The Ultimate Fighter 17 is off to a good start. Not great, but good. In its two-hour premiere, the episode drew over 1.5 million viewers, which is more than any other episode that has ever aired on FX. Like I said, a good start.
But why not great? Well, although viewership has certainly increased significantly since last season, the debut still didn’t happen to attain the kind of numbers that its previous iterations did when they were broadcasted on Spike.
It’s difficult to say what has been causing the ratings to dip and now climb, but the biggest factor seems to be network. Although the UFC stands by FX’s availability throughout the US, fans have been singing a different tune, claiming to have a difficulty finding the show, not knowing whether they have the channel and so on. Although, even if FX were broadcasted in every home without fail, I still believe that The Ultimate Fighter would not be seeing equivalent numbers to those they witnessed with Spike. Reason?
I believe that many of TUF’s viewers happened to be loyal Spike viewers who continued to view Spikes programming regardless of the show. Being aired around testosterone-fueled, male-biased shows like “A Thousand Ways To Die” and “Deadliest Warrior” - two programs that are obviously geared towards the UFC’s target 18-34 male demographic – was obviously a huge advantage for the UFC.
Not to mention the fact that the UFC had previously spent years building up its brand while creating a new reality show that over time became synonymous with the network it was aired on. When you change that dynamic, whether directly or indirectly you ultimately end up forcing people into having to think and putting in some sort of effort to find where your show is located exactly.
So with that said, is it a surprise to anyone that the show has seen better days? Wouldn’t it be kind of naïve or even ignorant to think that the same people who just want to sit down to enjoy some TV, would go out of their way just to figure out that The Ultimate Fighter is now on a new network, on a separate channel, on a different day, at a new time?
That doesn’t exactly make the show user friendly. In fact the only people I could see putting in the work to find the show are extreme fans. But when you make a change that drastic you basically alienate and lose all of your casual viewers, which I’m afraid Spike had much more of than FX.
Either way, this season is shaping up to be one of the best yet, as one of the viewers who can be thrown into the hardcore fan category, I’ll be watching with extreme anticipation.