Bellator 135: 607,000 viewers

March 30, 2015

Bellator 135 drew an average viewership of 607,000 viewers on Friday night according to Nielsen sources.  It was the lowest output for a Bellator event this year.

In the main event, Marcos Galvao won the Bellator bantamweight title making Joe Warren submit to a knee bar.  There was also an exciting undercard fight with Hideo Tokoro taking on LC Davis.

Below is a chart of the 2015 Bellator events:

Bellator 2015 through 135

The NCAA Tournament on TBS topped cable ratings on Friday night with Michigan State/Oklahoma winning the night with over 4.4 million viewers and a rating of 1.5 in the A18-49 category.  Bellator 135 drew 0.2 in the A18-49 category.

Payout Perspective:

The current average overnight viewership for Bellator in 2015 is a little over 702,000.  It’s clear that the NCAA Tournament played a part in the low ratings.  We shall see how it does in a couple weeks with Will Brooks on top of the card taking on Dave Jansen.

Lesnar announces re-signing with WWE

March 25, 2015

Brock Lesnar has re-signed with the WWE and foreclosed any notion that he would return to MMA in an announcement on ESPN Tuesday afternoon.  Lesnar will be in the main event at Wrestlemania 31 on Sunday in Santa Clara, California.  The event would have been his last under his current contract if he did not re-sign with the WWE.

Lesnar indicated it was a hard decision but chose to stick with professional wrestling.  Perhaps the most practical reason Lesnar stayed was, as he put it that he worked part-time for full-time pay.

In the interview, Lesnar stated that he signed with the WWE on Monday night in Los Angeles where the WWE had an event at the Staples Center.  Notably, Dana White was also in Los Angeles promoting the Aldo-McGregor fight.  Certainly, there had to be some bargaining leverage for Lesnar with the knowledge that the UFC was in town too.

Lesnar made a very public appearance at UFC 184 in Los Angeles last month causing speculation that he might be considering a return to the octagon.

Payout Perspective:

All we have to know about Lesnar’s return to the WWE is that he’s being paid well for limited work.  While competing and being a UFC fighter is great, Lesnar recognizes that he is older, with the level of commitment and amount of injuries he’s suffered in the past, it was probably best to stick with WWE.  Lesnar would have still been a draw for the UFC despite being gone from MMA.

The underlying highlight here is that the WWE coordinated with ESPN to break the news.  Obviously this helps the WWE with its biggest event coming up this Sunday.  The amount of time Lesnar’s announcement was given was probably good for the UFC as well.

UFC Fight Night 62 draws 617,000; Prelims on FS2 draw 280,000

March 24, 2015

UFC Fight Night 62 drew an average viewership of 617,000 on Saturday night on FS1. In addition, the Prelims which aired on FS2 drew 280,000 according to Nielsen sources.

The main card which went slightly over its 3 hour window from 7:00pm-10:pm PT featured Demian Maia taking on Ryan LaFlare in the main event from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Maia won via unanimous decision. The prelims preceded the main card and aired on FS2 from 5:00pm-7:00pm PT.

UFC Fight Nights 2015
Main Card Prelims
UFC Fight Night 59 (FOX) 1,700,000 908,000
UFC Fight Night 60 913,000 775,000
UFC Fight Night 61 1,200,000 813,000
UFC Fight Night 62 617,000 280,000
 *UFC FN 62 Prelims on FS2

UFC Fight 62

Payout Perspective:
The ratings are the lowest for Fight Nights in 2015 although it may have been expected considering the card went opposite the NCAA Tournament on TNT and TBS. Moreover, the move of the Prelims to FS2 due to NASCAR was the key culprit in the lower ratings for the undercard. Of course, the lack of known fighters on the Prelims coupled with basketball was the other factor in the lower ratings.

UFC 185 Prelims over 1 million viewer average

March 19, 2015

The UFC 185 Prelims on FX drew an average viewership of slightly over 1 million viewers with 1,003,000. The event which featured Ross Pearson versus Sam Stout peaked at 1,147,000 total viewers in the 9:30pm-9:45pm ET quarter hour.

It’s the fourth straight UFC Prelims which drew over 1 million viewers. The 185 Prelims were up 28% from the UFC 174 Prelims, the last time it was on FX (1,003,000 vs. 784,000). It was also up 36% in the A18-49 (532,000 vs. 390,000) since the last time it was on FX. The ratings are Live + Same Day viewership per Nielsen.

ufc 185 prelims

Payout Perspective:

Notably, all of the fights on the UFC 185 Prelims ended in stoppages. The trend of viewership topping over 1 million is a good sign for the UFC. Perhaps this was even a better accomplishment considering the prelims were moved to FX due to college basketball. The ratings reflect the fact that the audience actively recognized the change and decided to watch. FX does have more viewers than FS1, yet one might assume that most tuning in wanted to watch the fights.

PBC adds ESPN, ABC to network stable

March 18, 2015

ESPN reports that “Premier Boxing Champions,” the upstart promotion advised by Al Haymon will replace ESPN’s “Friday Night Fights” starting Saturday, July 11th.  The two year deal will run through July 2017 and include two shows on the ABC network on Saturday afternoons.

The deal with ESPN includes 24 events over the course of the deal and an option by Haymon to hold 6 additional cards.  Haymon will have to pay the fighter purses and other expenses related to the events.  ESPN retains worldwide rights to the fights and editorial control over the broadcast.

Weigh-ins and prelim bouts for the events will be available on ESPN3.com.  PBC will also be available on other digital platforms.

Via ESPN:

Haymon’s investors are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the PBC, which this year already announced deals with NBC/NBCSN (40 shows through 2016), CBS (at least eight shows this year in a multiyear deal), Spike TV (at least 33 monthly shows through 2017) and Bounce TV (monthly prospect-oriented cards beginning in July on the network Haymon helped found in 2011).

Notably, UFC 189 will air on the same night that PBC debuts on ESPN.

Payout Perspective:

Haymon’s PBC is now on, or will be on NBC/NBCSN, CBS, Spike TV, Bounce TV, ESPN and ABC.  Now we know why Haymon has such a robust stable of fighters.  He needs them to fill all of these events.  It’s clear that Haymon and his investors have a strategy and we are seeing it being executed.  There is a long term vision and even if there are setbacks, they are willing to see this through.  The return of boxing to ABC Saturday afternoons should evoke memories for some of ABC’s Wide World of Sports which featured boxing among other sports during the 1970s and 1980s.

At this point PBC’s debuts on NBC and Spike TV have been promising.  But with so many events on so many networks, will the audience dwindle?  We shall see.

PBC on Spike TV draws 869,000 viewers

March 16, 2015

Television By Numbers and Sports TV Ratings report that the debut of Premier Boxing Champions on Friday night on SpikeTV drew an average viewership of 869,000 viewers. It received a 0.3 rating in the adult demo of 18-34.

According to Spike, PBC drew 1 million viewers between 10:45pm-11:15pm ET which was during the Josesito Lopez-Andre Berto fight.  PBC was to air from 9-11pm but there was a 20 minute overrun for the main event.  The event average made it the “most watched boxing event on Friday nights in 8 years” according to Spike.  The highlights from Friday’s fights have been viewed 1.5 million times between PBC’s Facebook and Twitter feeds.

The event was the debut of Spike’s revamped Friday Night programming featuring combat sports. PBC featured Lopez versus Berto in the main event. Berto won via 6th round TKO.

The event drew 869,000 viewers over the 2 hours and 20 minutes airing on SpikeTV. It did run opposite a lot of College Basketball as the conference tournaments were in full swing. Notably, the ACC conference tournament game between Duke and Notre Dame on ESPN was the highest-rated sports cable program on Friday night as it received 2.617M viewers for a game that started at 9:50pm on the east coast. Preceding that game on ESPN, North Carolina and Virgina drew 2.054M viewers at 7:00pm.

Per TV By Numbers, the highest-rated show on cable on Friday the 13th was Gold Rush on the Discovery Channel which drew 3.274M viewers.

If you are a boxing cynic, the lead-in for PBC, Cops, drew a higher rating in its 30 minutes preceding boxing with an average viewership over 1 million viewers. Then again, Cops usually does great ratings and in defense of boxing the event was over 2 hours.

Payout Perspective:

Overall, it was a very good showing and the fights were entertaining. Perhaps the best fight was Arreola-Harper although it was not aesthetically pleasing. With college basketball games going on during the fights, it may have taken some of the audience away from PBC.  Based on the information provided, it appears that PBC has gained a sufficient amount of buzz with its promotion and marketing of its events. We will see if it can improve on the number when it returns on April 24th to SpikeTV.

Preliminary reports indicate a strong UFC 184 buy rate

March 11, 2015

The Wrestling Observer indicates that UFC 184 drew an estimated 500,000 to 600,000 PPV buys.  The preliminary report underscores the great start the UFC has had this year as well as the drawing power of Ronda Rousey.

UPDATED:  In its 3/12 podcast, Meltzer indicated that the numbers reflect that UFC 184 will do more PPV buys than UFC 183.

Dave Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez first discussed the initial numbers during their March 5, 2015 podcast (subscription recommended).

It appears that the estimate is based on anecdotal information from DirecTV as well Google trend searches.

If the initial buys for UFC 184 which featured Ronda Rousey versus Cat Zingano in the main event, the UFC will have one of the best starts of a year in PPV.

UFC 182:  800,000 PPV buys

UFC 183: ~600,000-700,000 PPV buys

UFC 184: ~500,000-600,000 PPV buys

The average for 2015 at this point is around 684,000 PPV buys which far exceeds what the UFC has been seeing.  Last year it averaged just 256,000 PPV buys and in 2013 it averaged 468,000.  Realistically, the UFC cannot keep producing these buys throughout the year.  But, it’s built up three good buy rates for 2015.  Added the fact it PPVs are now at $60, the UFC is making up PPV revenue from 2014’s atrocious numbers.

Whether it’s the booking or promotion, the 2015 PPV strategy for the UFC is holding up despite the drug problems.  Also, UFC 184 initially included Vitor Belfort- Chris Weidman as the co-main event.

The other part of the news is that the UFC Prelims have had much higher ratings this year in comparison to where it was last year.

UFC 182 Prelims – 1.03M viewers

UFC 183 Prelims – 1.546M viewers

UFC 184 Prelims – 1.205M viewers

Meltzer speculated that Rousey was one of the reasons why the UFC 184 Prelims drew the high ratings.  This argument may also support the fact that women’s MMA is generally accepted and may be on a roll as of late.  Note, Miesha Tate’s fight against Sarah Kaufman at the UFC 183 Prelims almost drew 2 million viewers on FS1.  This was a boon for Tate’s sponsors as she actually lobbied that she be on FS1 rather than on the PPV card.

Payout Perspective:

UFC 184 was all Ronda Rousey and it’s a good sign for the UFC ast the organization has found another PPV star.  The card under Rousey-Zingano was not strong considering that Belfort-Weidman dropped out.  Thus, the entire buzz was based on Rousey.  After her quick fight on Saturday, many mainstream sports outlets picked up on Rousey and gravitated toward the comparisons to Mike Tyson in his prime.  The potential bad news here is that there are not many interesting fights for Rousey coming up (unless Cyborg is able to make weight).  Also, Rousey’s star power outside of the Octagon is gaining momentum.  She is already taking time away from the Octagon to do a movie and the more offers she receives from Hollywood, the more we may not see her in the Octagon.

Can the UFC continue its momentum this Saturday with UFC 185?  We shall see.

UFC signs new broadcast deal in central Europe

March 10, 2015

The UFC’s Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) division announced it has secured a new broadcast partnership with NOVA Sport which will allow those in the Czech Republic and Slovakia to see UFC events.

The countries in central Europe will be able to see every European event and other bouts from around the world per the NOVA Sport premium channel.  UFC fans will also get to see UFC Ultimate Insider weekly according to the UFC release.

Payout Perspective:

One thing that we have not learned from the announcement is the amount of homes that Nova Sport is currently in in these regions.  It appears to be a premium service so a monthly fee is likely attached.  It’s not a major deal but still secures two countries in central Europe.  As the company continues to expand into new areas, it is important to secure television deals in new parts of the world so that there is an ability to expand the product in those areas.

PBC draws 3.4 million viewers Saturday

March 9, 2015

Bloody Elbow reports that Premier Boxing Champions received an overnight viewership of 3.4 million viewers in its debut in network prime time Saturday Night.  It was the most watched boxing broadcast since 1998.

The adjusted ratings from the fast overnights Saturday of 3.13 million reflect a strong showing for the night despite the fact that CBS’ “48 Hours” won the night in terms of overall viewership with 4.65 million viewers tuning in between 10-11pm.  Yet, the boxing event which featured Keith Thurman and Roberto Guerrero drew a 1.08 rating in the 18-49 demographic which was best for the night.

These numbers do not include the DVR number which should come out in the next day or two.

For those wondering and wishing to compare, a full rundown of UFC on Fox ratings is here.  The last time that a UFC on Fox show drew 3.4 million viewers was with UFC on Fox 5 in December 2012 with a headliner of Benson Henderson-Nate Diaz.

Payout Perspective:

There are two schools of thought when comparing this rating to that of the quarterly UFC on Fox network shows.  The first is that it’s an unfair comparison considering the quality of matchup as well as the differing demos.  While boxing led the night in the highly valued 18-49 demo, its age group tends to skew a little older.  One might consider that this is due to the general acceptance of the sport by the older population as they grew up with it on network television.  The other school of thought is that boxing and UFC are combat sports and its ratings can be compared.  Both are live sporting events on network television.  In that case, the debut of PBC was not as big as that of the inaugural UFC on Fox.  But, one should consider the quality of fights.  Thurman-Guerrero was not JDS-Cain but both are young, talented fighters that PBC can build on for the future.

PBC debut on NBC draws 2.53 rating/5 share

March 8, 2015

The debut of Premier Boxing Champions in network prime time scored with a 2.53 rating and 5 share in overnight ratings on Saturday night in the 9-11pm ET time slot.

UPDATED: 12:24pm PT 3/8/15 – According to Television By Numbers, PBC from 8:30pm-11pm ET drew 3.13 million viewers and a 1.0 share rating among adults 18-49.  Overall, CBS’ 48 Hours earned the most viewers in network viewership Saturday night with 4.65 million viewers 10-11pm.

It was the most watched show for Adults 18-49 in network ratings on Saturday. Of course, the competition was very slight on Saturday night.

NBC Sports also tweeted out the top 10 markets for PBC on Saturday which in order were:

1) Norfolk
2) Cincinnati
3) San Antonio
4) New Orleans
5) Fort Myers, Florida
6) Sacramento
7) Dayton
8) Orlando
9) Philadelphia
10) Tulsa

For point of reference, January 2015’s UFC on Fox 14 drew 2.82 million in overnight viewership and received a 1.1 rating and 4 share.

Payout Perspective:

No actual viewership estimates are out yet, but MMA Payout will update once they are made public. The ratings are not “over the top” for the debut of PBC in prime time on NBC but its likely to have won the night for the network.  Despite the ok debut, I am sure that Al Haymon’s strategy is not dependent on just one show.  There were things that worked and did not work last night and we shall see how those will be addressed.

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