WWE Smackdown ratings have trailed Raw‘s pretty much since the show’s inception in 1999.
In spite of repeated attempts to boost the brand’s notoriety, Monday Night Raw has been “the flagship” since the so-called “Monday Night Wars” of the late 1990s between the Stamford, Connecticut-based company and the now-defunct WCW.
For close to two decades, it has hardly been surprising.
WWE treated the show as a sort of minor league before NXT came along, often keeping their bigger stars on Raw and shipping any breakouts to the main brand whenever they would start to distinguish themselves.
Furthermore, Smackdown ratings have suffered through multiple network changes and rescheduling, going from Thursday to Friday and now Tuesday.
Monday Night Raw has stayed Monday night for its entire lifespan. Viewers have found they can count on that, even through network changes from USA Network to Spike and back. But with this week’s Smackdown ratings, fortunes do appear to be changing.
— PWP Nation (@PWPNation) December 30, 2016
Showbuzzdaily reports that for the first time since the WWE brand split and draft, Smackdown ratings have surpassed those of its older brother.
With the Dec. 27 edition, in fact, viewership averaged 2.89 million compared to 2.86 million from the previous night’s episode of Raw.
Furthermore, the figure showed a huge 500,000 viewer jump from the previous Smackdown ratings of 2.36 million viewers for the Dec. 20 edition.
This is worth noting, not just for the fact that it bested Raw, but also for the fact that numbers appear to be skyrocketing for the brand while Raw‘s have been in a consistent free fall for over a year.
A look at Raw‘s ratings history shows a consistent decline from the start of the century culminating in just north of 4 million viewers for the after-show of 2016’s WrestleMania. In other words, the WM followup shows are historically higher in ratings than average episodes, but this year’s wasn’t, and the slide has continued ever since with Heavy reporting in July that the brand had hit a 20-year low.
Some, including Vince McMahon, have downplayed the importance of the Monday night show’s ratings in the wake of viewers shedding cable for the WWE Network, but others point to the upward trajectory of Smackdown ratings as proof broadcast numbers still matter and that the Tuesday night show is capitalizing on a creatively weaker Monday night product.
Heavy writer Brendan Morrow also points out that Roman Reigns has received his share of the blame. Viewers could be “getting sick of” Reigns, who has factored in prominently to Raw over the last two years, often against deafening detractors online and in live audiences.
— Jen316 (@jenmisstx) November 29, 2016
Regardless of what is causing the reversal of fortune in the Raw vs. Smackdown ratings war, a great teller will be whether the Tuesday night show can sustain its victory heading into the new year.
Given that Raw has consistently bested it for 17 years, it will take more than a single week to declare what is happening as the new norm, but trend lines are often seen as good indicators, and the ones for Smackdown Live should be concerning for WWE even as they celebrate the success.
Because with Smackdown growing its audience, Raw‘s loss in viewership cannot be as easily attributed to changing viewer consumption patterns. In other words, the audience that Raw has lost are not transferring into paid WWE Network subscribers. They’re legitimately abandoning the product.
But what do you think, readers?
Is this week’s Smackdown ratings success an anomaly or the new norm? Sound off in the comments section below.
[Featured Image by WWE]