Recent years have seen story after story written about falling NFL ratings. To this point in the 2018 season, the NFL seems to have turned the ratings tide with viewership holding steady and in some cases rising. In particular, ESPN has been boasting about its Monday Night Football viewership numbers, with last night’s Chiefs-Broncos game bringing down ESPN’s best overnight rating in over a year.
The other side to the ratings equation, though, is that while the news gets better for ESPN, they’re taking a bite out of their competition. One of the biggest victims: WWE Raw on USA.
WWE’s viewership numbers for its flagship weekly program are continuing to erode, and the last two weeks have seen the show reach levels not seen in quite some time.
Raw averaged a meager 2.29 million viewers on Monday night, including just 2.08 million viewers in the final hour with the main event featuring a confrontation between Shawn Michaels & Triple H and Kane & the Undertaker.
Via the Wrestling Observer:
A big Monday Night Football rating led to yet another modern low as Raw last night fell another two percent from last week’s mark with 2.29 million viewers.
The audience fell through all three hours and the third hour was the least-watched hour of the show in more than 20 years, even with spending the episode promising a Shawn Michaels segment.
The big decline was in the over-50 audience, which would coincide with the best Monday rating of the season, as the Kansas City Chiefs vs. Denver Broncos game did 13.21 million viewers.
The actual rating isn’t available but it would be expected to be the second-lowest Monday night rating for wrestling ever on the USA Network.
This isn’t encouraging news for WWE. No organization in the sports, entertainment, or sports entertainment industry wants to see its viewership numbers going down. Earlier this year in the lead-up to Wrestlemania, WWE was doing over 3 million viewers consistently. However, they’ve only managed to do it once since May 7th for the show after WrestleMania.
If there’s one positive in all of this, it’s that WWE has spent years ensuring that their business model isn’t totally predicated on television ratings. Vince McMahon and WWE were way ahead of the curve on the launch of the WWE Network and going to a streaming platform to sell their content to the masses. And even though ratings aren’t as strong as they once were, the consistency of live programming every single week and its core viewership was enough to get big money deals from USA and Fox for Raw and Smackdown rights respectively. (That’s in addition to the seemingly unlimited amount of money Saudi Arabia is giving WWE for multiple live shows this year.)
Most properties are experiencing ratings declines across television for multiple reasons – increased competition, cord cutting, you name it. WWE certainly isn’t exempt from that. But because WWE has shifted some of its resources and programming to streaming and international megashows, business has been booming regardless.