The ratings for episode one of Spike TV's 'The Ultimate Fighter' season 13 are in and they are surprisingly low. According to MMA Junkie, the episode drew in 1.5 million viewers with a 1.0 household rating. That is the all-time lowest rating ever for a debut episode of TUF for any season. Despite the inclusion of coach Brock Lesnar and the strong public relations tour he took part in promoting the series on radio, ESPN and late night television, the ratings actually dipped.
Here are the ratings for the debut episodes of TUF for all previous seasons:
Season 1 - 1.42
Season 2 - 1.8
Season 3- 1.95
Season 4 - 1.7
Season 5 - 1.4
Season 6 - 1.5
Season 7 - 1.3
Season 8 - 1.2
Season 9 - 1.34
Season 10 - 2.9
Season 11 - 1.5
Season 12 - 1.3
Still, the numbers aren't all bad. According to MMA Fighting,"The series is still a powerhouse for Spike TV, as the premiere finished first in viewership for males 18-34 and males 18-49 during the 9-10p.m. ET time slot."
A few questions to consider about why the numbers are low:
2. Is the audience who purchases Lesnar's pay-per-views uninterested in watching him compete?
3. Is the lack of heat between rival coach Junior dos Santos affecting the ratings?
4. Did the lack of a typical live fight lead-in hurt the numbers? Why wasn't UFC Fight Night 24 the lead-in for this season of TUF?
5. Outside of a serendipitous grab, e.g. nabbing Kimbo Slice for the show, how viable is the TUF format in its thirteenth season?
6. Is the "kinder, gentler" Lesnar, the post-health scare Lesnar, detrimental to ratings?
7. Is this little more than ratings panic in what could easily be a slow start to a highly successful season? Can we really make a generalization about Lesnar's drawing power based on one rating?
SB Nation MMA will continue to monitor the ratings of this season of TUF in this space, ups, downs and whatever direction the numbers go.