WWE Raw ratings have been in a state of decline on both a weekly and an annual basis with the May 9 show hitting the second-lowest point since 1997.
The May 16 follow-up being a “go-home” show — aka, the last show before a pay-per-view or “special event” as they are now called on the WWE Network — one might have expected a rebound. However, the last episode saw Raw ratings plumb even lower depths, dipping to below 3 million viewers in the final hour.
In the past, CEO Vince McMahon might have blown a gasket, but he has since gone on the record as stating that television ratings in general are not as important as they used to be.
And according to one industry analyst writing for Forbes, he’s right. Contributor Alfred Konuwa writes that TV ratings overall have been in a state of decline ever since cord cutting and shaving became en vogue.
Simply put, people get to a program these days when they get to it, and when it comes to WWE’s flagship show, interest is there in a variety of formats.
For starters, USA Network still sees Raw ratings as a cash cow bringing in $1 million in ad revenue each week (and another $800,000 for Smackdown), Konuwa states.
Furthermore, there are now 1.29 million paid subscribers with the WWE Network, which, while it doesn’t air the most recent Raw and Smackdown episodes, leaving that to its cable partner, does benefit from additional revenue interest.
At $9.99 per month, the WWE Network provides access to all its major monthly shows and at the current rate, grosses $154.645 million from annual subscriber revenue alone. At a $49.95 PPV purchase price, the company would have had to sell 3.096 million pay-per-views per year to match that upward-trending figure.
To put that number in perspective, WWE, by far, did its most PPV sales prior to the Network at WrestleMania, and WrestleMania 29 (2013) was the last event to go through traditional channels prior to launch of the WWE Network in 2014.
The company reported a final buy-rate of 1.039 million on that event and 1.551 million for the entire quarter (three PPVs). But keep in mind that’s when WWE does most of its business.
While it isn’t clear if the WWE Network has replaced pay-per-view revenue of yesteryear, it is clear that paid subscribers are growing and that prior to the Network, pay-per-view buys were falling, according to this report from Cageside Seats.
Of course, that’s neither here nor there when it comes to actual Raw ratings. With streaming, it is difficult to put a final number on how the show is really doing these days, but YouTube recently certified WWE with a diamond play button for more than 10 million views, and it continually racks up views for its 90-minute version on Hulu as well as its weekly airings of NXT.
So while Raw ratings are clearly in a state of decline, particularly during that often-criticized third hour of broadcast, it is unlikely that USA Network and the WWE will want to change course any time soon.
That also means fans who are fed up with the current creative direction of the show cannot look to falling Raw ratings as an impetus of change.
To do that, fans would have to cut off all contact with the WWE outside of keeping up with developments on weekly news sites. That’s because the company has positioned itself as an early embracer of streaming content, and is able to profit from a variety of revenue streams.
That said, if you want to know how the exact breakdown of Raw ratings for the May 16 show went, here’s the scoop.
Hour 1: 3.376 million viewers (up from 3.345 million viewers last week)
Hour 2: 3.302 million viewers (down from 3.356 million viewers)
Hour 3: 2.894 million viewers (down from 3.013 million viewers)
Overall the show averaged 3.19 million viewers, down from last week’s 3.24 million.
Also, for those suspect of the happy-face Konuwa and the WWE have painted on the situation, it is worth mentioning that last year the WWE Network was in full-swing, and Raw ratings were much higher after WrestleMania, starting with a post-PPV show average of 5 million against this year’s 4 million.
Numbers trended downward from there, but remained higher than the weeks of fallout WWE has seen since their April 4, 2016, show.
But what do you think, readers?
Are the lower Raw ratings alarming, or nothing to worry about? Sound off in the comments section below.
[Image via WWE]