Fuel TV has pinned its ratings hopes on the Ultimate
Fighting Championship, and the mixed martial-
arts outfit has delivered. Bolstered
by a record 406 hours of UFC programming,
such as its daily news series UFC
Tonight and live fights, weigh-ins, preliminary
bouts and pre- and post-fight shows,
June 2012 was the most-watched month in
the history of the action sports-based network,
with total viewers up 56% compared to June 2011
and up 60% in the target male 18-49 demographic.
Since Fuel started airing UFC programming in
January, its primetime ratings are up 140% compared
to the first six months of 2011. The July 11
UFC Fight Night drew 211,000 viewers.
Fuel TV executive vice president and general
manger George Greenberg recently talked to Multichannel
News programming editor R. Thomas
Umstead about the positive ratings effect of UFC
programming and the network’s growing appeal
among 18-to-49-year-old men.
MCN: If you were to describe Fuel TV, what
would you say?
George Greenberg: Fuel TV is an action-based
network for 18-to-49-year-old men centered
on the back of the UFC. UFC programming for
us is approximately 50% of our base; it hits the
primetime and late-night time slots. If we want
shows to be sampled, UFC is a great programming
block to sample other shows, and we try to
spread out as much UFC product as we can.
MCN: Do you have any concerns about the
UFC brand becoming oversaturated, given the
amount of content you carry on Fuel as well as
what’s on FX and the Fox broadcast network?
GG: No. If you look at it as a pyramid where the
UFC has their pay-per-view business, then you
have Fox, FX and then you have Fuel TV. You
really have to look at it as a vertical and not a
typical pyramid — we promote up and we promote
down. Every UFC PPV fight will promote
the next event, whichever network it’s on. Every
event on FX will push to Fuel TV’s next event.
On Fuel TV, we created UFC Tonight,
which we push to the PPV
events and to FX.
I think the big question that
needs to be answered for the
viewers is, “Where can I find
this?” As the viewer becomes
more familiar — we’re only
months into the seven-year deal
— they’re migrating to the networks
that have the UFC. It’s going
to take time for the UFC fans
to find out where all the outlets
are and how much programming
is out there.
MCN: What audience demo are
you drawing in with the UFC?
GG: Our audience base last year
was men 12 to 34. We are now
squarely 18 to 49 as a target, with
a bull’s eye of 18 to 34. We have made that shift
quickly — those viewers are now finding Fuel TV
as a destination.
MCN: Given the network’s momentum, what
should we look forward to from Fuel?
GG:UFC Tonight is without a doubt a linchpin
for us, and you’ll see more UFC programming
like Unleashed and Reloaded. Also, you’ll see more
programming that educates the viewer that’s not
fight-related, including profiles of the next big
UFC fighters in all the weight classes. I think if
there’s anything that we can convey to people as
they sample this, it’s that of all the athletes out
there, [UFC fighters] are in some
of the most well-conditioned,
educated and elite-level of shape
of any athlete. We’re going to
broaden the viewer base and
educate people on how to watch
the UFC, and then anything that
helps us generate a push promotion-
wise to the next event is
something we’re always interested
in. We believe the programming
base for the UFC can be
MCN: Given the network’s
heavy UFC push, would you
consider rebranding and maybe
renaming the network?
GG: There’s no change in the
name, but we recently did [a
rebrand]. We started in January
and changed our logo and graphics. If you look
at what we were last year compared to now, it’s
a completely diff erent tone and intention for a
network that appeals to an older male with a bigger
It’s no longer a hyper-niche network that just
appealed to action-sports kids. We’ve grown up.