Payout Perspective: UFC-FOX TV Deal Q2/2012 Performance Review

July 27, 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 2012 Q1 & Q2 are in the books, we look back and analyze what type of impact UFC programming had on the FOX properties and the impact of the TV deal on the UFC.

NETWORK: FOX (112M households) Q2 Ratings:


  • UFC on FOX 1: Dos Santos vs Velasquez: 5.7M, 3.1 household rating (1 Hour Block, 1 Fight)
  • Q1: UFC on FOX 2: Evans vs Davis: 4.7M, 2.6 household rating (2.5 Hour Block, 3 Fights)
  • Q2: UFC on FOX 3: Diaz vs Miller: 2.4M, 1.5 household rating (2 Hour Block, 4 Fights)

Q2 Average: 2.4M; Q1 Average: 4.7M; Trend: Down




NETWORK: FX (99M households) Q2 RATINGS:


  • Q1: TUF Live Episode 1 – 1.3M
  • Q1: TUF Live Episode 2 – 1.1M
  • Q1: TUF Live Episode 3 – 1.2M
  • Q1: TUF Live Episode 4 – 1.054M
  • Q2: TUF Live Episode 5 – 947,000
  • Q2: TUF Live Episode 6 – 1M
  • Q2: TUF Live Episode 7 – 1M
  • Q2: TUF Live Episode 8 – 929,000
  • Q2: TUF Live Episode 9 – 954,000
  • Q2: TUF Live Episode 10 – 948,000
  • Q2: TUF Live Episode 11 – 821,000
  • Q2: TUF Live Episode 12 – 875,000

Q2 Average: 934,250; Q1 Average: 1.16M; Trend: Down

TUF Season Average Rating (last 6 seasons):

  • TUF LIVE Season on FX (2012) Averaged 1.01M viewers
  • 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 (previous 5 seasons) on Spike TV: 1.84M Viewers

Spike TV Comparable Trend: TUF’s debut on FX was lowest rated season in TUF history.


UFC on FX:

  • Q1: UFC on FX 1: 1.3M
  • Q1: UFC on FX 2: 1.4M
  • Q2: UFC on FX 3: 1.1M
  • Q2: UFC on FX 4: 1.3M
  • Q2: TUF Live Finale: 1M

Q2 Average:1.13M Q1 Average: 1.35M; Trend: Down

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 on FX:

  • “UFC Primetime: Velasquez vs Dos Santos” (Single episode on FOX): 2M Viewers
  • Q1: “UFC Primetime: Diaz vs. Condit” Series Average: 540,000 viewers
  • Q2: “UFC Primetime: Jones vs. Evans” Series Average: 560,000 viewers
  • Q2: “UFC Primetime: Dos Santos vs. Mir” Series Average: 542,000 viewers (only 1 & 2)

Q2 Average: 551,000; Q1 Average: 540,000, Trend: Up, flat

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

UFC on FX Prelims:

  • Q1: UFC 142 Prelims: 880K
  • Q1: UFC 143 Prelims: 1.4M
  • Q1: UFC 144 Prelims: 1.5M
  • Q2: UFC 145 Prelims: 1.6M
  • Q2: UFC 146 Prelims: 1.3M
  • Q2: UFC 147 Prelims: 969K

Q2 Average: 1.29M; Q1 Average: 1.26M, Trend: Up, Flat

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: Down, Flat






  • Q1: UFC on Fuel TV 1: 217,000
  • Q2: UFC on Fuel TV 2: 197,000
  • Q2: UFC on Fuel TV 3: 173,000

Q2 Average: 185,000; Q1 Average: 217,000; Trend: Down


UFC on Fuel Prelims:

  • Q1: UFC on FX1 Fuel Prelims: 148,000
  • Q1: UFC on FOX 2 Prelims: 144,000
  • Q1: UFC on FX 2 Fuel Prelims: 113,000
  • Q2: UFC on FOX 3 Prelims: 86,000
  • Q2: UFC on FX 3 Fuel Prelims: 84,000
  • Q2: TUF Live Finale Prelims: 165,000

Q2 Average: 112,000; Q1 Average: 135,000; Trend: Down


Overall Q2 Ratings Analysis (Fuel TV PR):

–  Three live Ultimate Fighting Championship® Fight Nights and two live motocross races in June delivered FUEL TV its most-watched month ever and it continues to be the industry’s fastest growing ad-supported cable network, according to Nielsen Media Research.

– FUEL TV’s June viewership growth was powered by 406 hours of Ultimate Fighting Championship® (UFC®) programming, including three live prelim shows for main cards featured on FX. The “TUF Finale Live” Prelims on Friday, June 1, delivered the network its most-watched prelims to date, most-watched Friday and second most-watched Friday prime time in its history. The 406 hours of UFC programming in the month edges out the previous record of 384 hours in April.

– For the year, FUEL TV has delivered nearly 1800 hours of UFC programming. In the first six months of 2012, FUEL TV has established itself as the fastest growing network in year-to-year percentage audience growth in total day and during prime time among households, total viewers and men 18-49 compared to Jan. – June 2011.

– The Saturday live airings of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship motocross races have emerged this month as an incredible compliment to the UFC programming. On June 9, the FMF High Point National, the fourth stop of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, drew 214,000 total viewers and 105,000 men 18-49, ranking as the network’s second most-watched program ever and third in the target demographic. The following race on Saturday, June 16 was the network’s tenth most-viewed program ever with 141,000 total viewers.

FUEL TV June 2012 Audience Highlights:

  • June 2012 is the network’s most viewed month ever, surpassing February 2012;
  • FUEL TV recorded its second and third most-watched weeks in network history in June;
  • June 2012 was up +50% in total viewers and +67% in M18-49 vs. June 2011;
  • Total Viewers grew 56% in prime time and +60% among M18-49 compared to June 2011;
  • Saturday, June 9 ranked as FUEL TV’s third most-watched day in network history, up +575% vs. the 2Q 2011 average;
  • Live Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship race on Saturday, June 16 was the network’s tenth most-viewed program in network history with 141,000 Total Viewers;
  • “The Ultimate Fighter Finale Live” Prelims on Friday, June 1 had 165,000 Total Viewers, ranking as the network’s most-watched UFC Prelims to date, in addition to being FUEL TV’s fifth most-watched program ever.  The show peaked from 8:30 – 8:45 PM ET with 241,000 Total Viewers;
  •  Friday, June 1 was the most-watched Friday and second most-watched Friday prime time in network history;
  • UFC Prelims on Friday, June 22 was FUEL TV’s sixth most-watched show ever with 160,000 Total Viewers, fourth most-watched   show in the target demo and second most-watched UFC Prelims on the network.
  • For the first six months of 2012, prime time viewership is +140% over 2011;
  • Since January 1, the network’s total day viewership is up +90% compared to 2011;

“The UFC fans have found FUEL TV and are tuning into the network every day now,” says Mike Feller, Vice President of Programming, FUEL TV. “The increased viewership numbers are also carrying over to other programs, as we’ve seen with the ratings growth of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. It’s apparent that both UFC and motocross share similar viewers and make for great complementary programming.”


UFC/FOX TV Deal Performance History:

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


Payout Perspective:

Making a conclusion as to whether the UFC and FOX TV deal is a success or failure based on only the Q1 and Q2 ratings would still be quite premature at this point, but having two quarters in the books allows us now to compare ratings performance 6 months into the deal on the FOX platforms plus Spike TV.

To no surprise, Fuel TV continues to benefit greatly from this UFC deal, as it became the fastest growing network in year-to-year percentage audience growth in total day and during prime time among households, total viewers and men 18-49 compared to Jan. – June 2011.  Oddly enough, the main goal for Fuel TV remains increasing their household reach, which actually dropped from 36.4M to 36.2M during the first two quarters of 2012, when UFC made it’s debut on the network, though most of that is explained by cord cutters since the effect was not specific to Fuel TV. Another interesting note is that Fuel TV aired nearly 1800 hours of UFC programming. However, Fuel TV only reaches 1/3 of the households that Spike TV reached, also 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 provided them.

A big disappointment so far has been the performance of UFC on FOX events, which is one of the biggest positive in the UFC/FOX TV deal for the UFC.  With only four contracted events on Primetime, the product does not have enough frequency to make a meaningful impact up to now, and in fact, each event has produced less viewership since it’s debut (UFC on FOX 1: 5.7M, UFC on FOX 2: 4.7M, UFC on FOX 3: 2.4M).  Getting mainstream sponsors for the FOX events has still been a struggle as was expected when the deal was made last year by TV ad analysts.  The negative ratings trend won’t help them in this department either.

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. The show ended up being a huge disappointment (in terms of ratings and creating stars), now owning the title of the all-time lowest rated season in the history of the TUF. 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. It was also noted internally within Zuffa that WWE ratings on USA were also a factor in predicting a rating on FX considering they do on average 3M viewers on the same Friday night time slot. Well, that prediction didn’t was off to say the least, even with the heavy promotion leading up to TUF’s debut on FX.  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 is a noted option in 2013, but nothing has been officially decided.  They will be doing the next season of TUF (2012) in the same Friday night time slot and analyze those numbers as well before making a final decision.

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 to numerous 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 300+ hours of UFC programming a month . The complexity for the typical MMA TV viewer has definitely increased since the deal, but it looks like most fans have now made the transition.

The question you have to ask now is that if fans have indeed already made the transition from Spike to FOX, shouldn’t ratings be going up, or is there something else impacting the ratings? The sheer frequency of MMA content the MMA fan has access to now a days plus the number of events, injuries, focus international expansion, etc. will certainly test Zuffa’s theory that the demand continues to exceed the supply, and that they in fact need to put on more events than they are already doing.  The old saturation equation of greater frequency results in a watered down product has been brought up quite a few times, using most recent cards like UFC 147 and UFC 149 as perfect examples.  The next two quarters should give us a pretty good indication whether ZUFFA as a promotion and the average MMA fan can keep up with this torrid pace.

12 Responses to “Payout Perspective: UFC-FOX TV Deal Q2/2012 Performance Review”

  1. BrainSmasher on July 27th, 2012 11:55 PM

    Not suprised by the FOX numbers. You cant expect the numbers to not to decline when you look at the strength of the cards. I really think the UFC is missing the boat putting on sub par FOX events. FOX 4 is another Turd coming down the pike.

    Lorenzo said they were going to try and move do less PPVs and be less depandant on PPV and go towards netowrk tv more. That clearly isnt what they are doing. There is no effeort made to put reasonable shows on FOX even with it being only a few events a year. They are treating it jst like they did Spike. Thinking giving away any fight will get in front of those 112 million viewers and pull them to PPV. They are making it clear that the PPVs is where the big names and best fights will be and are not giving up anything for free. I would assume they would do atleast a couple huge events a year just to grab the headlines like they did with Santos/Cain. The mainstream attention was great for that. Ever since we have got cards that are bringing in the same old UFC croud that watches on FX and PPV. They are not making any new fans. That was the point of FOX.

  2. aintitthetruth on July 28th, 2012 10:42 PM

    Dos Santos vs Velasquez was anticlimactic and not very exciting. It just looked like a one sided beatdown. Lately all of the gems have been on the undercard and the UFC is trying to get one of these on TV. They get more bang for their buck that way. Plus how can you revenue share on a TV spot? It’s not as easy as saying “oh he gets x percent of every ppv sold” on this format.

  3. Jose Mendoza on July 30th, 2012 9:59 AM


    I agree that so far it seems like they have tried to use FOX just as they had used Spike before, except they expected ratings to soar from Spike’s due to the moving their programming to a big network. As a side effect, the UFC has to worry about filling all the event dates they’ve signed up for while in the mists of international expansion plus still focusing on their big PPV cards since those are still their $ makers.

    The sense that I get is that nothing will really change in 2012 and gives this formula a go until 2013, when they are expected to make “tweaks” because I don’t believe anyone is too thrilled with the numbers other than Fuel TV.

  4. JB on July 30th, 2012 10:17 AM

    It feels like Fox is bungling the relationship. 4 events a year (12 hours of content?) on FOX . Selecting the worst night of the week for running UFC content on FX.

    Fuel TV seems to be the only piece that seems to be working, but they might as well rename Fuel TV as UFC TV. 406 hours is an average of 13.5 hours of UFC programming per day. If they keep this pace up, the only people watching it will be UFC fans. If Fuel TV cuts back on the UFC content, or the interest in the UFC starts to slow down; their viewing numbers are going to take a hit.

  5. Columbo on July 30th, 2012 12:41 PM

    Tell me about it, JB. UFC on Fox 4 is going up against the Olympics for God’s sake!

    Of course, when the UFC does its usual crappy numbers they already have a built-in excuse.

  6. Sampson Simpson on July 30th, 2012 4:25 PM

    As long as Fueltv is built off the UFC’s back, FOX will be happy.

    It won’t mean anything good for the UFC but it’s simply the nature of the beast.

    Reminds me of boxing’s relationship with HBO back in the early 80s… it’ll hurt before it helps.

  7. BrainSmasher on July 30th, 2012 6:09 PM

    I think if the numbers stay as they are i look for Fox to cut ties if their contract allowed it. But its hard to make that prediction because i believe the UFC has total control of the numbers. They can always stack the fox cards and pull numbers. Its just a question of if they will do it. For the record i dont think FOX cares much at all about their events. The deal was spefically for TUF and Fuel imo but they had to give the UFC a few network events to sweeten the deal. The FOX events can soften the blow of a bad TUF if their ratings are great. But if TUF doesnt pan out and the UFC isnt bring in good ratings on FOX one has to wonder how long Fox will keep paying 90 million per year and give up so much air time.

  8. JB on July 31st, 2012 6:59 AM

    Columbo, Agreed, a Vera-Shogun fight is not going to pull too many people away from the swimming finals.

  9. Sampson Simpson on July 31st, 2012 9:50 AM

    UFC might need to put Silva-GSP on Fuel…

  10. Jose Mendoza on July 31st, 2012 3:03 PM


    If you actually think about it, 90M a year for the amount of programming they get from the UFC on three different platforms is actually a pretty darn good deal for them. It’s a ton of live programming with a ton of other programming they can put around it to build Fuel TV. FX is putting them on Friday/Saturday nights so until they move them midweek, it doesn’t affect them at all. Fox is only contracted to 4 shows a year so not bad for them either.

    I think this hurts the UFC much more than it does FOX. If sponsors start to drop for FOX shows and ratings continue to flop on FX and FOX, that’s when it will get interesting but I say FOX is still more than fine with what is going on right now. More of a danger is something gruesome happening on FOX and viewers start to complain. That would add more pressure on FOX IMO to drop the UFC at this point.

  11. Sampson Simpson on August 1st, 2012 12:52 AM

    You’re right Jose.

    FOX needed original live programming to drive up Fuel’s subscription base and the UFC delivered.

    It hurt Zuffa in the process in terms of growth and reaching out to new fans but I think the $90 million annually helps out alot. HBO & Showtime have budgets of about $65 million between the both of them so it puts things into perspective domestically speaking.

  12. donger on August 2nd, 2012 10:38 AM

    yeah but for how long will fox tolerate low ratings .

    the ufc isnt even putting on cards that will draw well on fox, on top of that

    fox will not continue to pay them that kind of money for poor ratings.

    and fuel, no one watches that channel to. they are not even close to pulling in

    1million viewers on there

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