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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
Dana White isn't happy with the reaction from MMA media regarding the ratings for the UFC on Fox 3 event on May 5. In a new video blog post on Monday night, he showed a pre-recorded rant that would have been used on Fuel TV's "UFC Tonight" program, but with the UFC on Fuel 3 card on Tuesday that show is off for the week. In said rant, he went off on one writer in particular, Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer, and formerly of Yahoo! Sports.
While he focused part of his rant on giving figures as to why the show was successful, he ripped into Meltzer over an article he wrote on the subject that essentially stated that the UFC and Fox were "blowing it" with how low the show drew. His criticisms led to the following from White:
"Dave Meltzer wrote this huge story, a doom and gloom story about how the UFC and Fox are blowing this thing, because of the numbers that came out," White began. "First of foremost, Dave, you know I like you, I respect you, but you just lost your job at Yahoo!; and you want to give us business advice? I'm actually writing a story next week that I'm gonna put out, about all the things I think you could have done to keep your job at Yahoo!. That story's coming out next week Dave, you might wanna read it, OK?"
White then put his own spin on the numbers from the event, urging everyone to "do their homework" before reacting so negatively. He stated that the Fox broadcast was the #1 program in all of the UFC's key male demos, and while it was beaten in total viewers by Shark Tank and NCIS that night, both programs saw a majority of their viewership come from viewers 50 and older.
Additionally, White said the broadcast outperformed the NBA Playoffs across the board. Furthermore, he said that television viewership as a whole was down 10 million viewers from the first Fox show the UFC put on. Meaning, 10 million less viewers were at home watching any form of television. He placed that on it being Cinco de Mayo and the opening of The Avengers, which had the biggest opening weekend in movie history.
Because of all that, he decried the "doom and gloom" reports, especially that of Meltzer's, and ripped into any thought of negativity on the numbers. Check out the full rant below:
Video URL: http://youtu.be/pnDHwXwIK1g
Penick's Analysis: There is one key fact that draws much of the criticism to the UFC on Fox 3 ratings: it was the lowest rated MMA event on network TV ever, behind EliteXC and Strikeforce's offerings. Of course there are reasons for that. Ten million less people watching TV that night was absolutely going to hurt the ratings. Cinco de Mayo may have taken a lot of their demographic out of the house. Same with The Avengers. But claiming "total victory" with no concern over a massive decline in viewership is ignoring part of the problem.
Yes, ten million less people were at home that night watching TV, but guess what? The UFC didn't put forth the type of main event to make any of those ten million stay home. That's a very real part of the issue. Yes, Nate Diaz vs. Jim Miller was a great fight, and hardcore fans absolutely expected it to be, but the UFC was going to get them to watch regardless. They didn't have a fight that drew in the casual fan in droves; they didn't have the type of fight that made people say, "oh, I know The Avengers is out, I know it's Cinco de Mayo, I know there's other stuff on TV, but I HAVE to see that fight!" Simply put, the UFC wasn't "must see TV" on May 5 with the card they provided, not for the masses. While that doesn't mean the end of the world for the UFC on Fox, it should be at least somewhat concerning to see such a steep decline. Instead, White went on the attack.
And to address his attack on Meltzer regarding Yahoo!, it's not as if Meltzer was "fired" from Yahoo! because of a lack of quality or for his abilities in the realm of business advice. His Wrestling Observer newsletter has been a highly successful venture for decades. Yahoo! decided not put as much of their resources into covering MMA as they had been doing, and decided not to pay Meltzer what he would have rightfully felt he was owed. And in the time since Meltzer has left, the CEO that made those decisions at Yahoo! has lost his job as well. It's not something that has any bearing on the situation, but White uses it here as an attack. This was another in a long line of reactionary responses from White that distorts things on this front, while ignoring some of the reason why criticism is being levied in the first place.
UPDATE: MMATorch received some more accurate figures from an industry source regarding the UFC on Fox 3 card, so here's the "homework" White was looking for:
The UFC's broadcast did win the key male demos on BROADCAST television that night, but they were outdrawn by ESPN's Sportscenter and three different NBA games on cable television in the men 18-49 demo and men 18-34 demo. In fact, a game between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Los Angeles Clippers doubled the UFC's rating in the men 18-34 demographic (3.45 to 1.6).
Additionally, in terms of overall viewers, five programs on broadcast television that night outdrew the UFC on Fox broadcast, with the aforementioned Shark Tank and NCIS: LA being joined by the ABC Saturday Movie, Crime Time Saturday, and 48 Hours Mystery. During the day, 21 programs on cable outdrew the 2.4 million in average viewership the UFC on Fox card brought in on network television. That included two NBA playoff games on ESPN and TNT, respectively, ten airings of Spongebob Squarepants and three of The Big Bang Theory on TBS.
Also, to address White's point about the HUT levels, i.e., the number of people home watching television: viewership was down by 8.9 million viewers overall, not the ten million White stated. That accounted for a 13% decrease in overall television viewers from the November Fox debut. However, the UFC's household rating was down 53% from the November event, so that HUT level reasoning can only go so far.
So there are the simple facts regarding the issues of contention White laid out during this rant.
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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