Even with starting late due to the Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State football game on FS 1 running long, Saturday’s UFC 217 prelims did 1,276,000 viewers, the largest number of the year.
The number was the highest for pay-per-view prelims since the UFC 207 show on Dec. 30, prior to the Ronda Rousey vs. Amanda Nunes fight, did 1,511,000 viewers.
With the football game going long, the scheduled 8 p.m. show didn’t begin until 8:33 p.m., which under normal circumstances is a determent to ratings. In this case, it was a benefit. The game peaked so high that because of the lead-in, the highest rated fight was the first one that aired on FS 1, the Ovince Saint-Preux knockout win over Corey Anderson that did 1,394,000 viewers.
The first 33 minutes of the prelims were moved to FS 2, which was the Randy Brown decision win over Mickey Gall, and did 251,000 viewers, which would be the second highest ever for prelims that aired on FS 2 that were not advertised to do so.
Over the two-hour period, the fights streaming on Fox Sports Go and FOX Now averaged a combined 20,856 viewers.
The portion of the show that aired on FS 1 finished second in its time slot on cable in both the 18-34 and 18-49 male demo, behind the Texas vs. Texas Christian football game on ESPN. The prelims went head-to-head with major college football games on CBS, ABC, FOX, ESPN and ESPN 2, as well as NASCAR on NBC Sports Network. It also went partially against HBO boxing, although the Deontay Wilder vs. Bermain Stiverne heavyweight title fight itself from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, started after the prelims were over and during the pay-per-view portion of the show.
Dana White claimed the pay-per-view blew past 1 million buys, which, if accurate, would be the first UFC show to hit such a mark since the Rousey vs. Nunes fight. In 2016, there were a record five UFC pay-per-view events to top 1 million buys, and the prelims before those shows ranged from 1,300,000 for the second Conor McGregor vs. Nick Diaz fight, to 1,843,000 for the first McGregor vs. Diaz fight. Ironically, the most-purchased pay-per-view was the second McGregor vs. Diaz fight.
The post-fight show did 321,000 viewers, up from 221,000 for UFC 216, the show headlined by Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee.
Friday night’s Bellator show from State College, Pa., built around a main event of Ryan Bader vs. Linton Vassell for the light heavyweight title, did 508,000 viewers on Friday night, and another 62,000 watching over the next three days via DVR. The number is along the lines of most of the recent Bellator shows, although well up from the 438,000 for the previous show headlined by Gegard Mousasi vs. Alexander Shlemenko two weeks earlier.
Interestingly, the high point of the show came early, with the Phil Davis vs. Leo Leite fight, which did 695,000 viewers on Friday night and another 105,000 viewers via DVR. Another key to the show was Davis, a former NCAA champion at Penn State, returning to the Bryce Jordan Center on the college campus. In addition, wrestling legend Cael Sanderson was doing commentary during that fight.