AEW and NXT both fall in the key demo, Dynamite finishes sixth

Originally published at AEW and NXT both fall in the key demo, Dynamite finishes sixth

The St. Patrick’s Day Slam edition of AEW Dynamite featuring the first women’s main event on the program finished sixth on cable.

AEW Dynamite averaged 768,000 viewers and a 0.28 in the 18-49 demographic representing a small increase of 3.4 percent viewership but fell 12.5 percent in the demo from last week. It was their second-lowest demo figure of 2021 behind the January 6th episode, which was the night of the attack on the Capitol and led to a surge for cable news programs.

NXT finished 42nd for the night on cable with 597,000 viewers and a 0.13 in the 18-49 demographic, which are declines of 13.6 percent in viewers and a 27.7 percent drop in the demo. It was NXT’s third-lowest performance in the demo since launching on the USA Network in September 2019.

It was St. Patrick’s Day and therefore, the potential that viewership would be affected by people going out especially with more and more restrictions being eased up in the United States.

The cable chart was topped by MTV’s The Challenge that did a 0.48 in the demo and 891,000 viewers while the NBA game between Milwaukee and Philadelphia ran head-to-head with 931,000 viewers and a 0.31 in the demo on ESPN. AEW did edge out the NBA game among women 18-49.

For AEW, they saw an increase of 24 percent among adults over 50 while NXT fell 13 percent with that demo. AEW increased by 15 percent with males 12-34 but were hit by a 21 percent loss among women 18-49.

For NXT, the largest loss was among adults 18-34 that plunged 43.5 percent to 0.13, which is a dramatically low number in that demo. The show did see notable increases with both males and females between 12-34.

Neither show placed among the top ten sports programs in Canada, so both were below 119,400 viewers.

Here is a breakdown of the key demos:

Source: Showbuzz Daily

ADULTS 18-49
AEW: 0.28 (-12.5 percent)
NXT: 0.13 (-27.7 percent)

FEMALES 18-49
AEW: 0.15 (-21 percent)
NXT: 0.12 (Even)

MALES 18-49
AEW: 0.41 (-9 percent)
NXT: 0.13 (-43.5 percent)

ADULTS 18-34
AEW: 0.14 (Even)
NXT: 0.08 (Even)

FEMALES 12-34
AEW: 0.11 (+10 percent)
NXT: 0.07 (+40 percent)

MALES 12-34
AEW: 0.15 (+15 percent)
NXT: 0.11 (+22 percent)

ADULTS 25-54
AEW: 0.34 (-8 percent)
NXT: 0.16 (-30 percent)

ADULTS 50+
AEW: 0.31 (+24 percent)
NXT: 0.34 (-13 percent)

There is a long-term problem in pro-wrestling. Namely, the decline of TV ratings.

All of “linear” TV has seen declines since the rises of on-demand viewing.

Wrestling is struggling with this like the other types of programming. WWE most of all (especially Raw). But AEW is also struggling.

Wednesday night wrestling viewership (AEW+NXT) is on a long decline. AEW recent improvement in the 50+ demo is not a good sign (to me), as it means AEW is chasing the WWE fans (who are old.) The decline (over the past few months compared to earlier) in the young female demo may be a sign that AEW’s turn towards the more blood-thirsty aspects of wrestling is backfiring.

The inability to grow viewership for wrestling is coming home to roost.

The failure of Lucha Underground was a harbinger of how difficult it was going to be to ever start another wrestling show for TV. LU had the backing of the biggest name in reality TV, yet still failed. Some people (e.g. Bryan Alvarez) looked for excuses (like inter-gender matches) for the loss of popularity. I doubt that was the reason LU failed.

Rather, as a form of entertainment professional wrestling is not making much of an impact on young people.

I hope John and Wei can dive into this thorny problem more deeply. On-demand viewers are great… if you have a very great many of them (see Netflix.) But right now AEW survives by their TNT contract, and TNT will have a trip-line of what demos are unacceptable to them. For now doing a .28 in the key demo may be good for TNT, but if AEW creeps down to where NXT is doing in the demos, I suspect that will not be good enough.

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A 20% drop in women 18-49 when AEW have their first women’s main event is a bit weird. Neither of these shows are doing well viewership wise. Unfortunate because NXT is actually building up good feuds but they’re struggling.

If it’s not a special show or one where a celebrity/legend is appearing then casuals that pay attention to wrestling aren’t interested let alone anyone new.

Yes, Lucha Underground had Mark Burnett’s name attached. But it was also on one of the worst viewed networks on cable. LU was a niche offshoot of a niche ‘sport’ on a niche network most people didn’t know about or didn’t get. I personally don’t think that getting four seasons is a failure. Lucha Underground was never going to be a player, just like Bloodsport never will.

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Young adolescents aren’t going to go that crazy over shows that are desperate for the same type of good PR as Nickelodeon. Wrestling should be more punk and have more edge to it but like most organisations they’re scared shitless about people being upset on social media.

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On what planet was LU a failure? I don’t think it was ever expected to be an industry changing phenomenon. It served its purpose really well, developed new talent, showcased a new style of production and lasted four seasons.

It “failed” because it never capitalized on the popularity of season one. They should have toured or done anything to increase the brand but it felt like they were only interested in being a TV property.

It was a gamble for a fledgling network, says nothing about the industry as a while

I’m wondering how much lower NXT can go. When will USA boot them to Tuesday?

Is el rey still a thing?

I agree with this, and believe that is one reasons indies were booming pre-Covid around the world.

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The matches don’t really contribute that much to the image of a promotion unless they’re known simply for that type of match. I’d say the matches don’t even contribute that much to why wrestling fans watch wrestling. Feuds, characters, and how a promotion carries themselves contributes more to people caring. And at the moment, nothing regarding those three things will make people, who aren’t already wrestling fans, pay attention. That’s why the Attitude Era worked. Most of it didn’t make sense but it made a lot of noise. The content wouldn’t actually be good but there’d be excitement.

Not sure I would use “booming” to describe the indies, but there was a healthy indie wrestling industry.

But I offer up this for the success of these small companies: their fans were exactly there to be part of a small group. An “in crowd”, groupies. Entertainment always has these things. Pop music is rife with this. Even the restaurant industry is like this, with “pop-up” joints being kept afloat by an in-crowd of diehard fans of the chef.

And that is fine. It’s great that there are creative outlets and their fans.

I’m proposing that wrestling really is going all that way. The idea of a major television show with millions of viewers being the goal for a wrestling show is not something for the future.

I’m not bashing AEW for not achieving the heights of WWE. Rather, I’m saying all wrestling, even WWE, is going to be a loosely connected set of niche companies. WWE is well on it’s way to being bought out by Comcast/NBCU, and if you look at what is on PeacockTV on this day, the WWEshows they push are in no small part nostalgia. This is done to try and squeeze the last penny out of anything WWE ever recorded.

But this does not lead to a fountain of new younger fans. It’s simply extracting the last bit of value from investments made decades ago.

Earth.

If the idea of a venture is to make a bunch of money, then LU failed.

Well, that’s my point. Even Burnett could not get LU on a cable network large enough to make it a success. By success I’m talking commercial success, not artistic success. I liked LU and thought it was a very interesting attempt to make something new in wrestling.

LU shows up on freebie streaming service Tubi ( Watch Lucha Underground - Free TV Series | Tubi ) . Tubi (and similar services) is where B-movies (and worse) go to get parked, because the audience for them is really small. (Wonderful stuff can be found for free online, but if it is “free” then perhaps we should ponder why.)

The attitude era also benefited from a lack of comparable competition as well as benefit to be from a much smaller selection available. There has often been a lot of cross over between wrestling fans and of their “nerd” cultures
. Comics/Superhero’s, martial arts, anime (wrestling is essentially live action shonen anime), sci-fi/fantasy fans etc. in the 90s there were far fewer (and often far worse) options in these areas, and what was available (unless you were using a vcr) was only available at certain times. Take anime for example in the late 90s anime was largely available on Saturday morning on very few channels, or through VHS tapes, and then as we got into the 2000s on Cartoon Network Friday nights. So it wasn’t competing with wrestling. Now I can stream basically all the anime I could ever want any day at any time. So I need to want to watch wrestling more than I want to watch anime for me to want to watch wrestling. This holds true for basically every genre at this point. Wrestling needs to flat out beat out my other options, rather than being one of relatively few options. Throw in the addition of UFC as an alternative and it doesn’t paint a great picture. Channel flipping is also basically a thing of the past in most cases.

The attitude era also benefited from kids that grew up loving Hulkamania and the like (wrestlers were Staring in cartoons in the 80s) hitting young adult hood right when WWE went “mature”. You don’t have that now.

Taking all of that into account there is no way wrestling is going to ever be what it was at its peak. It can only service it’s own audience as well as possible and hope they bring in new fans.

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This This This This! I am am a perfect example of what you are describing. When I was a kid in the 80’s/early 90’s, I was your typical “Hulkamaniac”. When I got to my late teens, boom the attitude era hit which was the perfect tone for a wrestling show for me given my age. Its hard to describe how hot it was to people who didn’t live through that time. To give an example, I can remember sitting in class in 1998, and a buddy walking into class with an Austin 3:16 shirt, and literally 75% of the guys being like “where did you get that!!!” For me it was awesome, I went from being the only kid who watched wrestling during the Bret/Shawn era, to being the guy that everyone came to so they could get the scoops because at that point I was on sites 1wrestling and later PWInsider.

To piggy back on your point, I think WWE completely missed the mark in the mid 2010’s. Despite it not being my thing, the PG/Cena era made sense. You had a generation of wrestling fans that were leaving in droves, so they like a loosing sports team decided to “rebuild” and went into the PG era and brought in a TON of new wrestling fans who idolized John Cena. The mistake, is 10+ years in they needed to evolve from that and do something that all those early 2000’s kids would love when they got to their late teens/early 20’s, instead WWE just kept going in the same direction. I think this is the audience that AEW is getting right now. Had WWE evolved and gotten a bit more mature with their content (and I dont mean attitude era mature), I think there would be no AEW because WWE would have kept that audience in addition to their current audience.

I was big on Hulk Hogan as well even watching his cartoon and also remember Sgt. Slaughter being on GI Joe in the 80s. Hogan also did guest spots on the A team and Mr T in WWE. I somewhat agree with you on the Cena era being a good idea, but I don’t think they went far enough to bring kids in with cross promotion. It may have been that cross promotion has largely become a thing of the past, but I don’t recall Cena being featured on any real kids show appearances like that (given I wasn’t a child so may have just been unaware). So you were aiming wrestling at kids, but really only at kids who were already tooning in. So almost more like making it a product that those attitude era fans could bring their kids to rather than making it be for kids, in the 80s wrestling was on Saturday mornings following cartoons it was also only an hour long. in the Cena era it was still largely later evening TV on weeknights. This might explain the aging audience, it isn’t that WWE made a product that brought in young fans, it is that they made a product that aged with their existing fans, who were now parents and not the young people watching the attitude era. The problem being is those kids that grew up from the parents bringing them in now don’t have a product that is growing with them, which is where I think AEW hits for many people, the issue is the subset of people who want that wrestling has shrunk.

Honestly perhaps the best model for WWE might have been a hard brand split between RAW and Smackdown (or a main event style program) and then market those programs to different audiences. Have one be the kids program with its own characters and feuds, then have RAW be the “mature” show that those kids grow into

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Closed up at the end of last year.

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Women do not watch women’s wrestling. If they did companies like Shimmer (which features actual women’s wrestling) and Stardom among other companies would be doing much better.

Stardom for example is a promotion mostly watched by men and if you look at some of the things they do they are for men.

I believe 55% of New Japan’s fans are women and they did not want any Stardom matches on Wrestle Kingdom 14 after Bushiroad (who owns New Japan and Stardom) bought Stardom.

I would be curious if the men’s viewers went up during the Dynamite main event (even more so than usual)?

You have to remember that cable ratings are different than broadcast ratings. At best they are a guess. They also do not count viewers like myself who watch both Wednesday Night shows (when I do watch them) on demand (via the USA Network or TNT App or in the case of NXT also Hulu, Peacock and the WWE Network app) along with those who “somehow” find a way to watch them.

Also the ratings for the Wednesday night shows are for the week before (if last week’s show was good usually the rating goes up) not that week’s show.

NXT is a “chore” to get through most weeks. Like I said to my buddy last January and that I have heard others say It’s a really good hour long show and an alright two hour show most weeks. I also think the Raw “stink” is seeping into NXT more so than Smackdown.

Both audiences at least in the US have “their audience” and right now are probably not going to grow anytime soon part of the reason being Covid (which is not pro wrestling’s fault). I would hope that WWE (which might blend into other companies) would be able to grown their audience once they get onto Peacock with a “really good” Wrestlemania but I do not see that happening.

I’m not saying and will never say that women cannot main event a show. I’m just saying do not necessarily expect women to watch a women’s main event.

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It didn’t help that at least on DIRECTV and I’m sure many other cable (I’m using the generic term not just saying cable companies) systems that the El Rey Network was not on the basic package and you had to pay extra for one of the other non premium channel packages.

Perfect summary.