Last week, the UFC presented its first of six live programming events for FUEL TV headlined by a significant welterweight showdown between Jake Ellenberger and Diego Sanchez. FUEL TV offered a ‘free preview’ week which increased distribution by about 24% as it was available in nearly 8 million more homes than normal. That preview coupled with over 150 hours of fight action helped anchor a week(Feb. 13th-19th) that obliterated previous ratings record for the network. Executive Vice President and General Manager of FUEL TV George Greenberg commented in a press release:
In addition to Fight Night, we created a special Fight Week theme, with extra UFC shows each day. The results delivered a ratings boost well beyond what was expected given the free FUEL TV preview. The preview raised our distribution about 24 percent, but the audience increases we saw completely blow that away. This proves to me that FUEL TV can play with the big boys.”
The Ellenberger vs. Sanchez event averaged 217,000 viewers, while peaking at 315,000 viewers during the main event which is well over a 1,300% increase over February 2011. That’s not too shabby considering that FUEL TV is only available in approximately 36 million homes. The UFC’s old home Spike TV is available in nearly 100 million homes with events like Ellenberger vs. Sanchez would typically average around 1.4 million viewers on that network.
It’s not fair to draw a comparison between the two networks at the moment, mainly because the UFC fanbase is going through a transitional phase of finding the new network as well as the huge difference in network distribution. However, it’s clear that UFC programming is hitting a homerun for FUEL TV at the moment. It’ll be interesting to see if interest in UFC programming will allow FUEL TV to add subscribers in the coming years, thus expanding distribution to really compete with the ‘big boys’.