Sunday, June 4, 2017

Let's Talk About The Ratings, Bro

Sources Cited: - Note On How Terrible RAW Rating Truly Was - Future of WWE on Cable TV Up In Arms - WWE RAW Really Bad, Ratings In The Toilet - A Two-Hour RAW Seems More Realistic Than Ever

In a break from the norm where we usually spell out doom and gloom for TNA Impact Wrestling - though, make no mistake; we're well prepared for that occasion should the need arises - I'd figured it would be fun if we spell out doom and gloom for World Wrestling Entertainment instead. And man, if there was ever a time where such talk is worth taking really seriously, this would be it.

I don't like talking about ratings... hell, I don't like talking about shows I stopped watching months ago. But I guess we need to bring this up because, well, if you've been following the metrics, you'll know that WWE's television ratings have been on a slow, dwindling decline. Not necessarily as of late, but for the past couple years. And while people have been showing concern about the company's woes through various means - mostly through online bitching and moaning on Discus discussion boards - WWE continues to tout their award winning ways and delude themselves into thinking that most of the negative press is coming from the vocal minority who isn't jiving with what they're doing.

You know what? I can understand that and even accept that... except that the vocal minority are the only ones watching the show on a consistent basis. The casual market, on the other hand, largely tune out once Wrestlemania season closes and none of the big stars show up.

I will go ahead and admit that I haven't watched a single hour of Monday Night RAW since the night that Daniel Bryan formally announced his retirement back in early 2016. Say what you will about the guy and the way he looked, but I actually dug the guy quite a bit and he was pretty much the only reason I would bother to suffer through endless bouts of bad Stephanie McMahon acting or boring HHH promos.

Since that time, most of my WWE viewing experience has been relegated to the PPVs and whatever oddball WWE Network show I come across that worth my fancy. Hell, I've been digging through old DVD-Rs where I recorded a bunch of old WWE, WWF, WCW, and TNA shows from years past and giving those a watch. With all that stuff at my disposal as well as the plethora of wrestling material you can find on Youtube and beyond, there's no reason for me to sit through five hours of otherwise mediocre storytelling devices.

WWE has a problem maintaining its audience. All numbers would suggest that this is a problem they've been having since they added a third hour to RAW a few years ago. With numbers dwindling, it's been suggested that viewer burnout is the culprit and that the easy solution is to kill the third hour and making it a two-hour show again. Well, that may be all well and good, but there's a couple issues with this strategy.

First off, losing an hour of RAW means losing an hour of ad revenue. So in order to achieve the same amount of ad revenue, the ratings for a two-hour RAW has to be almost double or more of that of a three-hour RAW. Considering that Smackdown hasn't been making that much headway in the ratings either, I don't see WWE pulling a couple points out of its ass for a reduced RAW, especially if it's presenting the same mediocre product.

Back in 1998, WCW expanded their flagship Monday Nitro from two hours to three hours. Two years later, when Nitro's ratings were sagging somewhat, the decision was made to cut the third hour. The ratings stayed the same, meaning WCW received less ad revenue. Had the show stayed at three hours, maybe it wouldn't have lost as much money as it did. Not that it would've mattered, considering the atrocious television WCW was putting out at the time.

That brings me to the other issue and that's quality. Even if you chop off that third hour, you still need to produce a product that not only grab the attention of casual viewers, but also - and this is the most important bit - convert those casual viewers into captive viewers. The kind of viewers who will watch your show, enjoy what they see, and look forward to the next installment the following week. Who knows? If those captive viewers decide they want to buy a WWE Network subscription, a T-Shirt, or god forbid, purchase a ticket to attend a live WWE show.

You see the problem?

WWE likes to tout Wrestlemania as a success... except it's pointless to tout Wrestlemania as a success because the brand will sell itself no matter how much of a shit show you put on. Wrestlemania 32 from the AT&T Stadium was the highest drawing WWE PPV event in the history of the company and it was an absolute shit show from start to finish. I can pretty much guarantee you that if that same show DIDN'T have the Wrestlemania label, it would've been treated in a much harsher light. Considering that it's now more than a PPV with the Hall Of Fame ceremony, the conventions, and weekend festivities, Wrestlemania weekend is a much bigger deal than anything that comes out of WWE's ass.

WWE likes to tout the success of the "award-winning" WWE Network... except there's no guarantee that people who are subscribed to the Network are also watching your weekly shows. I'm a subscriber of the Network and I don't watch RAW or Smackdown. Most of the folks I know are also Network subscribers who don't watch the weekly shows because the shows are nothing more than adverts for the Network anyway. Those folks watch NXT or dive into the OnDemand stuff to watch past material like old wrestling shows or specials. That alone is worth their $9.99.

Right now, it's pointless to speculate how bad things will get. All we could do is ask what could POSSIBLY go wrong and then a hundred things will go wrong in an instant. That's pretty much all WE could do. WWE, on the other hand, could do a little more since they're putting out the product that are driving people away. And there's a number of things they could do that could people invested in what they're doing, but there's one thing they need to do above all else.

No, it's not making Stephanie McMahon a focal point of the show. We're trying to get people INVESTED in the show, not REPULSED.

It's just a simple matter of giving people a reason to CARE about these wrestlers and their struggles. Give people a reason to CARE about Roman Reigns and his big dawg you quarrels with whoever. Give people a reason to CARE about Kurt Angle being stuck in another silly storyline (here's a hint: let the man wrestle!). Give people a reason to CARE about the women beyond the fact they're no longer interchangeable Divas.

Because when people CARE, that's when they're emotionally invested. And when they're emotionally invested, that's when they're more than willing to tune in next week to see what happens next. And when they're really into something, they're enjoying themselves... you know, having fun. You know what fun is, right, guys? You used to have lots of that in abundance.

WWE has a couple years before their current deal with USA expires. Anything can happen in two years, but after that? Who knows? Hopefully, things will turn around. The way things are looking, though, the future is in doubt.

Now more so than ever.

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