John Cena's return to the ring leads to largest SmackDown audience in two years

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Friday Night SmackDown ended the year with its largest audience in two years due to John Cena’s return to the ring.

The December 30th episode from Tampa averaged 2,629,000 viewers and approximately 842,000 (0.64) in the 18-49 demographic, and was first among network programming and only trailing the college bowl coverage on ESPN that night. (Data from Wrestlenomics and Showbuzz Daily).

It was SmackDown’s largest audience since Christmas Day of 2020, which had a huge lead-in from an NFL game that boosted its average to 3.3 million viewers and 0.96 in the demo. Before that show, the largest audience was on Feb. 28, 2020, which was another John Cena return.

The audience grew 11 percent and increased by 17 percent in the demo from the week prior. The growth was attributed to the male viewership that grew 31 percent in 18-49, 11 percent in 18-34, and 44 percent in 35-49. Conversely, women in those same demos decreased by 4 percent, 8 percent, and 12 percent respectively.

Wrestlenomics reported on the quarter hours from SmackDown with the high point of the show being the main event tag with John Cena & Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns & Sami Zayn averaged 2,832,000 viewers and 952,000 in the 18-49 audience.

SmackDown aired against the Orange Bowl game between Tennessee and Clemson topped all of television with 8.59 million viewers and 2.0 in the demo on ESPN.

Wow! That’s a massive number. While I give Cena the most credit, I think Ronda in a title match and Roman in a tv Match are also factors.

It’s a massive number in comparison to the avg viewership. It’s actually a pretty small number when you consider the amount of promotion that went into it and how it compares to college football on Cable. I think this is one of those ratings that is grossly misrepresented in the context of Wrestling Ratings. This getting compared to every other week when it was the most heavily promoted Smackdown of the year, despite barely being able to edge out the previous high in 2022 in the demo. Like are we really saying this is a success or is this further evidence of a dwindling ability to really pop a rating and garner interest in the crowded content ecosystem.

Oh to be clear, I am 100% referring to it being a huge number when it comes to wrestling. I fully realize wrestling doesn’t come close to football.

It’s not even a huge number compared to WWE’s own history on Fox. I do not believe this number even beats the internal expectations of Fox at the onset of the deal. So while it may b a great number comparatively speaking, the underlying reality is in terms of Fox, it has so vastly underdelivered in terms of pure eyeballs. It’ll be even more interesting to see what Road to Mania generates and how potentially the Rock is used to move numbers since that starts to get into dates and Fox vs. NBCU conflict.

Numbers are all relative. When a show does it’s best number in 13 months, for that show it’s a huge number. It’s not fair to compare their numbers to everything else on in tv, with that logic AEW has never had a successful rating in their history, and WWE hasn’t in over a decade.

Take rampage when punk returned as an example. I believer it did 1mil. For rampage, that’s a massive number. With this logic, it’s nothing special.

I believe this rating was a massive number for WWE, and outside of your post I haven’t heard a single negative comment about it.

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Yes, the reason I said it will get talked about in context of the ratings SD does .If you zoom out and look at it from 30,000 feet it looks a lot different. Is it a good number, absolutely. It’s a great number for Smackdown relative to all other episodes on Fox. But can you also have a different conversation about it in the context of the total Fox relationship and what Fox is getting out of WWE and what WWE can deliver Fox, yes, I believe you can and I believe both views of it can stand true.

I can’t have a conversation about this without more info. Just for starters, I would need to know what Fox is charging for ad time during SD, the money they are putting towards promoting SD etc. I do not have any of that info. I imagine we will see if its worth their while to pay 500mil a year or more when they either cxl it, renew it, or get passed on by WWE when the contract is up.

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