Dana White recently told Ariel Helwani that ‘a war’s a brewin’, and what he’s referring to there is Viacom launching Bellator in a big way on Spike in 2013. Considering Spike still does rather well ratings wise with just UFC reruns and counter-programming, they’re in a pretty good position to become the #2 promotion in America. Whether that will translate into money is unknown. The highway of MMA history is riddled with the corpses of promotions that got tipsy off a little success and then slammed into the first telephone pole they encountered.
Back to that coming war, the first wave of battle is already upon us and TUF is the battleground. Here’s Dana White and FX defending The Ultimate Fighter Live’s ratings while at the same time admitting the Friday Night Death Slot sucks:
“FX wants to try it again on Friday nights,” White said. “But if it’s not up to the standards I’m expecting, I’m pretty sure they’ll give me what I want. But this season was a smash hit home run for them.”
According to FX spokesman Dominic Pagone, TUF was the second-most watched series on basic cable on Friday nights among men 18-34 and 18-49, which is the UFC’s key demographic, trailing only ESPN, which generally broadcast an NBA game in that slot. Adding women, TUF was the third-most watched network on basic cable among adults 18-34 and 18-49.
Pagone said among adults aged 18-49, FX’s ratings with “The Ultimate Fighter” improved 69 percent year over year. It went up 141 percent among men 18-49 year-over-year, Pagone added.
White said that although he prefers the live format, he was unable to delve into the fighters’ lives as much as in seasons past.
He said that the perception that TUF was drawing poorly on FX was because Spike executives were leaking ratings to MMA web sites and presenting them in a misleading way. The overall viewership from the last season on Spike compared to the first season on FX was less, but it was largely because of the switch in days, White noted.
He said Spike also tried to create confusion in the marketplace by running reruns of TUF programming against the live show on FX. Spike has the right via its contract with the UFC to run its UFC-related shows through the end of this season.
And wasn’t that some fun tit for tat behavior? Even with the UFC moving to FOX, Spike still had a deal to air programming from the UFC library until 2013. That same deal also kept any other MMA promotion from making its way onto the channel. So Spike gave the UFC a choice: buy back the library rights or counter-programming will be the norm. Spike rolled out TUF Fridays, promoted by Kimbo Slice. The UFC responded by running their own advertising campaign, promoted by … Kimbo Slice. I think that gives you a good picture of how things are rolling.
As for whether Spike really has been feeding the MMA media negative numbers … well, the numbers don’t exactly have to be spun in a centrifuge to extract the crappy pink slime. Most bloggers and fans ignore the intricacies of demo ratings (kinda important stuff, because Axe Body Spray ain’t payin money to advertise to 50+ gomers) and instead just look at overall viewers.