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UFC Pumps Up Fuel TV

2/06/2012 12:01 AM Eastern

Fuel TV is being fueled by the UFC.

Kicking off with a marathon of the preeminent
mixed martial arts organization’s fare
on New Year’s Day, Fuel
TV rolled to its bestever
month during January,
achieving major
gains in overall viewership
and males 18 to 49,
albeit from small bases.

Moreover, with its
first live UFC card set
for Feb. 15 in Omaha,
Neb., Fuel, which
is engaging in a preview
with distributors
from Feb. 13-19 that will
reach 8 million homes,
is eyeing what could be
its top telecast to date.

Fuel, which counts
36 million subscribers,
tested the martial arts
waters last year with
MMA events to gauge audience interest in
the genre, according to George Greenberg,
Fuel’s executive vice president and general
manager.

FOX’S GAME PLAN

As part of Fox Sports’ seven-year, $700 million
UFC deal that includes live cards on
Fox broadcast and FX, Fuel will air more
than 2,000 hours of UFC-related programming,
highlighted by six exclusive cards
and more than 100 hours of live fights,
weigh-ins, preliminary bouts, and pre- and
post-fight shows.

“We’re presenting more interviews, news
and personalities from the UFC than ever,”
Greenberg said, noting the MMA kingpin
will account for 40% of Fuel’s programming
pie, with the balance tied to its action sports
heritage and other fare.

Greenberg said the belief was that the
strong ties to UFC would help push the action
sports proponent’s audience composition,
which had principally been males 12 to 34, to
the 18-to-49 set, with a sweet spot of males 18
to 34. That transformation has begun.

With the New Year’s Day marathon, Fuel
stepped into UFC’s octagon
with its best-ever
Nielsen day, ringing up a
378% surge from its January
2011 Sunday average,
and its second-best day
with men 18 to 49.

In January, Fuel, with
UFC occupying most of its
primetime and late-night
hours, pinned a 227% jump
in total viewers to 36,000
watchers on average and a
325% increase among guys
18 to 49 in primetime, compared
with January 2011
deliveries. In late fringe,
the advances weighed in at
211% and 275%.

Relative to guys 18-49,
Greenberg said the UFCfueled
“increases are allowing us to compete
with networks that are double and triple our
size in terms of distribution.”

Greenberg said Fox Sports Media Group
research figured it “would take a couple of
months before UFC hit full force for Fuel,” a
time frame that encompasses the card from
Omaha, which will feature veteran welterweights
Diego Sanchez (25-4) versus hometown
favorite Jake Ellenberger (26-5).

‘FULL FORCE’ TIME

Fuel’s two largest audiences to date came
from live UFC preliminary bout coverage for
UFC on FX 1 on Jan. 20 and UFC on Fox 2 on
Jan. 28, which averaged 148,000 and 144,000
total viewers, peaking at 237,000 and 212,000.

Greenberg expects Fuel’s first exclusive live
card to “perform at a high level, if not at the
highest level we’ve seen so far.” Bookended by
one-hour pre- and post-card shows, the live
UFC telecast, which is produced by the MMA
outfi t, will span all of primetime.

 

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