Tuesday's premiere of The Ultimate Fighter drew 1.5 million viewers and a 1.1 rating, far and away the highest viewership for any non-finale during the show's two season run on FX.
The ratings for the first two seasons of the show on FX, the 15th and 16th in the franchise's history, continually declined in the ratings. Season 15 in the spring didn't pick up one million viewers for an episode in any of the final five episodes of the season, and Season 16 in the fall had just two episodes draw at least one million viewers. The prior high watermark for any episode of the show on FX was 1.3 million viewers for the Season 15 premiere, the first episode to air on FX.
It'll be interesting to see how the ratings progress as the season goes on in its new timeslot at 9 PM on Tuesdays. The prior two seasons aired at 10 PM on Fridays, and never managed to take off in the ratings at all despite a new format for Season 15 (live). With a tweaked format starting Season 17 (with more of a focus on the background of the fighters on the show), and a pair of charismatic coaches (Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen), this is the best chance for The Ultimate Fighter to succeed on FX.
The 1.5 million viewers for the season premiere matched the viewership for the premieres of Seasons 13 and 14 on Spike. During the show's 14 season run on Spike, it averaged 1.7 million viewers per episode, which it has yet to reach on FX.
The timeslot likely had a lot to do with the horrific drop in ratings that the show has seen over the last year, but Tuesday was a step in the right direction for the franchise. If it can hold steady at 1.5 million viewers, I'm sure the UFC and FX will be happy with that number. It'll also be interesting to see where the show will land in the future with the launching of Fox Sports One and Two, and FX's dropping of sports programming. Will The Ultimate Fighter be considered a reality show, or will it be considered sports programming and be shuffled off to one of the rebranded networks? I think the final ratings for this season will end up being the deciding factor in that regard.
[H/T John Ourand]