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WEC’s poor ratings show that Strikeforce should not waste their time going after them

By Zach Arnold | March 10, 2010

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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)?

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, WEC, Zach Arnold | 15 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

15 Responses to “WEC’s poor ratings show that Strikeforce should not waste their time going after them”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    “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.”

    It’s called no DirecTV and no true draw. The major SF event in January had a $300,000 gate. Hardly good news either.

    The WEC on PPV is there to fail. It is there to justify to Faber, Harris, SpikeTV, and Versus that a merger is required between the UFC and WEC. They needed a failed PPV to prove that first….

  2. [...] interesting to see how these numbers compare to the UFC’s Versus card in a week and a half. Zach Arnold doesn’t think it will perform as many think it will mainly because of Versus’ lack of branding power. He [...]

  3. Nepal says:

    Moving to the 24th would be to avoid the UFC competition rather than trying to compete with WEC PPV. The Boxing cards really aren’t competition but a hastily put together card by the UFC on the 17th, maybe in the same town could really damage Strikeforce’s card.

  4. Alan Conceicao says:

    The UFC would be silly not to take the Versus deal though. Its free money for shows they otherwise might have to take to PPV (really!) and they get to do everything their way. I’m sure its a lot of money too. Personally, I like anything that a promoter does to put more eyes on their fighters. Cain being on PPVs no one buys means that when it comes time to elevate him to the next level, no one is going to really care about watching him. Jon Jones though can make a lot of fans with that exposure, and we could be looking at him progressing even more quickly afterwards towards a title fight.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      The Versus deal only makes sense for the UFC brand if Versus gets back on DirecTV and as part of the normal package. Without it, they alienate too many fans.

      • Alan Conceicao says:

        They alienate fans when they put on PPVs too by automatically limiting the audience. Either way is not preferred, but Versus is certainly better than PPV as far as gaining exposure goes.

  5. EJ says:

    Definately not great ratings but not the end of the world either, it did better than Cerrone vs. Ratcliff and considering that the Versus/Direct TV thing should be over soon it’s pretty much business as usual for the WEC.

    • edub says:

      Yea I agree.

      There feeling the backlash of a division showing too much parity. Stars sell fights. If Cruz keeps winning he will build up a bigger fanbase, that in turn will create more viewers.

      However, they really need to seal that deal with DirecTV soon.

  6. kobashi says:

    So the Zuffa owned promotion is struggling to get viewers. They will realise that UFC fans only care about the UFC product!

  7. Paradoxx says:

    “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”

    So does Kimbo on a spike midcard fight pulling more viewers than a Fedor main event on network TV mean UFC won the war with every other fan in the US?

  8. Detective Roadblock says:

    WEC feels cheap and second rate to me. I really don’t care much for it. I don’t care about any of the fighters, I hate the stupid music and think it always looks dark. What I find is I slays end up looting against the guys WEC keeps telling me are so great like Faber, Torres and Bowles.

    I think they made a mistake getting off Sunday nights. WEC isn’t special go out of your way programming. It’s something to watch when nothing better is on. My girlfriend and I went for a long hike last Saturday andwere at home wiped out when I rememebered WEC was on. So we watched it. She’s a big MMA fan. At the end she turned to me and said, why does WEC suck do bad and how does UFC let it go on tv like this?

    • Alan Conceicao says:

      it always looks dark.

      I thought I was the only one!

      The whole concept seemed weird. Creating a bunch of new belts and intentionally confusing the market? Huh? Trying to give it an identity with lower weight fighters was an idea, but ideas don’t necessarily work. Keeping the 155lb fighters there just enforced that this was a minor league, and no one cares to watch minor leagues.

      All the talk of merger only really does anything if they have a plan in place that will allow them to increase shows. Otherwise, it means they’ll have to shelve a lot of guys and release even more.

  9. Zack says:

    You can’t just blame direct TV when this card drew far less viewers than their last one. The fact of the matter is that Uriah Faber is their only star.

    This WEC PPV is a win/win for management. If it does well, they have dudes locked into tiny contracts and they will reap the lion share of the profit. They’ll throw out some behind the doors bonuses and everyone will be happy. If it fails, WEC fighters have NO leverage at negotiation time.

    I’d really like to know how Spike feels about this UFC card on Versus, since it’s more appealing than many of the UFN cards. If they are okay with not being the exclusive place for UFC on cable, then re-branding the WEC as the UFC is easy.

  10. Lendo says:

    2 points:

    1) they need to promote/advertise WEC better if they want viewers. WEC 47 had some very good fights, they just need to get the word out more.

    2) 8000 is a great number for the WEC, but part of that is because of the Arnold Classic weekend crowd. If WEC 48 can do that number, considering the fights they have, that would be great…10,000 would be better.

  11. jr says:

    Even though I’m a fan of the smaller fighters, WEC might want to mix in some heavyweights. Comcast has spent the money for the NHL but do you see a lot of Versus commercials on other sports stations/ sports talk radio?

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