WWE: Non Responsive to Long-Term Raw and Smackdown Ratings Crisis

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WWE can not honestly think that things in the WWE Universe are same ol same ol.  The constant wait for their unimportant and uninspired WWE off-season to end so that they may actually focus on Wrestlemania season. The days of that kind of corporate strategy are over.

There are some great points being made all over the IWC breaking down what has not been working with WWE’s programming. Vince Russo has come across surprisingly to have the most points, from WWE playing more to a TV-PC crowd, instead of a TV-PG crowd.  The other point Russo made that holds a lot of water is that WWE has gotten to the point that their ratings no longer consist of causal wrestling fans, but that their loyal hardcore fanbase has gotten fed up and has started to abandon them.

Let me direct you to a well-detailed article from Seeking Alpha (must register to view) . One of the arguments that is also valid but I don’t necessarily agree with in the article is their comment that

“While WWE has seen a major ratings erosion, its programming is simply mirroring the decline in broader TV ratings.”

Meanwhile, what they do say is what I have been saying since Summerslam on the Wrestling is Real Podcast.

“Raw ratings don’t immediately impact WWE’s bottom line, but the TV audience has a major impact on promotion and future TV rights deals.”

Let’s look at how bad those RAW ratings are, take a look at the graph at the average ratings of RAW during Wrestlemania season (January-April ) since 1996.

 

Courtesy: Seeking Alpha.com
Courtesy: Seeking Alpha.com

This past Tuesday on the Wrestling is Real Podcast, I made a point that WWE finds a way to ride on the legacy of their glory days, first with the Rock and Wrestling Era and then when they were threatened by WCW which prompted the Attitude Era.

Most of the Attitude era stars had dropped out of full time competition by 2007, and a roster of superstars headlined by John Cena, Triple H, Lashley Randy Orton, Edge, and Batista, it’s safe to say that only a healthy hardcore fanbase of 4 million viewers were still around to watch the product.

This Seeking Alpha article seeks to give WWE a valid excuse why they should not worry:

Live sports like Major League Baseball and the NBA and TV overall have seen a decline in ratings

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As a company, I don’t discredit WWE’s direction otherwise. That’s why I have been totally in support and in lockstep with the moves WWE has made with its WWE Network. When they were unable to secure a cable channel and went to a strictly digital service in 2014, they made the right move at the right time to ensure their future. Just look at their subscriber growth.

Courtesy: Seeking Alpha
Courtesy: Seeking Alpha

Add their aggressive impact on social media and their continued increase in revenue, but now they are pouring their profits into the Network. The Network has so far able to grab roughly one out of every three of their hardcore fans. But, the Network must pull in more viewers to be wholly profitable.

WWE to their credit has been focused on other ventures, but that has caused their TV product to suffer to a rock-bottom ratings threshold that they cannot allow to sink any further.

vince russo 2015

Back to Vince Russo, one of the more vocal (and let’s finally be honest he’s reputable) voices of the IWC,  made this point on a recent webcast:

For argument’s sake, say ratings aren’t important anymore… Well, what’s important? The WWE Network is important. Well, where are they drawing potential customers from? Obviously, they’re drawing potential customers from the people who watch Monday Night Raw! So even if you say ratings don’t matter, as that pool goes down more and more on Monday nights, there are your potential WWE Network subscribers.

WWE has two more years until their current NBC Universal contract wraps up with USA Network in 2018 (where WWE is set to earn $600 million over the next two years) to steer their TV product in the right direction. It’s time for WWE to start booking their TV for the long term so that they can continue banking in the long term. -KOP