Fuel TV had to expect adding the UFC to its programming roster would result in some viewership growth. But through the first quarter of 2012, it may be exceeding its own expectations.
Fuel, part of the Fox Sports Media Group, on Tuesday announced it is the fastest growing network on cable so far in 2012 according to numbers released by Nielsen Media Research, the company that tracks television viewership. And the network is attributing the growth to the addition of the UFC in its lineup. The UFC began a seven-year broadcast deal with the Fox network this year, and in addition to programming on Fox, the UFC also has programming on Fuel TV and FX, cable channels in the Fox family.
In both total day programming and prime time, Fuel showed the largest percentage gains of viewers among all ad-supported cable networks through the first three months of 2012, according to a release. At the start of 2012, Fuel said it would air more than 2,000 hours of UFC programming this year. The cable network is on pace to broadcast nearly 2,600 hours of UFC alone this year. It started with 200 hours in January, then 233 hours in February and 213 hours in March.
On Feb. 15, Fuel broadcast its first live UFC card, UFC on Fuel TV: Sanchez vs. Ellenberger, and that event, in Omaha, Neb., gave Fuel its most watched program ever, and February was its most watched month in history.
"It is unbelievable how much impact the UFC has had on this network and its ratings," said George Greenberg, Fuel's executive vice president and general manager, in a statement. "We're thrilled to have the UFC as a partner driving this growth. With more upcoming live fights in April, May and through the year, we expect this trend to continue."
Fuel's next live card takes place April 14 from Stockholm, Sweden, the UFC's debut in that country. UFC on Fuel TV: Gustafsson vs. Silva features a main event between Sweden's Alexander Gustafsson and Thiago Silva, plus a co-main event between Brian Stann and Alessio Sakarra. On May 15, Fuel returns with a card in Virginia featuring a main event featherweight contenders bout between Dustin Poirier and "The Korean Zombie," Chan Sung Jung.
Some highlights from Fuel's record growth in 2012:
* Up 100 percent in total viewers and up 167 percent in the male 18-49 demographic vs. March 2011
* Prime time viewership up 209 percent on total viewers and up 325 percnet among males 18-49 vs. March 2011
* Late night increase of 170 percent on total viewers and up 600 percent among males 18-49 vs. March 2011
First Quarter 2012
* Fuel TV's most-watched in network history, finishing up 100 percent in total viewers and up 125 percent in males 18-49 vs. first quarter of 2011
* Prime time viewership increased 200 percent in total viewers and 260 percent among males 18-49 vs. 2011
* Late night up 222 percent total viewers and 275 percent among males 18-49 compared to Q1 of 2011