Ever since Viacom bought and Spike took a bigger lead in how Bellator would do business, they've wanted to do a reality TV show. It made sense, after all. The Ultimate Fighting Championship's (UFC) reality show The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) was a solid piece of programming that benefited the UFC greatly, and was Spike's second-biggest TV show for a number of seasons. It made perfect sense to do one of their own, and up sprang Fight Master.
However, it hasn't been all sunshine and roses so far. The first episode was a flop, with only 432,000 viewers. That is roughly a 0.15 rating. For an explanation of how US ratings are calculated, click here. Compared to Season 14 of TUF, the final season of the UFC's reality series that aired on Spike, Fight Master was a major loser. It was down 92 percent in men 18-34, 91 percent with adults 18-34 and down 87 percent with adults 18-49.
However, it promptly shot up - episode 2 did 545,000 and the 3rd did 676,000 - making the three companies (Bellator, Spike and Viacom, hereafter known as BSV) look smart in their decisions to forge ahead and for Spike in particular to replay it often enough to garner a greater interest. The 3rd episode was still below Spike's primetime average of 700,000 - 850,000 viewers, but that's still a 24% increase from #2 and 56% up from the #1. Most of the growth has come in the Male 18-34 demo, which started at a shockingly low 0.3 the first week, grew to a 0.4 the second week, and rose all the day to 0.73 for the third episode.
Episode 4 started the series of peaks and valleys for BSV and Fight Master, as ratings dropped 25% down to 505,000, but they rebounded acceptably with 629,000 in episode 6.
Episode 7, however, is another story, and the tweets tell a shocking tale:
Early ratings in for Fight Master from last night. Slipped to 398,000, which I think is the series low, unfortunately.— John Morgan (@MMAjunkieJohn) August 8, 2013
Fight Master audience slipped 47 percent among adults 18-49 compared to its lead in program: COPS. That depresses me.— John Morgan (@MMAjunkieJohn) August 8, 2013
"It was down -77% with A18-49, -79% with A18-34, -76% with M18-34, and -75% with M18-49, compared to TUF 17 (most recent FX season)."— Robert Sargent (@MMARising) August 8, 2013
"Fight Master was down -89% with A18-49, -91% with A18-34, -89% with M18-34 and -87% with M18-49 compared to TUF 14 (last season on Spike)."— Robert Sargent (@MMARising) August 8, 2013
The spin that can come from BSV is that they don't have Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Wrestling as a lead in, and there's a good point to be had there. TUF initially did very well because they used to follow World Wrestling Entertainment's (WWE) highly rated RAW show - the highest rated TV show on cable for some time. However, there's really no way to look at this past week's rating as anything short of awful.
Everyone knew they weren't going to match what the UFC does in terms of popularity, but they were hoping that Fight Master would come close. Instead, they can't even beat out their lead-in show, COPS, which more than doubled their viewership with 960,000 people. For Pete's sake, an episode of Full House did over 1.9 million viewers at the exact same 10PM slot on Nick at Nite.