source: Shaun Al-Shatti | mmafighting.com
The UFC's debut event on FUEL TV, UFC on FUEL, averaged 217,000 viewers over the length of the three-hour broadcast, setting a new live-event ratings record for the fledgling network.
Wednesday's numbers mark a 46-percent increase from FUEL TV's previous ratings record of 148,000 viewers, earned by January's UFC on FX 1 preliminary card. UFC on Fox 2's live preliminary card averaged 144,000 viewers.
The massive leap in ratings can likely be attributed to several factors, but most notable among them is fact that the event took place during a FUEL TV free-preview week for numerous cable subscribers.
Ratings peaked as 315,000 viewers tuned in to witness 26-year-old Jake Ellenberger force his name into title contention with a wild unanimous decision victory over Diego Sanchez. Beyond the headlining bout, four vicious stoppages lined the network broadcast, including Jonathan Brookins knockout win over Vagner Rocha which initially aired on Facebook.
"We fully expected the UFC was going to deliver FUEL TV extraordinary ratings, and now we're seeing it," said network Executive Vice President and General Manager George Greenberg. "We are beyond ecstatic about the audience and the impact the UFC is having on our network's growth thus far. The sky's the limit on where this network can go from here."
Meanwhile, Spike TV continued their counter-programming crusade to successful results, drawing 694,000 viewers for a replay of The Ultimate Fighter 13 Finale and 661,000 for a Diego Sanchez-themed episode of UFC Unleashed.
Spike TV is currently available in roughly 99 million homes around the United States, while FUEL TV's total rests closer to 35 million. Though recent trends have seen that number continue to climb since the Fox-family network switched to a UFC-centric programming schedule.
"If you want to compare (FUEL TV) to a platform like Spike three times our size, I can't help that," Greenberg recently said. "But I can tell you, If you look at the FOX ratings and last FX ratings for the fight, and you look at what it's done to this place percentage-wise, we are absolutely killing it."