The official premiere of AEW All Access occurred on Wednesday night. AEW’s launch into reality television promised to take fans where they’d never gone before. From a literal perspective, they accomplished that, as the show showed behind-the-scenes footage backstage at an AEW Rampage episode in Asbury Park, New Jersey. It also highlighted the ongoing injury struggle for Adam Cole, who returned to the ring moments before the debut episode on Dynamite.
The numbers are in, and they weren’t very good. After an episode of AEW Dynamite which drew 833,000 viewers, a poor number for them at this stage, the premiere drew 328,000 viewers. According to ShowbuzzDaily, it charted 30th on cable television in the 18-49 demographic with a 0.11 number. PWTorch, a well-known publication in the wrestling business, published the rating results for Wednesday night’s three hours of wrestling on TBS.
AEW Dynamite drew 833,000 viewers, back down to the lower viewership levels of the first three weeks of March. The 18-49 demo down to a 0.39 from a 0.46 last week.
AEW All-Access premiere drew 328,000.
More at https://t.co/b30cDz6YY1 soon.
— Pro Wrestling Torch (@PWTorch) March 30, 2023
On Saturday, AEW invited its fans to a sneak peek of the All Access show. It drew a big number, as ShowbuzzDaily and Wrestlenomics charted them at 738,000. That appeared to be an extremely positive number.
AEW All Access on TBS following college basketball tournament, starting at 11:58 pm:
P18-49 rating: 0.24
#7 cable original
— Wrestlenomics (@wrestlenomics) March 28, 2023
However, it is very important to note that the Elite Eight occurred on Saturday night on TBS. While UConn-Gonzaga wasn’t the epic battle many anticipated, their number was just under 8,000,000 viewers. Lead-ins have had a significant impact on television forever. The wrestling business is no stranger to that either. On December 25, 2020, a special episode of Smackdown earned an audience of 3,303,000 after an NFL game on Fox. Considering the show’s average at the time, and even still today, that can be considered an outlier.
So, where do we go from here? Assuming 738,000 viewers did tune in on Saturday for the sneak peek, that still means that 400,000+ people decided to say, “No thank you.” Then on Wednesday, following the flagship show, the premiere experienced a 60 percent drop in the recorded audience for Dynamite.
It seems highly unlikely that a simple sneak preview was enough for the audience to feel satisfied enough to say “I’m good” to watch a show that the company has heavily promoted.
And if the audience did do that? Then bigger questions might need to be asked and could become a bigger problem for them going forward.
In theory, the reality show is, or at least should be an attempt to draw in a new audience. WWE’s Total Divas on E! navigated those waters in 2013. To their credit, the show successfully bridged a missing gap between the promotion and its female fans and viewers, both current and new fans that were brought on.
If the objective of the show is to follow the wrestlers and give AEW fans and AEW fans alone a closer look at them, then the premiere simply failed to do its job to catch their attention. The show drew lower viewership than the least-watched episode of AEW Rampage. On June 17, 2022, Rampage netted 330,000 viewers in its usual Friday night, 10 p.m. timeslot. That, to date, is the lowest-recorded audience.
Fewer people tuned in for the All Access premiere following an episode of Dynamite that also didn’t do much to retain much of its audience throughout the show. A show that, frankly, has sustained back-and-forth viewership numbers for a while. If the show loses 60 percent of its audience on the debut, which is supposed to be a big lead-in for it, it’s not a great sign. If it continues to happen, that’s another big concern as far as their attempts to retain the fans that loyally watch each Wednesday night on TBS.
Next week will prove to be a big test for the show. It established everything it set out to do, whether you agreed with it or not. They’ll continue to need to try and figure out who this show is for and what its purpose is. If they can do that and successfully gain viewers along the way, it’s a huge positive. If it stays in this audience or even dips, it won’t reflect well.
Premiere episodes traditionally draw a bigger audience, only to come down the second week before eventually settling in. If that’s the case here, then next week’s number may be of concern.