CBS puts up a fight Sat. night

Net places second in key demo but sees room for improvement

CBS launched its mixed martial arts franchise Saturday night with a fight that delivered decent ratings but taught the network some likely lessons for staging future events.

Looking at the usual ratings bracket, CBS placed second for the night in the adults 18-49 demographic, coming in one-tenth of a point behind NBC's airing of the Stanley Cup Finals, which tied with Fox's presentation of the movie "The Rookie" for first place. Yet the fight ran 45 minutes past the 11 p.m. hour, putting the headliner bout between Kimbo Slice and James Thompson outside usual primetime hours.

CBS opened the night with a "CSI" repeat (4.5 million viewers, 0.9 rating/4 share in adults 18-49), followed by its "EliteXC Saturday Night Fights Special" (4.3 million viewers, 1.9/6). According to the metered market overnights, however, the broadcast's viewership spiked during overtime. Exact numbers won't be available until national figures come in Tuesday.

CBS said that the primetime portion of the telecast nonetheless increased the network's time-period average in the demo by 36% compared with the past season.

The overtime not only hampered what could have been a CBS nightly ratings victory, but also frustrated some viewers.

"The broadcast dragged on interminably," Yahoo Sports wrote. "There was more chatting than 'The Tonight Show.' … When it was 70 minutes into the show, there had been just 2:12 (minutes) of fighting."

"There's a bit of a learning curve here, but I think we had a terrific start," said Kelly Kahl, head of scheduling for CBS. "We had three goals: Improve our Saturday night demos, get some new advertisers and expand viewership of the sport — and we did all three." (partialdiff)