It's probably not a coincidence that the two best ratings FX has gotten for UFC shows came after UFC programming was no longer shown on rival Spike.
The UFC 156 preliminary bouts on FX on Saturday set several ratings marks on the network, including most total viewers (1.897 million) and most in several key demographics.
Chuck Saftler, the executive vice president of FX, said the viewership is the largest for a preliminary show the UFC has ever done, including when it was on Spike.
UFC on FX 7 on Jan. 19 in Brazil attracted 1.86 million viewers, which was then the most-watched fight card ever on FX. That number surpassed the UFC 148 preliminaries on FX, which were watched by 1.82 million people.
But since 2013 began, FX has gotten 1.86 million, 1.2 million and 1.897 million viewers on the three UFC cards it aired.
Saftler said there isn't as much confusion in the marketplace about where to find UFC programming as there was in 2012. In 2012, all live UFC programming moved from Spike to the Fox Networks (Fox, FX and Fuel), but Spike retained the right to air repeat UFC content through the end of the year.
Now, all UFC content is exclusive to the Fox networks, while Spike broadcasts Bellator fights.
Saftler said what he called a great main card at UFC 156 helped FX, but said he believed the primary reason for the uptick is that fans have finally learned where to find the UFC content.
"Probably most importantly, it took about a year for people to understand that UFC had moved from Spike to Fox and specifically for prelims, FX," Saftler said. "That was not easy messaging because for a year, Spike was still putting on repeats of UFC product. I think that was confusing people [as to] where they could find UFC product in general.
"Now, it's very clear and specific that people will find their UFC product on FX or Fuel and Fox. The messaging is cleaner, simpler and more specific and viewers are figuring that out."
Saturday's show was a winner for FX in many regards. It set network highs for most viewers among males 18-49 (953,000), people 18-34 (759,000) and males 18-34 (556,000). It got its second-best performance among people 18-49 (1.27 million), trailing only the UFC 148 prelims (1.297 million) in that category.
FX was the No. 1 network in primetime Saturday, including broadcast and cable, among males 18-34 (485,000) and people 18-34 (688,000). FX's primetime lineup on Saturday was UFC 156 prelims from 8-10 p.m. ET and then Iron Man 2 at 10 p.m. ET.
Saftler called the UFC's performance on FX "incredibly heartening and satisfying." He said the next barrier will be for FX to clear two million total viewers and one million males 18-49.
That will be significant for the UFC in terms of being able to familiarize its fan base with new fighters. Saturday's fights on FX included Tyron Woodley, Bobby Green and Isaac Vallie-Flagg, who had fought in Strikeforce previously.
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