In America, a person with the proper cable setup can watch a game from the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL almost every single day of the year. Throw in college football and basketball and you’ve pretty much got every day on the calendar covered with at least one major sporting event. This year-round cycle of sports keeps fans constantly interested and the country’s many sports journalists with material to publish, and, if anything, provides people with something to watch on television after work.

There is, however, one day each year when no major sporting events take place. It’s during that slow summer period when everyone but Major League Baseball is in its off-season. Of course, you can’t have a 162-game season without at least a little bit of a break, so each year the MLB takes a few days off for the All-Star Game and its associated festivities. The day before the All-Star Game features the often celebrated/much maligned Home Run Derby, which can serve as decent background viewing during a Monday night in the summertime (especially if a few beers are also involved). The same can be said for the All-Star Game itself, which is certainly a staple of summer in America, but probably not looked at with a terrible amount of importance by most. And then comes the day after the All-Star Game, when Major League Baseball simply takes a day off, thus establishing the annual professional sports dead zone. In 2013, that dead zone falls on Wednesday, July 17.

In my last column, I went over some of the UFC events taking place this summer. The promotion is running an unprecedented eight events between July and September, increasing its offerings for new and existing viewers as it continues to help push the growth of MMA overall. In July, the UFC is putting on two shows: UFC 162 on July 6 and a UFC on Fox event on July 27, both Saturday evenings. Given its overall efforts to gain as much exposure as possible, wouldn’t it make sense for the UFC to also plan to run shows on the day when literally no other major sports are taking place? Let’s examine the positives and negatives.

On the plus side, such exclusivity would give the UFC prime positioning to advertise its product. In a sports-hungry place like America, being the one athletic offering available for viewing on any day could draw in a decent number of new viewers who just want some sports to watch that night. Sure, many folks spend their summer evenings outside or otherwise away from the television, but there’s still a sizable group of folks for whom television-watching (and, specifically, sports-watching) has become a regular feature of their evenings, no matter the weather. The UFC could capitalize on that habit by scheduling a jam-packed card for the one day a year when it has no other competition from more established professional sports.

In addition, the weekday scheduling could serve to the UFC’s additional advantage. If weeknights in the summer tend to pull more people away from the television, summer Saturdays are even worse, as that’s prime social time, particularly for the UFC’s target demographic. Of the UFC’s eight summer events in 2013, six take place on Saturday nights. The quality of those six events makes it unlikely that viewership will suffer tremendously, despite the time of year, but it will almost certainly be more experienced fans occupying the vast majority of their viewership. While certainly not guaranteed, airing a big-time UFC card on a Wednesday night when there’s nothing else on would be a more effective way to lure in new viewers.

Of course, the UFC would have to get some help from Fox in order to pull off such an endeavor. The two summer cards in 2013 that are not on Saturday nights are on Wednesdays, the same night of the week as the sports dead zone, but because the events air on Fox Sports 1 (and, in fact, are meant to promote the network’s inception) they are easier to schedule. Time will tell what the ratings for those shows will look like, but the UFC would need to go bigger than basic cable for an All-Star Break event. Since very few people, even the UFC’s most hardcore fans, are going to order a pay-per-view event on a Wednesday night, this leaves basically one option, and it would take some negotiating.

While Fox has seen fit to give up a handful of Saturday nights each year to the UFC, it has yet to make the jump to airing the promotion’s events during the workweek, likely because network executives are unsure if it would out-draw whatever sitcom or reality show alternative that would broadcast otherwise. The UFC probably needs another year, and some stellar numbers on its upcoming Fox and Fox Sports 1 cards, to prove to the big network that its product is viable any day of the week. A single UFC card surely costs a hell of a lot more to produce than a couple episodes of Master Chef, so Fox would need to be assured an acceptable return on its investment. Remember, too, that the UFC has not even had 10 events on Fox yet, so the network is still in “wait-and-see” mode before making a serious commitment.

So far, the UFC has only scheduled events through November of this year, but with the launch of Fox Sports 1 and the ever-growing popularity of MMA, the ratings should continue to rise. It won’t be until spring of 2014 that the UFC begins to consider its summer shows, but hopefully things will have progressed to where Fox would consider letting the promotion revive the sports dead zone. Sure beats reruns of The Big Bang Theory.

Photo: The inside of the HP Pavilion for UFC on Fox 7 (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

About The Author

Eric Reinert
Staff Writer

Eric Reinert has been writing about mixed martial arts since 2010. Outside the world of caged combat, Eric has spent time as a news reporter, speechwriter, campaign strategist, tech support manager, landscaper and janitor. He lives in Madison, Wis.