Pro Wrestling

7 Reasons Why Raw’s Falling Ratings Don’t Actually Matter Source:

Ever since the Monday Night Wars, wrestling fans have been obsessed with television ratings. But it’s not their fault, WWE has continued to make ratings a focus in their product, after all, they are the highest-rated wrestling program on television. However, over the past years, things have not been sunshine and roses as far as WWE’s ratings are concerned. The heady days of the Attitude Era are long gone, and episodes of Raw are setting records for the lowest ratings of the modern era. Headlines scream about the new lows that WWE seems to be sinking to on a regular basis, and the WWE stock price jumps up and down like a yo-yo every time the question of ratings comes up at quarterly meetings. But despite all the uproar, WWE shouldn’t be worried, because in the end, WWE’s weekly television ratings end up meaning absolutely nothing to them. Confused? Let us explain.

7. Raw’s Ratings Are Still Better Than (Almost) Everything Else On Cable

While wrestling is nowhere near as popular as it was during the Monday Night Wars, it is still a top five cable program. Even at its worst, Raw’s ratings are still far and away the best on USA Network, often by significant amounts. Comparing Raw to broadcast ratings and programs like Monday Night Football is a foolish strategy, because even at the most popular wrestling has ever been, it never even came close to matching those numbers. WWE may pretend it’s competing with the NFL every Monday, but even they know that just because they have more Twitter followers, doesn’t make them a threat. However, they can (and should) still point to 95% of cable programs and say “we’re way better than all of those”, and they would be absolutely correct, as long as they’re not talking about The Walking Dead. Source:

6. DVR Is Rendering Overnight Ratings Obsolete

We said earlier that WWE has sold themselves to TV networks as “DVR-proof” because it’s a live show, like other sporting events. However, with the ever-increasing tide of homes with a DVR (and the increased capabilities of the devices), nothing, not even sports, is safe. People record everything now and watch it later, even if it’s just to skip the commercials, and since sporting events, including Raw, are as much as three hours long or more, they’re actually a prime target for being recorded, and with that will come a hit to the overnight ratings. The good news is, television is finally realizing that overnight ratings have become less meaningful thanks to the DVR, hence the advent of the Live+3 and Live+7 ratings. In fact, the Fox Network recently announced that they will no longer pay attention to overnight ratings at all and will focus on the ratings which account for DVR viewings, and other networks are expected to follow suit. Source:

5. Weekly Ratings Don’t Mean Anything

During the Monday Night Wars, wrestling fans were taught that the only thing that mattered was getting a bigger rating than the other guys that week. Marquee matches were given away on free TV, counter-programming ran wild, and the very fact that Raw is a live show were all things that centered around that almighty weekly ratings number. Except TV ratings for a single week, taken in a vacuum, are functionally meaningless for determining the quality of a show. WCW’s ratings were actually going up before the nWo was introduced due to some strong main event feuds that were already ongoing. When WWE was hitting its peak creatively in the late 90’s, it was still getting spanked by WCW in the ratings, because casual viewers hadn’t caught on to the rise in quality yet. Ratings don’t actually reflect the content that is being shown at the time, they’re the product of longer trends and many outside factors. In Raw’s case, things like holidays, other TV programs (especially Monday Night Football), even the time of the year in terms of the wrestling calendar (ratings always trend down in the fall, then rise in January as the Road to WrestleMania starts) all can be used to explain away bad ratings on a weekly basis. Source:

4. A 2.0 Now Is Not The Same As A 2.0 Ten Years Ago

This is for those pointing out that WWE is pulling in the same ratings that WCW was doing just before it fell off a cliff and vanished. From a straight numerical perspective, that is true. However, what that number doesn’t tell you is that each percentage point reflects an exponentially larger number of viewers now than it did even a few years ago. In addition, the number of options for that viewing audience has exploded in size, especially on cable, where new specialty channels have continued to splinter and refine audiences down to remarkably specific interests. WWE is no longer a big fish in a fairly small pond, while they’re still a sizable fish, they’re now swimming in an ocean of viewers with a truly ridiculous number of other fish. With so many options, an admittedly niche product like professional wrestling (they’ll deny it to the death, but pro wrestling is not a mainstream interest) is going to take a hit, as they share viewership with so many other similar genres, like the MMA demographic, and the ever-increasing glut of reality shows, and of course, the constant diversification of professional sports, as more and more varied athletic competitions find their way onto the airwaves. Source:

3. WWE’s TV Deals Have Increased In Value

While their new domestic TV deal with NBC Universal (which owns USA) wasn’t high enough to impress stockholders in 2014, it still represented an increase of roughly 50% of the previous deal. Raw ratings, while still higher at the time than they are now, have still trended downward ever since the highs of the Attitude Era, yet WWE’s domestic TV contracts have been for more and more money every time. WWE has managed to sell their product to networks on the fact that it’s a live television show that most people watch when it airs, and that it’s supposedly “DVR-proof” (it isn’t, but we’ll get to that). And it’s not just that the deal was for more money, it’s the fact that there was competition between networks to sign WWE. If a minor league organization like TNA, which has done nothing but fail for fifteen years, can keep getting television deals, WWE shouldn’t have any issues in that regard. Source:

2. WWE Network Is Ahead Of The Curve

For a while, WWE Network was the biggest joke in wrestling circles. For years before its eventual release, many figured it was an impossibility, that WWE was throwing money down a hole that they would never see a return on. When it debuted to decent but disappointing (in the eyes of shareholders) subscriber numbers, while simultaneously thumbing their nose at Pay Per View providers, many continued to predict doom. However, lost amidst the naysayers is the fact that the WWE Network is a landmark achievement, and quite possibly represents the future of all television. It’s an archive of a huge percentage of all North American pro wrestling, available completely on demand, and it’s also a live, streaming, 24/7 service that contains original content, including monthly Pay Per View events and a slate of weekly programming. And, as of the last two quarterly financial reports, it’s profitable. It’s nowhere close to the number of subscribers WWE promised investors, but it is making money. In the absolute worst case, almost certainly not going to happen for a long time if ever scenario, if all else fails and WWE can’t find a home for their programming on television, they have their own platform to keep it alive. Source:

1. WWE Is Literally Too Big To Fail

The fact of the matter is, WWE could survive as a profitable entity for years without even having a weekly live television program. Their live event (non-televised shows) revenue is up, merchandise sales are up, and they recently reported that they’ve completely replaced the profits from Pay Per View buys that were lost when they moved them to the WWE Network. Also, as mentioned, they have exclusive control over almost the entire history of North America pro wrestling, with nearly all video footage that exists from most major promotions (and they’re always looking to acquire more). They could do nothing but release nostalgia-based DVD sets and stay afloat (albeit with a very different business model). Even the much-maligned WWE Studios film division has seemingly learned the secret to making money, through low-budget straight-to-DVD releases and buying distribution rights to smaller films that have already been made. Yes, in the incredibly unlikely event that USA Network decided tomorrow to somehow kick Raw off their channel, and no other network picked them up, WWE would still continue to be successful and potentially even profitable until they found a way to continue on. Source:
Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle is an avid wrestling and film fan. He's been writing about WWE, movies, and video games for Goliath since 2015.