The wonderful land of television ratings. Much ado has been made about the UFC’s viewership since moving from Spike TV to Fox (Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, “Big” Fox). Spike TV parent company, Viacom, has since purchased rival MMA promotion Bellator in an attempt to challenge the UFC, and if one looks strictly at television ratings and viewership, Bellator is not doing bad at all. In fact, one could say they are nipping at the UFC’s heels, and out-perform them on occasion.
In what may be considered a sub-story here, Sherdog.com reporter Greg Savage recently sat down with UFC President Dana White (I know, crazy, right?) to talk about TV ratings and if White is happy with how things are going with the UFC-Fox relationship.
The conversation went like this…
Sherdog: “Fox networks. There’s been a lot made about numbers down from the Spike era. Fox has shown in the past they are willing to invest in a long term product. Do you feel that same kind of commitment from them?”
Dana White: “The thing that’s hilarious is that everybody talks about the Fox numbers are down. The Fox numbers aren’t down. The Fox numbers are up. If you look at what everything else does on that network, and look at what we do…”
Sherdog: “Your numbers are strong there for sure, but if you look at the amount of people that watch it on Spike.”
Dana White: “Doesn’t matter, it’s not about that. Sure, we wanted… We committed to get into a deal and a relationship with these guys to build a network. Do you guys think that that just happens over night? It doesn’t happen over night. It’s very very hard to do. If you look at some of these other networks that are out there and how hard it’s been for them to do it, and we’re building a sports network where most of their programming doesn’t even hit their channel tip 2015. So if you look at the numbers that we’re doing on there, we’re killing it for Fox. That’s what matters to us. We got into this relationship with them and we’re delivering on our end of the deal.”
Sherdog: “How invested is Fox in the UFC long term?”
Dana White: “They’re very excited about the UFC, and if they weren’t, I wouldn’t be too excited about Fox. You know what I mean? You guys know me and my personality and I don’t know if I’ve ever talked so well about a partner that we’ve had. I mean couldn’t say enough good things about these guys. I honestly could not say enough good things about Fox. … As far as being invested and caring about our sport and caring about our brand, I don’t know if anybody has ever cared any more than Fox does.”
Sherdog: “So no regrets on that deal obviously?”
Dana White: (Shakes head no) “When I say no regrets, I’d go back and do the same deal again. Leaving today, going back knowing what I know now, I’d go back and do the same deal with them again tomorrow.”
Personally, I kind of miss the days of UFC on Spike. The events were fewer and further between one another. They seemed bigger in a way. Now there are so many UFC events, they’re more watered down and fans pick and choose more which ones they want to watch. Has this hurt ratings? Probably. Has the change in networks hurt the UFC’s numbers? Yes, but White addresses that by saying they are in this relationship where they are helping to build a new network with Fox.
The UFC’s international expansion continues, they are breaking into new foreign markets, and maybe it all works out in the end for the UFC and their bottom line. How does it affect their hardcore U.S. fan base? It’s not what it was a few years ago that’s for sure.
Is Bellator eating into the UFC’s profits? Yes, I think so, at least somewhat. Are they a viable contender for the Heavyweight MMA Promotion Title? They’re a solid number two, no doubt about it. And with Viacom bankrolling the promotion, they can afford some of the big name fighters others might not be able to. It will be interesting to see how Bellator’s upcoming Pay-Per-View does and I’ll be interested to see how the show comes off in person. I plan to be there and will let you know.
I definitely think it’s beneficial for the fighters to have options. In the long run hopefully it helps them get the money they deserve (see Gilbert Melendez). MMA is still a young sport, and this UFC vs. Bellator rival is just heating up. Stay tuned…
Until then… I”m still tripping that Sherdog reporters are allowed to once again sit down and interview Dana….