Spike TV issued a press release Tuesday afternoon announcing that its re-airing of UFC 84 this past Saturday drew more viewers than CBS and EliteXC’s “Saturday Night Fights” in the key demographic of males 18-34.
According to the release, UFC 84 outdrew “Saturday Night Fights” in the male 18-34 demo by 27% with Spike totaling 433,00 men compared to CBS’ 341,000.
Spike is also touting the fact that compared to last Saturday’s live broadcast of UFC Fight Night 14 featuring Anderson Silva, the UFC outdrew EliteXC by 165% in the male 18-34 demographic and by 21% in total viewership.
The press release took a very surreal turn, with Spike comparing the drop in EliteXC’s second CBS show from the first show to the XFL on NBC. The release even went so far as to say the first CBS show featured “the ‘He Hate Me’ of MMA, Kimbo Slice.”
I say that the prose is surreal because while Spike TV and CBS are operated by different subsidiaries that trade under different ticker symbols on the New York Stock Exchange, they still belong to the same parent company.
Five Ounces of Pain has received many ratings bulletins over the past year and a half and we’ve never seen one written in such a contentious manner. It’s obvious that the UFC has a strong and loyal partner in Spike and that they aren’t taking competition lightly.
But the numbers don’t lie and while “Saturday Night Fights” showed improvement across the board when it comes to production and matchmaking, the ratings weren’t strong. Granted, nobody was expecting the second show to match the first show, but being beaten by a basic cable channel in a key demo during an airing of a taped MMA broadcast where the results are readily available is not good.
The lesson here is one we already knew: casual viewers want to see stars. It doesn’t matter how good your fight card is, the masses want recognizable names. Robbie Lawler, Scott Smith, Jake Shields, and Nick Diaz all have a strong following that no doubt increased following the exposure they received this past Saturday. But are they stars? Maybe they will be one day but building new stars takes time.
People can say whatever they want about Kimbo Slice, but he has the aura of a star. Even people that had no idea who he was identified him as a star because of his look and because of his unique back story. And Gina Carano may have trouble making weight but she also has the “it” factor.
With Kimbo and Carano set to return on Oct. 4 in Miami, I see the show being a ratings success. However, there is a major issue of what to do when CBS wants a show and Kimbo and Gina aren’t available that has to be addressed.
If CBS wants a fourth show in a time frame in which Kimbo and Gina won’t be ready, then Frank Shamrock has to be the headliner. As great as he’s done as an announcer, he still has plenty of box office potential and knows how to promote and market his fights. Hypothetically speaking, if CBS wants to do a show in Dec., they should look into a main event of Shamrock vs. Robbie Lawler for the EliteXC middleweight title.
EliteXC should also make it a priority to get Eddie Alvarez out there. Alvarez has star potential thanks to an exciting fighting style. He also has credibility with the hardcores following his strong run during DREAM’s lightweight Grand Prix.