UFC 256 may go down as the best card of 2020, but the prelims on ESPN2 only returned average results.
The preliminary card headlined by Cub Swanson’s knockout win against Daniel Pineda ultimately averaged 503,000 viewers over a 2 1/2-hour broadcast on ESPN2 this past Saturday night. The card earned a .16 in the coveted 18-49 year old demographic, which was good enough for No. 24 overall for cable ratings on Saturday.
The top rated program for the day was LSU’s upset win over Florida in college football, which earned 4.622 million viewers on average while airing on ESPN.
When it comes to average ratings for 2020 as the final pay-per-view of the year, the UFC 256 prelims ended as the second-lowest broadcast behind only UFC 254, which earned 343,000 average viewers. It must be noted, however, that UFC 254 was a daytime card with the prelims airing at noon ET with the show on ESPN2.
Of course, the shift to ESPN2 also affects the ratings with a smaller overall audience tuning into the network.
The last four UFC pay-per-views in 2020 all aired on ESPN2 with the highest-rated card coming at UFC 255, which averaged 587,000 viewers during the broadcast.
When looking at 2020 as a whole, the UFC averaged just over 907,000 viewers across 11 pay-per-views. That’s up from 2019 where the UFC averaged 894,000 viewers on average.
Here are the full average prelim ratings for the UFC in 2020:
UFC 256: 503,000 (ESPN2)
UFC 255: 587,000 (ESPN2)
UFC 254: 343,000 (ESPN2, 12 p.m. ET start time)
UFC 253: 523,000 (ESPN2)
UFC 252: 831,000
UFC 251: 809,000
UFC 250: 775,000
UFC 249: 1.154M
UFC 248: 1.195M
UFC 247 8:52PM: 1.491M (8 p.m. ESPNEWS: 134K )
UFC 246: 8:22 p.m. 1.767M (8 p.m. ESPNEWS: 279K)
The highest rated preliminary broadcast was actually the first pay-per-view of the year in January at UFC 246 with that card earning 1.767 million viewers on average. UFC 246 featured the return of Conor McGregor on pay-per-view, which undoubtedly helped to boost the prelims airing on ESPN.