THURSDAY NEWS UPDATE 6/8: UFC’s audience aging, shows Sports Business Journal study (w/Hiscoe’s Analysis)

By Michael Hiscoe, MMATorch contributor

A recent study by the Sports Business Journal shows a trend of increasingly aging audiences in sports television viewership, particularly for UFC.

The study showed the median ages of television viewers for various sports properties in the years 2000, 2006, and 2016. Nielsen and U.S. Census data was used to compile the figures.

UFC, who were not even on television in 2000, had a median age of 34 in 2006. This timeframe would have been a year into UFC’s deal with Spike TV and just as they were exploding on pay-per-view. Probably not coincidentally, pro wrestling had a very similar median age of 33 at the time. Spike originally aired “The Ultimate Fighter” immediately after WWE’s “Monday Night Raw” and to attract that audience.

In the 10 years since, however, UFC’s audience aged drastically, more than any other sport in the same time frame, save for pro wrestling. The UFC audience aged to 49 years old on average over the 10 years.

The reason this should be a troubling statistic for UFC is that they are right on the cusp of being outside of the key demographic (adults 18-49, males specifically in UFC’s case) that television advertisers are looking to reach when they buy ad space. With UFC’s deal with Fox coming up for renewal next year, UFC will want to be appealing to as many younger viewers as they can.

The bright side of this is that nearly every sport saw an increase in the average age of viewership and UFC still appeals to a younger audience than most sports. Only soccer and the NBA had younger viewers on average.

UFC’s youth viewership (ages 2-17) fell from 12% to 9% of their total audience in 2016, a sign that UFC’s audience may continue to age as time goes on unless they are able to do something to attract new, younger viewers.

With a TV deal coming up in a year, and a need to score a big TV contract. UFC should be looking to get younger viewers on board in the very near future.


Hiscoe’s Analysis: This sharp increase in the average age of a UFC viewer may be a matter of UFC being a relatively new sports property that is settling into a spot that is more realistic relative to other sports and the current TV landscape. Back in 2006, UFC was the cool thing and caught on huge with younger viewers. That was never going to last forever, so as the 25-year-olds who got into UFC in 2006 either aged or moved on to other things, the 25-year-olds of 2016 were finding other things to watch or do as UFC wasn’t the cool thing. It’s definitely a stat UFC will want to keep an eye on as they don’t draw the volume of viewers that the NFL does where having an average viewer in their 60s isn’t going to matter as much. With fewer than a million viewers for many shows on cable, UFC needs to aggressively appeal to the younger male demographic in order to be attractive to advertisers.


-Daniel Cormier appeared on “The Herd” with Colin Cowherd yesterday and shared his thoughts on why Jon Jones failed a drug test leading into UFC 200 last year. “I think he fought Ovince Saint Preux clean, and he didn’t like the way he felt and tried to do something again dirty and he got caught at UFC 200,” Cormier said. Jones was found to have used a tainted male enhancement supplement given to him by a friend prior to UFC 200.

-Wanderlei Silva pulled out of the Bellator press conference scheduled for today. He said he was feeling under the weather. (SOURCE)

-The Las Vegas Review-Journal is reporting that UFC President Dana White has purchased three Vegas mansions with a total value in excess of $6 million and has taken out permits to demolish all three in addition to a fourth home White has owned since 2006. All four homes are very close together.


-Brian Kelleher vs. Marlon Vera at UFC on Fox on July 22 from Long Island, NY.

-Jack Hermansson vs. Brad Scott at UFC Fight Night Mexico City on Aug. 5.

-Henry Cejudo vs. Wilson Reis, Sarah Moras vs. Ashlee Evans-Smith, and Luis Henrique vs. Arjan Bhullar all for UFC 216 on Sept. 9 from Edmonton, AB.


Watch Derrick Lewis take on Ruan Potts ahead of Lewis’ fight with Mark Hunt this weekend from New Zealand HERE.

NOW CHECK OUT YESTERDAY’S UPDATE: WEDNESDAY NEWS DIGEST 6/7: Holloway pays tribute to former Featherweight Champ Jose Aldo, Sonnen-Silva news (w/Hiscoe’s Analysis)

(MMATorch’s Daily News Digest features the top story of the day with added analysis, plus smaller tidbits in the News Notes section. Mike Hiscoe, who writes the News Digest Sundays through Thursdays, has a background in film criticism and previously wrote for the DVD Town and Movie Metropolis websites. His passion for Mixed Martial Arts goes back to 2005, but it was in the promotion for UFC 60: Hughes vs. Gracie that he really got hooked.”This is my house, I build it,” is still among the all-time great UFC promos. You can follow Mike on social media under the tag @mikehiscoe. He now provides his experienced writing and perspective on live MMA events for MMATorch.)

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