last 5 seasons) on Spike TV: 1.84M Viewers

Spike TV Comparable Trend: Down


UFC on FX:

  • UFC on FX 1: 1.3M
  • UFC on FX 2: 1.4M

Q1 Average: 1.35M Viewers, Trend: Up, Flat

UFN Average Rating (last 5 events) on Spike TV:

  • UFN 25 on Spike TV (2011) Averaged 1.8M viewers
  • UFN 24 on Spike TV (2011) Averaged 2.2M viewers
  • UFN 23 on Spike TV (2011) Averaged 1.85M viewers
  • UFN 22 on Spike TV (2010) Averaged 1.2M viewers
  • UFN 21 on Spike TV (2010) Averaged 1.6M viewers

UFN Average (last 5 events) on Spike TV: 1.73M Viewers

Spike TV Comparable Trend: Down


UFC Primetime:

  • “UFC Primetime: Diaz vs. Condit” (Episode 1): 657,000 viewers
  • “UFC Primetime: Diaz vs. Condit” (Episode 2): 520,000 viewers
  • “UFC Primetime: Diaz vs. Condit” (Episode 3): 442,000 viewers

Q1 Average: 540,000 Viewers, Trend: Down

UFC Primetime Debut Episode Ratings (last 5 events) on Spike TV:

  • UFC Primetime: GSP vs Shields on Spike TV (2011): 610K viewers
  • UFC Primetime: Lesnar vs Velasquez on Spike TV (2010): 974K viewers
  • UFC Primetime: Rampage vs Evans on Spike TV (2011): 1.2M viewers
  • UFC Primetime: GSP vs Hardy on Spike TV (2010): 1M viewers
  • UFC Primetime: GSP vs Penn II on Spike TV (2009): 880K viewers

UFC Primetime Debut Episodes (last 5) Average on Spike TV: 933K Viewers

Spike TV Comparable Trend: Down, Flat

UFC on FX Prelims:

  • UFC 142 Prelims: 880K
  • UFC 143 Prelims: 1.4M
  • UFC 144 Prelims: 1.5M

 Q1 Average: 1.26M, Trend: Up

UFC Prelims Average Rating (last 5 events) on Spike TV:

  • UFC 141 Season on Spike TV (2011) Averaged 1.8M viewers
  • UFC 139 Season on Spike TV (2011) Averaged 1.2M viewers
  • UFC 137 Season on Spike TV (2011) Averaged 1.1M viewers
  • UFC 136 Season on Spike TV (2011) Averaged 1M viewers
  • UFC 135 Season on Spike TV (2011) Averaged 1.6M viewers

Previous 5 UFC Prelims Average on Spike TV: 1.34M Viewers

Spike TV Comparable Trend: Flat


FX & SpikeTV: 2012 (Q1) Primetime Vs. 2011 (Q1) Primetime :

– Men 18-49=  -20%
– Men 18-34=  -21%

Trend: Down

– Men 18-49 = +4%
– Men 18-34= +7%

Trend: Up






– UFC on Fuel TV 1: 217,000


UFC on Fuel Prelims:

  • UFC on FX1 Fuel Prelims: 148,000
  • UFC on FOX 2 Prelims: 144,000
  • UFC on FX 2 Fuel Prelims: 113,000

Q1 Average: 135,000, Trend: Down


UFC Tonight:

  • UFC Tonight Episode 1: 39,000
  • UFC Tonight Episode 2: 20,000
  • UFC Tonight Episode 3: 61,000

Q1 Average: 63,000, Trend: Up


Overall Q1 Ratings Analysis (Fuel TV PR):

– Fuel TV is television’s fastest-growing cable network this year, according to figures released by Nielsen Media Research. In both the Total Day and Prime Time, the network recorded the largest percentage increases of total viewers among all rated, ad-supported cable networks in the first quarter of 2012.

– Fuel TV continued its unprecedented ratings increases in March, following the growth trend that began in January when Ultimate Fighting Championship® programming began to dominate key day-parts. February was the network’s most-watched month ever, featuring its first live UFC fight, which delivered the channel its most-watched program, most-watched Prime Time and most-watched week.

– Fuel TV aired 233 hours of UFC programming in February and added another 213 hours in March. FUEL TV telecast 646 hours of UFC programming in the first three months of 2012.

– Q1 2012 was FUEL TV’s most-watched in network history, finishing up +100% in Total Viewers and up +125% in M18-49 vs. Q1 2011

– Q1 Prime Time viewership increased +200% in Total Viewers and +260% among M18-49 vs. the same quarter last year

– Q1 Late Night increased +222% on Total Viewers and +275% among M18-49 compared to Q1 in 2011.


Payout Perspective:

Making a conclusion as to whether the UFC and FOX TV deal is a success or failure based on only the Q1 ratings would obviously be premature, but it also doesn’t mean we can’t start to look at the performance of UFC content on the FOX platforms.

The obvious observations here after Q1 has to be how much UFC has helped out Fuel TV, not only in terms of ratings, but also increasing their reach from 30M to 36M since the TV announcement was made back in 2011.  However, Fuel TV at the end of the day only reaches 1/3 of the households that Spike TV reached while still being one of the lowest rated networks in cable TV, so unless Fuel’s reach picks up – doesn’t look like that will be the case until the end of the year at the earliest – the UFC will consistently be placing the majority of their content on a channel that only reaches a fraction of what Spike TV gets.

FOX is doing a great job at exposing the UFC product to the masses, but the last event was actually a big drop-off from the first event as every fight went to a decision and almost tripled the length of UFC on FOX 1. Not to mention that four shows a year is just not enough frequency for the casuals.  Getting mainstream sponsors for the FOX events has also not been as easy as was expected when the deal was made last year.  The ratings drop of the second show caused for the UFC to create “fun and exciting” match-ups for UFC on FOX 3 rather than book big names in hope that casuals will tune in and stick around for “fan-friendly” and exciting booked fights.

FX and the newly revamped “TUF Live” were a big part of the TV deal with TUF being the key platform the UFC uses to create future stars and PPV draws.  So far, the show has been a disappointment (in terms of ratings) with all-time rating lows for the series.  Dana White and the UFC brass predicted that they could very well reach 3 million viewers for TUF on FX  if they were getting around 1.5 million on Spike TV without any promotion.  Well, that prediction hasn’t panned out yet, even with heavy promotion leading up the the debut on FX.  More shocking is that after UFC moved to FX, FX network’s M18-34 and M18-49 demos have decreased compared to Q1 2011 while Spike’s have gone up.  FX dedicating Friday nights as “UFC Nights”, a day which is notorious for bad ratings and when the M18-34 demographic is not at home in front of their TV sets, has also not panned out for the UFC yet.  Moving the content to mid-week could be a solution, but FX is happy enough with the Friday night ratings since it’s an improvement from what they get with non-UFC content, so it looks like the UFC will have to ride this out for the time being.

There is something to be said about the simplicity of being a UFC fan and being able to find all the content you needed on one network.  Now, with multiple platforms designated with different UFC content, fans are having a difficult time migrating from Spike TV (who will continue to air UFC content through 2012) to multiple FOX platforms. FOX only shows UFC events 4 times a year, FX only on Fridays and sometimes on Saturday, while Fuel TV has designated days where they show no UFC content at all despite airing over 200+ hours of UFC programming a month . The complexity for the typical MMA TV viewer has definitely increased since the deal, but regardless of the vast TV programming now available, MMA fans can always count on tuning in on Saturday nights – usually once a month – to catch a big PPV event.  That is a consistent and simple message the UFC has promoted for years and one that still works. It gets hundreds-of-thousands of UFC fans pumped up for a UFC weekend. Sometimes, simplicity can be bliss.

11 Responses to “Payout Perspective: UFC-FOX TV Deal Q1/2012 Performance Review”

  1. Weezy on April 5th, 2012 6:20 PM

    Great writeup, Jose! Nice detailed information. We’re now just over 3 months into the deal and it’s tough to gauge much based on the data we have currently. On the one hand the ratings for TUF are lower than they were when it was on SPIKE. On the other hand, FX has experienced an uptick in viewers 18-49 on Friday nights and his past week only one show on cable had a better performance in the 18-49 year old demographic. It will be interesting to see how things stand after the end of this year.

  2. The Fight Nerd | Friday Link Party- April 6, 2012 on April 6th, 2012 5:07 AM

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  3. Marty michaels on April 7th, 2012 3:46 PM

    Soo..let’s see…fox and and f/x are down…and spike is up…
    Fuel, which is still the lowest rated cable network of all is up 200 per cent which means it’s gone from something like 20,000 viewers in prime time to 40,000..and for that, fox paid close to triple what spike was paying…makes you wonder how happy fox can really be and when the wheels will start to come off this ride?

  4. Chris on April 8th, 2012 8:00 AM

    Is it really fair to compare ratings?

    I mean comparing what one show got on a network they were on for years and years on Wed, comparing that to TUF which moved to a new network, still only a few months into that deal, on a different night, Friday, the worst tv night of the week and Spike has countered them.

    How do you even compare the two?

    if it was on Wed and no counter programming then you could compare but the move to Friday is why the ratings are down and the Fight Nights are on Fridays not Sat, again Friday being the worst day.

    The last prelim they did on Sat did what Spike prelims did so they would be doing what they did on Spike or more if they moved TUF to Wed and all Fight Nights on FX to Sat.

  5. Columbo on April 8th, 2012 6:50 PM

    Awesome write-up.

    It’s kinda funny to see UFC fans make excuses for the sub-par ratings.

    I remember last year during the Brock-JDS season, everyone said that airing opposite American Idol was the reason for bad numbers. lol Of course, now it’s because the show is airing on Friday! Yeah, that’s it! Put TUF back on Wednesday and watch it bring in 5 million viewers!

    Does anyone remember the conspiracy last year from some that said SPIKE is deliberately trying to get bad ratings for the UFC because they want the UFC to lower their asking price for a new contract! That was a hoot.

    Anyway, it’s just been three months in the new deal with FOX, I”m sure they will work out the kinks.

  6. Jose Mendoza on April 9th, 2012 9:45 AM


    But what you are pointing out IS the problem and why the comparison is important. There are a few out there that are throwing a lot of “if” scenarios that won’t happen anytime soon on the new networks. The new time slot and network change have had a negative impact in the total viewership so far (which is still early), and the numbers above are just quantifying that effect. Again, this is only first quarter and we will continue to track the performance for the remainder of the year.

  7. Mossman on April 9th, 2012 12:09 PM

    It’s called a glut of content with no demonstrated rhyme or reason to how the programming schedule is made…

    It’s also called the sport is plataeuing and in many circles… thanks to the mismanagement… is even in decline.

  8. Weezy on April 9th, 2012 1:40 PM

    At the end of the day, MMA has a ceiling as to high high it can elevate itself in the collective American sports consciousness. Having said that, it’s already done more than I ever imagine it could have. But at its root, it’s still two guys fighting each other inside of a cage. That’s never going to appeal to most sports fans. I, for one, am impressed that it’s reached the heights it has.

  9. Ironbuddha on April 10th, 2012 9:54 PM

    I have a college degree. I also have a graduate degree. So to suggest I’m no smart use remote find men fight cage oh no what Internet and Guide button on remote do? Well, it’s pretty insulting.

  10. Diego on April 11th, 2012 10:03 AM

    I always bring up the quote from the 60 Minutes piece with Renzo Gracie – “A sport with a move called the ‘flying guillotine’ is never going to be for everyone…”

    Let’s let it percolate a little more on Fox and see just how many people are for it.

  11. The Cult of Dana White and the Myth of UFC Dominance | The Endless Night on October 11th, 2012 5:37 PM

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