By Zach Arnold | March 10, 2010
The news coming out regarding WEC 47 drawing a 0.46 cable rating on Versus is bad news for Zuffa and informational news for CBS & Strikeforce.
First, the piss-poor rating should be cause for concern with UFC’s upcoming March 21st rally with Brandon Vera vs. Jon Jones. America is all about branding and despite years and years of Comcast trying to push Versus as a major network, American viewers simply aren’t buying into it. ESPN and its family of networks continue its dominance and Spike TV had long track records and programming that built those brands over many years. Versus has tried desperately with WEC and the NHL to try to boost ratings, but it simply hasn’t worked. UFC is a strong brand but it’s unlikely that they are going to build up Versus long-term like WWE helped build up Spike TV in the late 90s and early 00’s.
Second, WEC’s poor ratings not only indicate that the company is in a slide, but it also shows that Strikeforce has won a small battle amongst the hardcore fans. When Strikeforce on Showtime, a pay channel, is outdrawing Zuffa’s child on a semi-non-premium cable channel. So, the idea that Strikeforce should move their 4/17 Nashville event to 4/24 to try to screw with the buyrate for the WEC debut PPV would be a reactionary one and one that wouldn’t be productive for Scott Coker. Strikeforce needs to worry about expanding their base instead of fighting with Zuffa’s Jr. company over hardcore fans. Running on 4/17 instead of 4/24 also avoids competition against the Super Six boxing series on Showtime.
Regarding the paid attendance for WEC’s event in Columbus, Ohio being over 8,000 — that’s a great number for the company, but WEC’s main purpose is that as a television property first and a live gate property second. In many ways, WEC serves the same function for UFC as DREAM does for K-1 — draw ratings, make money, and control the television pipeline away from the competition. WEC drawing low ratings on all non-Urijah Faber cards will ultimately defeat the purpose (and the push) that existed for being on Versus in the first place. It just adds more pressure onto Zuffa’s junior company to pop a good number on PPV or else face the realities at hand.
The big question at hand — will the move to PPV essentially cannibalize the deal with Versus? If WEC fails on PPV and continues to draw low ratings on Versus, will it force UFC to essentially merge WEC into their fold and run shows on Versus as UFC (along with the gluttonous amount of programming already on Spike TV)?