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TV Ratings: Fox Sports 1 Off to a Solid Start With UFC Programming

The new channel, which launched Saturday, averaged 1.7 million viewers in primetime.

FOX Sports Robot - H 2013
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Cleatus, the Fox Sports robot

Fox Sports 1 got off to a solid start on its first day.

The channel, which launched Saturday in about 90 million homes, drew an average of 1.7 million viewers in primetime (8-11 p.m. ET), according to Nielsen Media Research Fast National data, with a broadcast of UFC Fight Night: Shogun vs. Sonnen. Fox Sports pulled the plug on its Speed channel at 6 a.m. ET to launch Fox Sports 1.

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The network touted its primetime numbers as being a more than tenfold increase compared to the combined viewership of Speed, Fox Soccer and Fuel TV on the same night a year ago (141,000).

"We must congratulate the UFC for putting together a terrific event for the launch of Fox Sports 1 that fans were obviously very excited to watch," said Bill Wanger, executive vp programming and research at Fox Sports. "The prelims and main events were action-packed, and the production quality and new camera angles gave fans a totally new perspective. Hats off to the UFC and its incredibly loyal fan base for making our first night such a complete success."  

Fox Sports also said the new channel averaged a 1.3 household rating in primetime and drew higher ratings than the Big Four network among the key demos of adults 18-49, adults 18-34, men 18-49 and men 18-34.

Fox Sports 1 also aired several hours of live NASCAR programming on Saturday along with the debut of Fox Sports Live and a college football preview.

The inaugural airing of Fox Sports Live drew 476,000 total viewers, a 137 percent increase over Speed's performance in the time period (201,000). It also outperformed Speed's men 18-34 performance in the time period by a whopping 1,384 percent (163,000 vs. 11,000).

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While numbers weren't immediately available to compare Fox Sports 1's first-day performance to ESPN, that network's president, John Skipper, recently told The Hollywood Reporter that he wasn't worried about the added competition.

"We've had the great benefit of being able to be in the 24/7 cable sports television business for 30-plus years before other folks decided it was a good idea, so we are fortunate in having had that head start," he said, adding: "[T]he idea that there is some sort of sudden horse race is a little silly. To be fair to Fox, they have said that out loud: 'We know we're not going to be ESPN in two or three weeks.'"