Dana White Talks TUF on Friday Night Time Slot: ‘You Just Don’t Bump Sons of Anarchy’


Ron Perlman

Sons of Anarchy actor Ron Perlman

Now that the first ever season of The Ultimate Fighter Live has wrapped, UFC and FX executives can start picking apart what went right and what went wrong.

The inaugural season of the show on FX was hit and miss depending on who you ask about the overall impact throughout the first run.

The ratings for the first ever installment of The Ultimate Fighter on FX were the lowest in the 15 season history of the reality show, but it was also the first time the show has ever been shifted to a Friday night timeslot, a notoriously tough place to perform well.

On the positive side however, UFC president Dana White has pointed to how happy FX and Fox executives are with the show’s ratings because the network has seen huge improvements over the programming they previously slotted in on Friday nights.

Still, White has said on several occasions that he’s not happy in the bigger picture regarding the ratings and the overall impact of the show, and changes will be made.

One part that will be tough, however, is moving away from the Friday night timeslot the UFC reality show currently occupies.

“This thing got dumped on Fox. This thing got stuck on FX and I wanted to be on FX for The Ultimate Fighter. So when we made the deal, that was part of the deal. The problem is with FX this is a real network. These guys have tons of award winning shows and they have their schedules laid out. They don’t just make the schedule in a few months,” White said recently.

“They have their schedule laid out, they have ad sales, they have all this stuff laid out in place already, so there’s no place to put it, except for Fridays.”

When the UFC first landed their programming on Spike TV, the two partners were both settling into a television format that benefited both. In Spike TV’s case they didn’t already have a lot of original programming, so the UFC was able to pick and choose their spots for things like The Ultimate Fighter and the UFC Fight Night shows that took place on the network.

There wasn’t much of a need to worry about bumping other original programming because, at the time, Spike TV just didn’t have that much.

“It’s not black and white; it’s not as simple as it seems. It’s not ‘FX is stupid. Why would they throw it on (Friday).’ Cause that’s the night they had. It’s the only night they had. They sell all that (expletive). This isn’t Spike,” White stated recently when speaking to a group of reporters.

Sons on Anarchy actors Tommy Flanagan & Mark Boone Jr.

“Spike, we had the freedom to go wherever we wanted to. What are we going to bump, Manswers? (Expletive) 1,000 Ways to Die? You know what I mean? It was awesome. I’m not knocking them; it sounds like I’m making fun of them, but I’m not. But they’re not FX.”

At FX, the network has had a long standing history of original and award winning programming that already have most of the weeknights penciled in throughout the course of a calendar year.

Shows like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, American Horror Story, and Justified have loyal audiences built from their programming base. Not to mention the ratings around these shows have made FX a powerhouse in the cable network programming world.

Season 7 of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which coincidentally airs on Thursday nights at 10 p.m., the same time The Ultimate Fighter used to air on Spike TV, pulled in 2.3 million viewers for their debut in 2011.

The Kentucky based drama Justified raked in a whopping 4.2 million viewers for its debut back in 2010, and has continued to be a ratings success for FX ever since. The show has also been nominated for several awards including the Emmys and the Peabody Awards.

And the biggest juggernaut for FX is the outlaw biker drama Sons of Anarchy, which continues to be the network’s biggest cash cow. The show pulled in its highest ratings ever for their season 4 debut at just under five million viewers and the season as a whole was the No. 2 basic cable drama with an average of 5.5 million viewers.

That’s a big reason why The Ultimate Fighter won’t be bumping much of FX’s already stellar original programming.

“(Expletive) Sons of Anarchy, you’ve got all these shows that are nominated, award winning shows. You just don’t bump Sons of Anarchy over here. We had a lot more freedom over at Spike than we do at FX, but we will figure it out,” White promised.

The key to everything for the future of The Ultimate Fighter is the fact that FX and Fox executives along with UFC executives are behind the long running reality show. What tweaks and changes lie ahead remain a mystery, but the show isn’t going anywhere, it just might get revamped a little bit prior to the next season debut, which should kick out in the fall of 2012.

“They’re some of the best guys in television that work there and we’ll get this thing figured out. They’re passionate about our show too and they want to make this thing a home run,” said White.

“I told you guys when we did this deal there’s a lot of work to do over the next two years.”

Follow @DamonMartin on Twitter or e-mail Damon Martin.
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