UFC Fight Night 1 on ESPN draws 1.463M viewers, Prelims 988,000

February 20, 2019

UFC Fight Night 1 on ESPN Sunday night drew 1.463 million viewers per Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.  The prelims which preceded the main card drew 988,000 viewers.

It was the first event for the promotion with its new network partner as the prelims and main card were aired on ESPN.  The telecasts went up against the NBA All-Star Game coverage.  Per Nielsen, the TNT broadcast of the NBA All-Star Game drew 5.766 million viewers.  A secondary broadcast on TBS which aired at the same time as the TNT broadcast added another 1.031 million viewers.

The main card featured the return of former UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez as he fought Francis Ngannou.  Unfortunately, Cain went down early in the first round due to a combination of a punch by Ngannou and knee injury.  The prelims saw Aljamain Sterling take care of Jimmie Rivera in a matchup of bantamweights.

UFC on ESPN 1 took place at The Talking Stick Resort in Phoenix, Arizona.

Payout Perspective:

Another solid ratings performance by the UFC as it was the biggest UFC Fight Night ratings since January 2016.  The main card drew 760,000 viewers in the A18-49 demo while it drew 485,000 during the prelims.  In comparison, PBC on Fox Saturday night drew 378,000 in the A18-49 demo.  On Friday night, Top Rank Boxing on ESPN drew just 276,000 viewers.  The NBA All-Star game on TNT drew 3.124M viewers in the A18-49 demo.  The A18-49 demo for the main card is great news for the UFC as one has to imagine it will help them attract major brands to sponsor deals.

UFC Fight Night on ESPN 1 draws big ratings

February 18, 2019

ESPN reports that Sunday night’s UFC Fight Night on ESPN 1 drew a 1.1 metered market rating while the prelims drew a 0.7 rating. Overall, ESPN indicated that the five-hour window on ESPN drew an average of 0.9.

The partnership between the UFC and ESPN is going well for the promotion as through 3 linear television events, ESPN has aired the three highest-rated UFC telecasts on cable since the beginning of 2017.

Although the ratings will not come out until later this week, ESPN notes that the overnight ratings reflect that it’s the highest-rated UFC Fight Night on cable since UFC Fight Night 81 from January 2016. That event drew a 1.4 rating. The ratings drew an impressive 2.288 million viewers with the prelims posting 1.767 million on FS1.

While Sunday’s night event featuring a heavyweight matchup between Francis Ngannou and Cain Velasquez ended abruptly, it posted an impressive viewership rating. The Prelims which preceded the event also posted strong ratings.

Payout Perspective:

It’s clear that there are more ESPN subscribers than there are FS1 subscribers which helps with viewership. Despite the NBA All-Star game on at the same time, the UFC did well as it was on the main network and other ESPN programming did not really interfere as the UFC was the main sport on Sunday night for the network.

UFC on ESPN 1 attendance, gate and bonuses

February 17, 2019

UFC on ESPN 1 took place on Sunday night with the whole card airing on the main network.  The event took place at The Talking Stick Resort in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Fight of the Night went to Vincente Luque and Bryan Barbaerena in a heavy-hitting welterweight matchup.  Luque outlasted Barbarena with seconds to spare in the third-round.  In addition, Luke Sanders KO’d Renan Barao and Kron Gracie choked out Alex Caceres in the first round to earn the Performance bonuses.  All received an additional $50K.

14,269 fans attended the event and drew a gate of $1,409,447.  The numbers were announced post-event.

Payout Perspective:

The obvious disappointment of the night was Cain Velasquez losing within the first 30 seconds of the main event to Francis Ngannou in what looked like a knee injury more than damage.  This put a damper on an event that had some great fights during the night despite a fickle Phoenix crowd.

Top Rank Boxing on ESPN (2/10) draws 655,000 viewers

February 12, 2019

The ESPN airing of Top Rank Boxing on Sunday night drew 655,000 viewers according to Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.   The event drew 233,000 viewers in the A18-49 demo and drew a 0.44 share.

The event featured Jose Ramirez taking on Jose Zepeda with Ramirez winning and retaining his junior welterweight title via majority decision.

The telecast also featured an action-packed fight between Ray Beltran and Kiroki Okada with Beltran earning the ninth-round stoppage.

Payout Perspective:

The telecast was below average for viewership and vastly smaller than the UFC one day before.  With UFC airing this Sunday you might expect a big number but when boxing does return to TV on Sunday night’s it will be interesting to track.

UFC 234 Prelims score 1.339M viewers

February 12, 2019

The prelims for UFC 234 on ESPN drew 1.339 million viewers per Nielson via ShowBuzz Daily.  The event drew 684,000 viewers in the A18-49 demo.

It was the UFC’s second event aired on ESPN as part of the new deal beginning at the start of the year.  The featured bout of the evening saw Devonte Smith stop Dong Hyun Ma.

The event drew an overall share of 0.82.

In comparison, last year’s UFC 221 prelims which featured Dong Hyun Ma (once again) and Damien Brown drew 697,000 viewers with 110,000 in the A18-49 demo.

Payout Perspective:

It’s a small sample size but it’s clear that the ESPN relationship is helping the UFC with viewership.  Again, the Duke-Virginia college basketball game served as a lead-in with a slight overrun this time (about 2 mins), but it helped with viewership as the first fight of the prelims saw the peak for the telecast.

Strong ratings for UFC 234 Prelims on ESPN

February 10, 2019

The UFC 234 preliminaries drew a strong 1.0 metered market rating on ESPN and ESPN Deportes according to ESPN PR.  The initial ratings reveal it being the second highest-rated PPV prelims on record.

The UFC 234 PPV Prelims on ESPN and ESPN Deportes drew an average 1.0 meter market rating which is second to only the UFC 205 PPV Prelim in November 2016.  The ratings were up 100% from last February’s UFC 221 Prelims which was headlined by Yoel Romero and Luke Rockhold.

The event peaked with a 1.7 metered market rating during the Ishihara-Kang fight.

Payout Perspective:

 The Ishihara-Kang fight was the first fight on the card which means that the lead-in Duke-Virginia (again) helped the broadcast.  The ratings will likely come out on Monday and rival UFC on ESPN +1 a couple weeks ago.  So far so good with the new partnership as the prelims to UFC events are hitting new highs.

ESPN + subs up to 2M thanks in part to UFC

February 6, 2019

Disney CEO Bob Iger announced on Tuesday that ESPN+ has doubled its paid subscriptions from 5 months ago.  This is due in large part to the UFC debuting on the digital platform.

ESPN+ launched in April 2018 for $4.99 per month.  The UFC debuted this past January with its first live event to rousing success.  ESPN indicated that more than 525,000 subscribers signed on for the digital network as a result of the UFC debut.  Also an indicator of success, the UFC’s debut live telecast of the UFC on ESPN + 1 Fight Night prelims drew nearly 2 million viewers.

ESPN acquired the rights for the UFC for $1.5 billion last spring after the promotion was on Fox for the last 7 years.

Payout Perspective:

While its unlikely that you can draw a direct line between the UFC’s debut on ESPN+ and the network’s spike in subscriptions, its hard not to make the inference.  While Top Rank Boxing has been a part of ESPN+ since the start, the UFC boosts the platform and it also provides it with a younger demo that is used to mobile and digital content.  For the UFC, the benchmark by Disney validates its worth as a company and asset for any media company.  The digital platform’s success is based on the acquisition of valuable content which includes the UFC, Top Rank Boxing, original content and the licensing of NHL and MLS games.

Top Rank Boxing on ESPN (2/2) draws 880,000 viewers

February 5, 2019

Top Rank Boxing airing on ESPN Saturday night drew 880,000 viewers according to Nielsen via ShowBuzz Daily.  The event, which included preliminary bouts to the main event of Sergey Kovalev and Eleider Alvarez, peaked at 1.022 million viewers.

On the network telecast Oscar Valdez defeated Carmine Tommasone via 7th round stoppage.  The opening bout featured Richard Comney defeating Isa Chaniev in just two rounds.

The event was bifurcated as the UFC’s debut on ESPN+ was split with prelims on the digital platform followed by the network portion followed by the main event airing once again on ESPN+.

As reported by Boxing Scene, ESPN Deportes averaged 122,000 viewers for the two-fight telecast as it peaked with 169,000 viewers.

Payout Perspective:

Near 1 million viewers tuned in Saturday night for two prelim fights on ESPN.  The bookending of the card seems to be aiding its digital platform despite the gamble of confusing the viewer. The move for ESPN to air more combat sports will see an adjustment for the traditional sports viewer but its clear that there is an audience that wants to watch

UFC on ESPN+2 attendance and bonuses

February 2, 2019

UFC on ESPN + 2 produced 4 bonus winners on Saturday night with the main event and co-main event winners drawing 2 of the $50,000 awards.

Marlon Moraes, Jose Aldo, Charles Oliveira and Johnny Walker all won Performance Bonuses Saturday night from Fortaleza, Brazil.  Moraes won via first round submission over Raphael Assuncao in the main event of the evening.  Aldo stopped featherweight contender Renato Moicano in the first round of the co-main event of the night.  Charles Oliveira scored another submission performance bonus with a 2nd round Anaconda choke over David Teymur.  Also on the night, we saw the energetic Johnny Walker as he KO’d Justin Ledet just seconds into the fight.

The event from Centro de Formacao Olimpica do Nordeste in Fortaleza, Brazil drew 10,040 fans.  There was no mention of gate as is the case with most of the Brazilian cards.

The UFC announced the bonus and attendance post-event.

Payout Perspective:

It was a good night of fights for the main UFC on ESPN+2 card with a faster pace of fights and some exciting submissions and endings.  The bonuses reflected the depth of the card with the young and exciting Johnny Walker, the bonus-winner Do Bronx, the veteran Jose Aldo and the title contender of Marlon Moraes.

Report indicates “more than 525,000” new ESPN+ subscribers as a result of UFC debut

January 28, 2019

The Sports Business Journal reports that ESPN gained  more than 525,000 new subscribers as a result of the UFC debut on the network.

With its debut at Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn earlier this month, the company scored big (even with a delay) with the UFC.  The prelims drew nearly 2 million viewers with big numbers in other demos including the important A18-49 column.

The article reports on ESPN’s strategy of pushing its digital brand by handing out black “ESPN +” t-shirts for fans to wear during the UFC event at the Barclay’s center. It was part of a fan festival to bring in the company’s new partner.  It also had a special suite for press to show off its capabilities.

According to a press release from ESPN disclosed a day after the event the UFC Prelim card on the network drew 1.4 metered market rating which was the highest-rated UFC Fight Night Prelims on cable since 2013.  It also received over 568,000 subscribers of the ESPN + service where the early prelims and main card were aired.

Payout Perspective:

The latest disclosure in the SBJ article released on Monday indicates that there were approximately 43,000 subscribers that signed up for a trial version and then cancelled.  Yet the retention rates are superb considering the debut on ESPN did not have huge names.  It does seem ironic that the Flyweight division was featured yet, could be on the precipice of extinction.  A thing to monitor is how and if ESPN will continue to disclose these subscriber numbers (similar to how WWE has done it) and the retention rates.  Based on the debut, it looks like this could be the start of a promising partnership.


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