Ratings Roundup: UFC on Fox Lives Up to the Hype; Penn State Posts Record for ESPN Noon Game

It may have only lasted 67 seconds, but the UFC’s grand debut on broadcast television pulled in a massive audience. Junior dos Santos first-round knock out of Cain Velasquez in the heavyweight championship bout was the most-watched UFC event ever and the most-watched professional fight of any kind in eight years, as the hour-long UFC on FOX premiere scored a 3.1/5 household rating/share and 5.7 million viewers.

The telecast was most-watched professional fight of any kind on any network since 2003 when 7.0 million tuned in to watch Lewis-Klitschko on HBO.  Velasquez-dos Santo is also the highest-rated and most-watched professional fight on a broadcast network Since Oscar De La Hoya’s Fight Night on Fox (4.3/6, 5.9 million viewers) in 1998. Finally, the fight bested the most recent high-profile MMA event on a broadcast network, the premier of CBS’s series of EliteXC events in 2008, which registered a 3.1 and 4.9 million viewers…

…The fight posted solid numbers despite going up against a trio of major college football games on Saturday night. ABC’s primetime Oregon-Stanford broadcast averaged a 6.0/11 overnight, while NBC’s Maryland-Notre Dame broadcast averaged a 1.4/3 and ESPN averaged a 1.5/3 for Alabama-Mississippi State (all overnights).  The UFC on FOX premiere also posted a 4.3, out-rating every college football telecast this season on any network with the exception of last week’s No. 1 vs. No. 2 LSU-Alabama match-up (through 11/5)…

…Earlier that day, ESPN rode the scandal-fueled Nebraska/Penn State college football game to the highest overnight ever for a Noon ET college football game on the network (records date back to 2001). The game, which became a item of national interest following the debacle that resulted in Joe Paterno’s firing, earned a 3.8 overnight rating on ESPN Saturday, up 120% from last year’s comparable Iowa/Northwestern game…

…NFL Network’s Thursday night opener between the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers was the most-watched opener in the six seasons of Thursday Night Football. The game was watched by an average of 5.3 million cable viewers (not including over-the-air stations in Oakland-San Francisco and San Diego), surpassing last year’s opening night record (5.0 million for Baltimore vs. Atlanta) by 6%. The game was also the night’s No. 1 show among all cable programs going up against the Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech college football game on ESPN, which drew 3.1 million viewers…

…Meanwhile, 20.9 million people tuned in to see the New England Patriots beat the New York Jets on Sunday Night Football, just off from last year’s Week 10 game (Patriots-Steelers, 21.2 million). The 12.9/20 household rating was up 1% from last year’s Week 10 game (12.8/20). Sunday Night Football is averaging 21.3 million viewers, tied with 2010 for the most through this point in the season in the six-year history of SNF, and a 12.9/20, which is up a tick from last year’s record of 12.8/21…

…As for football north of the border, the opening weekend of the CFL Playoffs – a Hamilton-Montreal overtime thriller – was watched by an average audience of more than 1.6 million viewers on TSN and RDS, The Edmonton-Calgary West semifinal attracted an average audience of 1.4 million viewers on TSN and RDS. Overall, more than 7.1 million Canadians tuned in to watch some of the CFL Playoffs on TSN on Sunday.

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