Going against the second night of the NFL Draft, Friday Night SmackDown hit another all-time low for a Fox broadcast.
The overnight figures pegged SmackDown at 2,104,000 viewers and were down 8% from last week’s previous low on Fox.
That was broken down to 2,050,000 for the first hour and 1,978,000 in the second hour. The show led up to the Triple H twenty-fifth-anniversary celebration that took up the final two segments of the show. It included live appearances by Shawn Michaels and Vince McMahon and cameos from Ric Flair, Stephanie McMahon, and Road Dogg by phone.
This week had a larger sports competition with the NFL Draft running on ABC and other cable properties. We only have the ABC data, which shows the draft doing 3.44 million viewers between 8-10 pm Eastern.
SmackDown also fell to 0.5 in the 18-49 demographic trailing all other programs on ABC, CBS, and NBC on Friday night. That had been the key demographic that SmackDown had been performing well in during Fridays.
The overnight figure doesn’t reflect the entire country with the final number out Tuesday.
This isn’t good news at all for WWE. Sure, they had competiton with the draft but it was night 2, not night 1. After the pandemic, I don’t see them getting these lost viewers back. Once you have tuned out for months, it becomes a habit not to watch for most.
I think that first show back in front of a live crowd is extremely important. No offense, but I don’t buy the “once you have tuned out for months, it becomes a habit not to watch” narrative because pretty much all TV and Sports show this not to be the case. All TV shows have their season finish not to come back for months, while in sports lets use the NFL as an example, they go off TV (game wise) for essentially 6 months and come the fall nobody is not watching again because its been too long.
If I were USA/Fox, once a date is chosen to start things back up, I would go off the air completely for a few weeks (maybe just show highlight shows or documentaries etc) and build that show up to get people to watch, and more importantly give a damn quality show that will will keep them. (Perfect time to promote a CM Punk appearence if you can get him to do it.)
If they do this, there is no doubt that they will be able to get back to where they were, or even a better place as people want normalcy back . With all that said, do I think things will play out this way? No.
Yes, they need to have a monster show when the fans are back. But it also can’t be a one-off, hot-shot type thing. Obviously, you use your mainstream stars (The Rock if that’s even an opinion, Austin, Cena, etc.) to draw the eyeballs, but you still need to feature and put over some of the wrestlers that will actually be on the show the following week. That’s something WWE is consistently terrible at doing effectively.
I think the tune out thing is different if you are having an off season then if things just keep going. I’ve fallen off of shows mid season before and never come back. If WWE ended the “season” on some sort of high note or cliff hanger, and came back with a new season with new stories or a fresh start it would be different. But offering say Drew vs Brock 2 isn’t something people would tune into if they left. If they went the sports route things would reset. No champs, start everything from scratch, and build to new people winning the titles. This is why sports work. Plus big fans don’t tune out they follow the off season where things are still happening.
So I think they could do a “season finale” and come back or hit the reset button. But they cannot just have a big show and expect those who tuned out to all come back if things have just been continuing on.
To be fair, when you say sports fans don’t tune out during the off season (I assume you are implying free agency, draft etc.), same could be said for wrestling fans in this hypothetical example. Wrestling fans more then sports fans IMO are into the behind the scenes and most certainly would follow online while it would be off the air. This part is all semantics anyhow.
I see what you are saying with the “finale” and “championship” examples, you’re not wrong. I’m not saying its the exact same, I’m saying that it is proven that people are able to restart watching something after they stopped for a while, especially when its something like wrestling that is forever on-going.
With all that said, I really do think you underestimate the loyalty of wrestling fans, and I think you are dismissing the novelty of what having an audience for the first time in months will end up having. This is not a WWE thing, AEW thing etc. I think all the major promotions and sports will garner a monster rating in their first show/game back, what the ratings look like now are meaningless. In terms of wrestling, its up to these promotions to keep the fans with that first show back. I wouldn’t even be surprised if the first show back for WWE was one of the highest rated shows in years and if the first show back for AEW was the highest rated show ever.
I would say that might be true if they weren’t running programming now. That said I think it is going to be very hard to build a card people are dying to see right now and the “we have fans again” at least for me isn’t a huge draw (yes the shows are better with fans, but their return alone isn’t exciting). Like if WWE just went away for now and then said when things open up we are going to start fresh. We will be making roster moves In the off season (wrestling fans care less about this than sports fans by a lot, as many WWE fans don’t watch other promotions, every sports fan is aware of the best players in the league for trades and such and those thing impact their team, hardcore fans follow the behind the scenes stuff but that is less of who you are losing), then when we come back we are starting fresh with new rosters on every show. Then we are going to have the first RAW back as a one night 8 man tournament for the WWE title. Or have all the titles up for grabs in tournaments over several weeks. Just a hyped regular episode isn’t enough to pop a huge number just because there are fans again.
I guess we can agree to disagree. I really think you underestimate what that first show back will do ratings wise. I notice you are only mentioning WWE, and I have menitoned both WWE and AEW, can I ask, do you have a different opinion on what AEW will do the first show back? I think they will have their best ratings ever.
One think I learned in business years ago is that you need to realize that your consumer doesn’t necessarily think like you. Just because you dont feel that fans being there is a huge draw, it doesn’t mean that the average casual viewer that they have lost will think that way. That viewer left because of no fans, and likely will return (night 1) when the fans return. After night 1, well IMO that depends on the quality of the product.
Its not as if I disagree with everything you are saying, I do agree that a gimmick like you are proposing would pop a batter rating thought I dont think they are doing that, I think its important for Drew to open the first show back as the champion. I’m sure WWE will load that show up.
I think the fans are a draw. But they aren’t one by themselves and I don’t see any current program that would be huge to draw in fans unless it is using legends. I think the same for AEW. Neither show will have their top rating. AEW won’t beat its premier and WWE won’t beat it’s debut on Fox for SD/RAW or the opening NXT number for that show. You are projecting that people that left prior to all this will return with the fans despite them not caring about that previously.
I’m not suggesting the shows won’t rebound at all, but I do think (especially WWE, as I think AEW has a smaller more committed fan base) will lose some number of viewers out of all this whether it be due to how they handled things or just loss of interest.
I also agree not all fans are me, however for WWE at least I would suggest that a great number are far more “casual” than anyone on a wrestling message board and may move on after this down period.
For WWE/AEW I think the best they can hope for is a return to numbers before these shows and given what they will do WWE will probably bring in a legend to pop the rating and hope people stay for everything else.
Maybe you are also dismissing the fact that there are people that got fed up with WWE BS and removed some of their programs from their watch list, as it happened to me. Sure, I dropped NXT and SD because Thursday and Saturday morning (when I watch them) I have way better things to do, but before I would always find time to at least catch-up later in the day or the day after. Now I just can’t force myself. It’s a toxic product. RAW I still watch cause there’s nothing else to fill some time in Tuesday morning, but I find myself not paying that much attention to what is going on there, but I am more watching (aka listening to it in the background) so I can catch up with couple of podcasts during that day.
Again, if they were presenting compelling, well structured product with storyline continuity that does not changes its narrative two times a week, I might’ve still care to watch, but as thing stay and Vince keeps doing his Vince shit behind the curtains - I am repulsed and disinterested from (t)his product.
As far as fans alone being a draw, to be fair against both of our points, this is unprecedented and there is zero data to back either of our opinions up so only time will tell. I do agree that they need to do something big outside of a match. I wouldn’t stack the show with legends myself, if I were Vince I would try to get CM Punk to make his first appearance as I do think that would draw.
I agree with your last paragraph if we are talking the shows following the first show back, but I do think that first show back will be a higher rating then the last show they did with an audience.
I see what you are saying, but this is more of an internet narrative felt by a very small percentage. The majority of casual fans couldn’t care less. To be clear, when I say that I am not dismissing how you feel or your opinion, I am just saying that I don’t believe the people that make the difference in the ratings are the one’s who feel that way.
Yeah, I get you, but the WWE are constantly driving away small portions of their old fans like that. I was not thinking that one day I’ll be in that same group, but here we are. Also there are their ratings to support what I am saying, year after year, after year. I have a bunch of friends her, plus my brother, that we would get together to watch every PPV. Now it is only me and my best friend here plus another guy, twice, maybe three times in the year getting together for the Royal Rumble and WM, maybe Summer Slam. And I was the only one for the last couple of years that was keeping an eye to all three shows every week. I am watching the product sine 1996 and my friend since 1992-ish. Two and a half decades it took to break us, but here we are.
Oh same here, I dont know how old you are but it sounds like you are likely around my age maybe a tad younger (I’m in my late 30’s) the exact same thing has happened to me. In high school (attitude era) we used to have huge get-together’s for every wrestling PPV, then in the “ruthless aggression” era lol it would be a handful of us, now its just my cousin and I when we watch a show.
I agree for the most part with everything you are saying, my point with a resurgence was in regards to the first show back, not WWE as a whole (viewership wise) unless they change something. I think a lot of what you are saying which I agree with is age related as well. As people get older I think they tend to drift away from wrestling, while new viewers are drawn in (though ratings do show more are leaving then coming in). This is one of the reasons why guys like Cena and Roman remain on top for so long despite the internet audience being sick of them.
There will always be casual fans, maybe the percentage is lower then what it used to be, but they are still around. You can tell when you watch a typical WWE show and guys that would get huge reactions in front of a “night after Mania” crowd hear crickets in front of some of the smaller towns.