EliteXC-CBS Ratings Down 43 Percent

By Loretta Hunt Jul 28, 2008
A little “Kimbo Slice” and Gina Carano (Pictures) apparently go a long way.

Preliminary ratings for EliteXC’s second primetime “Saturday Night Fights” outing showed a 43 percent drop in overall ratings from the promotion’s groundbreaking broadcast television debut on May 31. Despite the plunge, CBS representatives said it would not deter a third televised event from happening Oct. 4 in Sunrise, Fla.

The overnight “fast nationals” for EliteXC “Unfinished Business” reported a 1.9 household rating and 2.62 million viewers tuning in to watch middleweight champion Robbie Lawler (Pictures) decisively take out Sacramento native Scott Smith (Pictures) in the second round of their heated rematch. May 31’s “Primetime” event earned a 3.0 overall rating, netting 4.8 million viewers to make it the most watched live MMA event in the sport’s brief history.

“Primetime” featured Internet legend Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson earning a controversial third-round stoppage over British bomber James Thompson (Pictures), and saw female superstar Gina Carano (Pictures) shine in her duke-out victory against Kaitlin Young (Pictures). Ferguson and Carano were spectators cageside Saturday at the Stockton Arena. Ferguson and Carano will headline CBS’s Oct. 4 card.

UFC “Silva vs. Irvin,” which aired last Saturday on the smaller cable outlet Spike TV, banked a 2.1 rating and 3.1 million viewers.

Even with Stockton’s own Nick Diaz (Pictures) a major local attraction, Saturday’s live attendance numbers also saw a dip from May. Early estimates from the California State Athletic Commission reported a 250,000 dollar gate with around 3,700 tickets sold and 2,800 patrons comped within a 7,800-8,500 seating capacity. Official tallies are expected this week.

EliteXC “Primetime” lured in 8,033 spectators at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. on May 31. The New Jersey State Athletic Control Board does not release paid attendance figures, though the venue confirmed it had sold over 5,000 tickets nearly two weeks out from the event.

Kelly Kahl, Senior Executive Vice President for CBS Primetime, said Saturday’s ratings decline, though a bit lower than hoped, was expected.

“We didn’t have our ‘A-plus’ draws on the card, so we weren’t surprised, but we got incredible exposure for our others stars like Robbie Lawler (Pictures) and Scott Smith (Pictures), Nick Diaz (Pictures) and Jake Shields (Pictures), not to mention ‘Bigfoot’ Silva and Cristiane ‘Cyborg,’” said Kahl.

Kahl said the shortened preparation time likely lended to the lower ratings.

“We weren’t able to throw quite the same promotion at it. Because of the short turnaround, we weren’t able to put quite as an aggressive plan together,” he said. “Summer viewing numbers tend to be down a little. We still got a few million people to an MMA event and we kept EliteXC and ‘Saturday Night Fights’ in the public eye which was really the whole goal of coming back so quickly.”

Saturday’s event, which ran in the coveted live 9 p.m.-11 p.m. timeslot, garnered less outside paid media and cable advertising, according to Kahl, who noted the first event’s May campaign got a circulation boost with young men during the NCAA tournament. Regardless, Kahl said “Unfinished Business” still managed to sell every commercial advertising slot it offered, a feat also achieved on May 31. Burger King, Warner Brothers, and Corona beer were among the noted advertisers.

“We’ve already heard from a lot of the video game advertisers who will be pushing holiday titles that they want back in [on Oct. 4],” said Kahl. “The feedback we’re getting back from all of our advertisers is terrific.”

Kahl also believed CBS’s sophomore go-around garnered higher marks with the public.

“People seem to really recognize that we did a much better show than the first one,” he said. “The pace was better. Production values were better and we had better fights. We have a much improved product.”

CBS has no intentions of halting the return of “Saturday Night Fights” this fall, said Kahl.

“When we come back in October, we’ll have the benefit of college football, pro football, and greater circulation throughout the week, so we’re expecting a much greater performance in October," he said.
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