According to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter‘s Dave Meltzer, by way of WrestlingNews.co, Fox Sports’ decision to stop producing WWE Backstage was due to the show’s low ratings, as opposed to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report states that Fox executives felt that the network was spending too much money on the FS1 show, and the ratings weren’t high enough to justify the hefty price tag. The presence of CM Punk, who appeared on the show once per month, also wasn’t enough to bring in more than 200,000 viewers during his appearances. It also wasn’t uncommon for the show to attract less than 100,000 viewers some weeks.
Meltzer equated the problem with WWE Backstage to similar shows that are affiliated with the company. With the exception of Monday Night Raw and Friday Night SmackDown, WWE’s weekly programming struggles to attract a large audience.
Meltzer also noted a trend in regards to these C-grade shows, revealing that they always start out with high ratings before fizzling out. Even NXT, which is considered the third official WWE brand, only brings in a few hundred thousand viewers every week, which is small compared to the other two established brands.
Among these shows are Superstars, Main Event, Velocity, After Burn, Confidential, and others. For the most part, these shows feature underutilized talent and serve as highlights packages for WWE’s priority shows.
WWE Backstage was different as it was a panel show that was produced by Fox instead of the company, but its status was similar to the aforementioned programs.
WWE Backstage debuted last October to coincide with Friday Night SmackDown airing on Fox. It was introduced so there could be a wrestling equivalent to all of the network’s other sports panel shows, but the viewership never reached the heights of its sporting counterparts.
However, WWE Backstage did receive some acclaim as the conversations were more open and honest. The show had a tendency to address spoilers, and while Punk didn’t bash WWE following his turbulent history with the promotion, his honest insights about the product and its stars did upset some of the talents.
According to Meltzer, the cancelation of the show has also resulted in some production staff losing their jobs. There’s no word on what Punk’s next role will be moving forward, or if he’ll choose to be affiliated with wrestling at all. However, since the rest of the hosts and analysts are contracted to WWE, they’ll probably return to company programming.