SBJ chronicles UFC’s road to FS1

October 23, 2013

The Sports Business Journal reports on the UFC’s  obstacles it has had with shuffling its schedule between networks and channels and its eventual home on FS1.

The article which ran in last week’s edition of SBJ (subscription recommended) addressed the declining ratings since it left Spike TV and moved to Fox.

Notably, the article highlighted the problems with having TUF Live on Friday nights as the live fight impacted Dana White’s schedule and his ability to promote PPV events in the host city.  This was due to the fact that White was in Vegas for the live TUF fights instead of promoting the PPV wherever it was located.

Additionally, the article made it appear that White was not upset with Fox for the Friday time slot but “optimistic.”  White stated, “The guys at Fox get it,” stating that Fox would “figure it out.”  The article indicated that the UFC’s demo probably didn’t stay at home on Friday nights which contributed to the drop in viewership.

On the positive side, the article also included a poll by Turnkey Sports & Entertainment in conjunction with the SBJ which polled 2,000 senior level sports executives “spanning professional and colleges sports” and asked, “How much attention do you pay to the following properties now compared to five years ago?”  The three sports property choices were UFC, Boxing and WWE.  The selections were “More”, “Less” or “Same”

Of the executives polled, the UFC had the highest percentage (28%) of executives paying “More” attention to it.  Thus, more sports executives were taking notice of the UFC now than 5 years previous.  However, 39% of those polled paid the “Same” attention to it as it did 5 years ago and 24% of the 2,000 polled indicated that it paid “Less” attention to the UFC.

The article also indicates the intent of the UFC-Fox relationship is to have it a mainstay on FS1 while making its anchor shows (TUF, UFC Tonight and the live UFC Fight Nights) “destination television” on Wednesdays.

Payout Perspective:

The article had some interesting takeaways which seemed to paint the UFC-Fox relationship in a positive light.  It could be softening the blow for the diminishing ratings.  Take the UFC Prelims. According to the article, the last year the UFC was on Spike TV its average rating was 1.4 million viewers for 12 shows.  It dropped to 1.26 million viewers for 21 shows on FX.  Based on the FS1 Prelim ratings thus far, it’s not faring any better.  The TUF ratings have dropped since leaving Spike TV as well.   TUF went from 1.5 million viewers on Spike TV to 1 million viewers on FX for its first season and then 910K for its second season on FX.  We can see from the halfway point of TUF 18, its dropping again.

But the Fox partnership has aided the UFC with the bombardment of promotions during its NFL and MLB games.  The question will be when the Fox influence will turn into viewership.  Moreover, when will people consider UFC programming on FS1 destination television?

12 Responses to “SBJ chronicles UFC’s road to FS1”

  1. Tops of on October 24th, 2013 6:13 AM

    Both of them are goin down at the same time lol

  2. LeonThePro on October 24th, 2013 10:50 AM

    What’s interesting is, could the UFC ever gain back what it has lost in viewership? Hypothetically speaking, if they jumped ship and were back on SPIKE, would they get 1-2 M viewers watching prelims again or has that ship sailed?

    Or is it all to blame on the choice of networks?

  3. Rich on October 24th, 2013 11:50 AM

    It’s still hard to blame the UFC for leaving Spike.

    They get far fewer eyeballs, yes, but make shit-tons more moolah.

  4. duck on October 24th, 2013 1:01 PM

    The Spike prelims were only 1 hour, so it’s a little easier to get a higher average, would be interesting to see what the peaks for both the Spike and FX ratings.

    FS1 wont be going anywhere MLB will be on their in 2014 and a lot more NASCAR races and the US Open Golf, come 2015. They are also a potential player in both the Big 10 and NBA rights in 2016

  5. Random Dude on October 24th, 2013 2:14 PM

    “Both of them are goin down at the same time lol”

    The smugness of Dana and Brainsmasher must really get knocked down with the latest news about the UFC. Keep trying to kill Bellator, I’m sure there won’t be any residual consequences to the UFC. haha

    “What’s interesting is, could the UFC ever gain back what it has lost in viewership? Hypothetically speaking, if they jumped ship and were back on SPIKE, would they get 1-2 M viewers watching prelims again or has that ship sailed?”

    Leaving SPIKE was a bad idea, but going back would not be a good idea either. The ship has sailed. The environment that made SPIKE + UFC so successful is gone and not coming back. The UFC could have at least stabilized their fall on FX, but now the damage seems permanent with the move to FS1.

    All of the other sports FS1 will get in 2014/2015 won’t help the UFC at all.

    NASCAR fans won’t crossover let alone the other sports:

    “FOX took my favorite channel, SPEED, & turned it into a womans wrestling channel, WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?”

    Even when FS1 has success it is a failure overall.

    PAC-12 isn’t happy with FS1:

    The world did not need another sports channel dominated by talking head shows talking about sports all day they are not even showing. BORING. Fox executives must not have been paying attention to the fact that ESPN’s ratings have been decreasing for a while. Why do the same thing that is clearly dying?

  6. BrainSmasher on October 24th, 2013 7:41 PM

    LMAO!! Wouldn’t it be the Ultimate slap in the face to the anti UFC tools if the UFC did go back to Spike and part of the agreement required Spike to sell Bellator to the UFC? With the ratings of BFC, Spike would do it in a heart beat too! hahahaha

    But the UFC deal with Fox is fine. They just have to make some adjustments with some of their programs to get the ratings up. The UFC on FOX has been fine. Prelims have been fine. TUF and live events on FS1 need some help. I personally would like to see TUF go to full time mixed seasons like this year. It has much more mainstream appeal and more interesting. With that mainstream appeal it needs to be moved to FOX. It doesn’t matter what day or what time. Its ratings would be better than they are now. Then run replays on FS1.

    It isn’t to over the top with drama like most Network reality shows I cant stand. Other shows are just an hour of crying to bring in the females. This show I thing can does it without turning off the male viewers. I think they have a winning formula if they take it off an all sports network. Moving it from FX starting this season was either the worst case of bad timing or the stupidest move I have ever heard of.

  7. LeonThePro on October 25th, 2013 4:53 AM

    @ BS

    UFC on FOX 8 did only 2M viewers, the lowest rated ever. So you have UFC on FOX 1 pulling 6 M then it sinks down to 2 M over nearly 2 years.

    Can the UFC get viewers back or has the ship sailed with them just being a fad to many of the casuals. Not sure yet, but the next 2 – 3 years will surely tell. PPV buyrates supposed to be lower than usual for 166 too.

  8. LeonThePro on October 25th, 2013 4:54 AM

    I think the UFC needs to hold less events and focus on promoting the big ones, to make them even “bigger.” 6 PPVs per year tops, build up fighter fan bases, make events feel more important than just a blitzkreig of small unknown ones.

  9. Machiel Van on October 25th, 2013 7:44 AM

    “UFC on FOX 8 did only 2M viewers, the lowest rated ever. So you have UFC on FOX 1 pulling 6 M then it sinks down to 2 M over nearly 2 years.”

    You’re comparing a one fight, one hour card to a 4 fight card, a fall fight that had promotion on NFL games to a summer fight that had really had no significant ancillary promotion on the FOX platform, a card headlined by a heavyweight title fight to one headlined by a flyweight title fight, and are conveniently ignoring UFC on FOX 7 in April (3.7 M average, 4.7 M peak) and UFC on FOX 5 (4.4 M average, 5.7 M peak).

    But sure, we can say they went from 6 million to 2 million viewers in 2 years. That’s certainly a comprehensive, accurate representation of what has happened. It’s not like the right fights with the right promotion draw and the fights that don’t resonate with the public and aren’t promoted correctly don’t, like every other event in combat sports history.

  10. LeonThePro on October 25th, 2013 11:30 AM

    @ Machiel,

    I forgot about the one-fight deal on Fox 1, my mistake. So maybe Fox fights have a 3-4 M average approximately, forgetting about the FOX 1 night.

    If they can get viewers with the right fights, why not make them? FOX is the right platform to make new fans.

  11. aintitthetruth on October 26th, 2013 4:39 AM

    Is that you ace? Rich, the company man! always trying to apologize for the ufc.

  12. sid on October 27th, 2013 11:01 PM

    Given Bellator’s ratings are way down from their first season on Spike, can we stick a fork in them? They should only do 4-6 shows a year. They are spreading out their thin talent.

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