‘WWE Raw’ Ratings Crash To New Lows: Will USA Network Cancel?

Monday Night Raw ratings have continued their long, steady decline, and it appears they may be reaching a point of no return.

For the longest time, Raw ratings have languished in the 3 million average viewers range. No more. In the second edition since Kevin Owens captured the WWE Universal Championship, the brand has done something unprecedented in this century — it hit less than 3 million viewers on both the three-hour average and the hour-to-hour totals.

According to WrestleView, the Sept. 12 edition of WWE’s flagship drew an average of just 2.7 million viewers across all three hours of programming. The hour to hour breakdown went like this:

Hour 1: 2.833 million viewers (down from 3.35 million viewers on the Sept. 5 edition)

Hour 2: 2.717 million viewers (down from 3.066 million viewers last week)

Hour 3: 2.520 million viewers (down from 2.792 million viewers)

While there is some indication that WWE is not as hung up on Raw ratings as they used to be, what with the WWE Network and other funding streams separate and apart from the deal the company has with broadcast partner USA Network, the ratings are still being used in kayfabe as a point of contention between Raw and Smackdown brands.

It’s unlikely the company is happy with these new numbers, but what does it mean for the long-term future of Monday Night Raw?

For starters, it means Raw ratings may push the WWE flagship to a new channel.

That may not happen anytime soon, since USA still sees value in the WWE brand, but with the unending drop in viewership, there will be a critical mass point where USA has to pose the what’s-in-it-for-me question.

The cable channel depends on viewership for advertising dollars, and with WWE cannibalizing their own audience, it will continue to play on USA’s bottom line.

Considering that A&E canceled Longmire for having twice the viewership Raw now does, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that USA reconsiders the relationship in the next few years, especially if Raw ratings continue to tank. USA will see the drop in viewership as bargaining power to land a better deal in the next round of negotiations when the current contract expires.

WWE, however, may not be willing to give ground if they can get something comparable at another cable channel while continuing to funnel their customers into the WWE Network product.

Wrestling fans are already at a point where they’re feeling the effects of content saturation with two brands, two monthly special events, NXT, CWC, and all the other wrestling-centric programming WWE manages.

It’s to the point where even the industry’s top journalists are skipping shows — see Dave Meltzer, the LAW Podcast Backlash after-show, where he says outright, “It’s just too much.”

If WWE can get you to fork over $9.99 per month on an ongoing basis, then they’ve removed the middle man and gathered more control over their audience than what they would have at USA Network or any other cable partner.

It makes sense why Raw ratings would not matter as much, but it can be difficult on the talent and the image of the product as a whole since the paradigm shift away from television ratings isn’t quite complete.

But what do you think about the situation, readers?

Why are Raw ratings continuing to drop? Is it the decision to put the belt on Kevin Owens, or is it simply the changing landscape of cable? Sound off in the comments section below.

[Image via WWE]

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