Tonight marks the first of what will hopefully be many, many, many weeknight UFC Fight Night shows on Fox Sports 1, and I say that not only as a man who wants to watch as much MMA fighting as humanly possible during any given week, but also as a guy who’d simply like to see ESPN get a little run for its money in the ratings. So far, though, that’s not happening, as FS1 averaged just 161,000 viewers in primetime and ESPN posted 2.17 million viewers. YIKES.
In fact, as Variety points out, FS1 barely even beat out the Speed network, which it replaced in your TV listings.
By comparison, ESPN, which has established a cable sports dynasty after more than 30 years on the air, averaged 2.17 million viewers in primetime last week with a lineup anchored by Major League Baseball action. Among sports nets, FS1 also trailed ESPN2 (473,000), NFL Network (383,000) and MLB Network (193.000) while outdrawing Golf Channel (137,000), NBC Sports Network (104,000), ESPNU (65,000) and NBA TV (58,000).
In total day, Fox Sports 1 averaged 81,000 viewers — down from the 100,000 of Speed last year.
So that means ESPN 2 > NFL Network > MLB Network > Fox Sports 1 > Golf Channel > NBC Sports, etc. etc. That’s still a pretty mighty ladder for FS1 to climb, what with people not buying into Donovan McNabb and Regis Philbin as sports analysts just yet, but it appears that the answer might lie with the one sports property that was a hit in its FS1 debut – the UFC.
In a recent interview with Caged In, Fox Broadcasting’s Senior VP of Programming and Research Mike Mulvihill reiterated the network’s stance from earlier this year that not only are the suits at FS1 sold on the potential of the world’s biggest MMA promotion (as if they needed any encouragement), but they’re also ready to promise us better cards than the debut, which gave us Chael Sonnen vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, which some people didn’t think was a good card at all.
You have to evaluate each event in its own context. Success for an FS1 event in July is going to be measured differently than success for a Fox broadcast event in December. In general, we’re looking for evidence that UFC is growing and further establishing itself as one of the most popular sports among younger fans. Given that our FS1 Fight Night on August 17th beat every network on television among Men 18-34 and Men 18-49, I think the evidence shows we’re going in the right direction.
We will absolutely have shows that rival or surpass the quality of our debut. In fact, I feel confident that we will have an event before the end of this year that will surpass even the quality of our debut night.
Mulvihill also believes that the UFC has great crossover potential for FS1, which could open the door to my idea for a new segment on Fox Football Daily called, “Who Will Brian Urlacher Wrestle Today?” and the former Chicago Bears linebacker could either face off against current UFC fighters or an actual bear. It would be pretty awesome.
Or, at the very least, FS1 could purchase the rights to my new show idea, “Watch Brittney Palmer and Arianny Celeste Brush Each Other’s Hair For 24 Hours.” I’m pretty sure that would crush ESPN right there.