The UFC announced on Monday that the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter Brasil: Team Wanderlei vs. Team Sonnen will air exclusively on Fight Pass outside of Brazil where it will air on television as a domestic season would anywhere else.
The question is, how will fans react to this?
The last time that The Ultimate Fighter took to South America during TUF Brasil: 2, the average ratings per week were reported to be just 1 million with rumors of a cancellation on the horizon. That season survived and concluded in June of last year.
Ratings for domestic seasons have also dropped as TUF 18 had the least viewed episode in the series history with just 476,000 viewers. The episode was the mid-season recap but numbers that low indicate a steady decline in regular viewership.
Now with the upcoming season airing on Fight Pass it may open up doors for ZUFFA on what works for the series. In that past, it may ave been hard for fans to devote that hour to a show they had little vested interest in on the night that it regularly aired. Now, they have the flexibility of not only watching it just a few short hours after it airs live in Brazil, but being on Fight Pass one would assume that they can fast forward and rewind episodes to skip parts that may be unfavorable. TUF: Live didn’t break any ratings records so the live aspect of these fights in particular is not the proper selling point.
This will also provide those who are on the fence about buying the Fight Pass an item to place on their ‘Pros’ list as they weigh their options and decide if the service is worth keeping. Despite the harsh criticism that the Fight Pass opened to, maybe this is a good way to ensure fans that besides live fights, they have something concrete to fall back on instead of the occasional event mixed in with a fight library that is far from complete or easy to navigate in these early stages.
On the flip side, fans may not put much stock in to the idea of paying $9.99 for the service with The Ultimate Fighter Series one that they would rather read a recap on the next day or skip all together. This may drop the casual or fledgling fan who tunes in to see a new fight during the show’s broadcast.
ZUFFA and the UFC certainly have their hands full in releasing this kind of content on to Fight Pass. Instead of interviews and previews in to fighter’s camps and upcoming events, this will be the first real series that will test the staying power of the Fight Pass if fans weren’t initially swayed by what was already laid out on the table.