Planet Kayfabe: TV Ratings Still Matter Submitted by Kayfabe Candyass on 09/29/2017 at 01:33 AM
Planet Kayfabe: Television Ratings Still Matter
By: 'KCA' Paul Matthews | @PlanetKayfabe
Hello and thanks for reading Planet Kayfabe.
Have you ever met someone who is passionate about any topic and the centerpiece of their point is telling you what year it is? Like when wrestling fans or even people in WWE say "well, hey now. It's 2017 not 1999. Ratings don't matter anymore." as if telling you what year it is as a condescending reminder is a way of painting you as behind the times and them with or even ahead of the times which automatically makes them right and you wrong, right? Certainly because when someone says "it's 2017" the makes any valid information and common sense you've gathered over the years and decades means nothing because "it's 2017" and nothing makes sense the way it used to.
I guess in 2017 the often self-proclaimed geniuses and czar overlords of all things entertainment have lived in their grapefruit scented bubble so long they are starting to believe this nonsense of social media numbers overtaking television ratings in importance. It's been widely documented that Vince McMahon himself doesn't care about ratings anymore and that leads to the many brainwashed masses to fall right in line and say "Neilsen's are in the past, it's all about YouTube hits". Well, if YouTube hits were the new measuring stick, a certain 'brash and prolific and consistent' clickbait e-begger wouldn't be asking for ridiculous donations in return for a shout out or some shit.
Social media is the one thing WWE touts and praises when asked about live attendance numbers and television ratings being the drizzling craps. At least usually that's how it is. When they pop a good rating, they'll be sure to let the world know about it. When ratings are on the decline, as they have been steadily since Raw moved to 3 hours they will say ratings are passe, it's all about social media now. While they can't use that excuse with live attendance numbers, they will always draw a good number for WrestleMania and then kayfabe an even bigger number to be announced during the broadcast. While guys like Dave Meltzer have said Vince doesn't care about ratings, there's a part of me that believes he does (like how Vince himself returns to massive hype whenever ratings go down) and he's just playing up numbers that are working in WWE's favor and that's their strong social media figures.
While I don't think WWE has their heads in the sand that bad to where they think it is all about social media in this day and age, they do seem to be putting too much weight in the importance of social media in terms of their business.
On top of touting their gaudy social media statistics, it has given them a false sense of mainstream relevance and even market reach. We even see them make booking decisions at the world championship level because of social media. It's been reported in the past that WWE looked at how many social media followers they have in India and decided to take life-time jabrone, Jinder Mahal from getting beer spit in his face from New England Patriots star Tight End Rob Gronkowski one week to winning a Battle Royal to earn #1 contender status the next.
This time last year, you may have said SmackDown was a far superior show to Raw with guys like AJ Styles and John Cena on top and The Miz enjoying a bit of a resurgence. This year, it's obvious the show has fallen with Jinder Mahal on top. The wold champion that no one buys as a champion because he was never built up and was never taken seriously at any point in his career. It has also showed in the ratings and live attendance.
It has been well reported that SmackDown's live attendance during televised events have been very low. This past week in Glendale, AZ SmackDown drew just 3,800 fans in the arena.
3,800? How can that be? I just watched Jinder Mahal's Punjabi Celebration on WWE's YouTube and it currently has 4,329,176 views! Hell, Steve Austin's famous "3:16" promo only has 1.3 million views on their channel so, that must mean Jinder Mahal is 4 times the star Steve is, right? It's clear that the old method of ratings and live attendance is telling of who is a draw and what stories are interesting and YouTube hits are a total crap shoot and factor little in to who is drawing in paying customers.
Maybe it sounds a little too simple, but ratings matter and should still be important to WWE because this company runs television shows and right now USA pays the WWE a lot of money to run 5 weekly hours of live programming on their network. When negotiating their next TV contract the WWE is going to try to get the best deal possible and the best piece of leverage they have is how many eyeballs they put on the USA network twice every week. The USA Network and pretty much any network on television could give two flying rat's asses about how many views their segment of the show got on YouTube or how many re-tweets a 30 second clip got on Twitter. The same way the WWE, a business based on live touring entertainment shouldn't care about social media hits, when there is no one in the damn arena.
I'm sure most of you, especially our American readers have heard of the NFL or National Football League. Despite recent reports dating back to last year of declining ratings, their ratings, while indeed lower are still very good. They dominate Monday Night Raw every week with any two teams they have on their prime-time Monday Night Football slot. The NFL is the biggest form of sports or entertainment in the United States right now.
However, on YouTube the NFL only has 2,403,758 subscribers compared to the WWE who has a whopping 18,058,129. On Facebook the NFL has 16,605,568 likes compared to WWE's 38,408,897 likes. Whoooah~! At least the NFL scored a prestigious win on Twitter, edging out the WWE's followers 24.1 million to 9.55 million, though WWE typically adds all contracted talent's twitter followers as "WWE followers" when that's hardly a measure of unique users, but I digress. I'm sure the NFL cares so much about their social media footprint when advertisers pay millions to be seen on their televised big game, the Super Bowl, ya know... televised as in on television.
Advertising is essentially what social media is anyway and does serve a purpose especially in today's culture where everybody uses it in one form or another. You have a free platform to spread your message or product. That's the keyword: "free". However, in this day WWE holds so much importance on social media that you don't even have to watch the show. They air full segments or full enough on YouTube that you can watch for free at your convenience and all you have to do is sit through a 30 second commercial that you can likely skip. They can spend all week hyping a Brock Lesnar return, but does it matter? You can just go to bed or watch Monday Night Football and watch Paul Heyman's big promo or Lesnar's big pull-apart brawl on WWE's own YouTube channel the next day.
The reason why putting so much emphasis on social media doesn't hold any water is because it's free to use and sign up for. It doesn't matter is 4 million or 40 million people watch a Jinder Mahal segment for free when a very small percentage of that number are spending money on the product or even watching.
Free is always going to be an easy sell. Very few people are going to turn down 'free'. The challenge is turning those freeloaders into paying customers and when you're willingly putting all the key points of your product out there for free why should anyone feel they need to spend their money on it or spend 2 or 3 hours of their time watching it every week? Hell, this company even gives on WrestleMania -- WRESTLEMANIA!!! Their biggest even of the year for free just to artificially inflate WWE Network numbers and very few stick around past the free trial period to continue paying for product, especially when you just gave them your yearly marquee event for nothing.
Social media certainly plays a role in today's culture. There's no denying that and it is good for WWE to be involved in it. However, social media is not the be all/end all and WWE seemingly gives out way too much of their product for free and then expects you to pay $9.99 a month for more and expect you to sit through hours of weekly programming. Again... why? While Jinder's title win may have sparked curiosity from fans to see if it was real or a late April Fool's joke, it clearly hasn't equated to ratings and live attendance success in the following months.
In the post-Monday Night War era of wrestling it seems WWE and fans who buy this lame attempt at wanna-be progressive brainwashing by saying "ratings don't matter" have bought into it for that one reason. We don't hear much about ratings because there is no ratings war. However, the WWE produces television shows and every week, especially in the fall, compete for ratings. There is no more 'war' with World Championship Wrestling, but that doesn't change the fact that their weekly viewership still very much matters now just like it did 20 years ago.
I'm not sure if "ratings don't matter" is just a lame WWE corporate positioning standpoint, but if you call yourself a TV producer (new name for 'road agent') like Road Dogg and truly feel television ratings don't matter anymore due to social media and various viewing platforms and it's just the "hardcore fans" that make too much of it, then you need to find a new job. Ratings do matter as long as you're on television and it doesn't matter what year it is, if the show is interesting and people care they will watch, but it's not and they aren't. There's plenty of hit shows today that continue to draw very good ratings. While WWE puts more and more stock into their free-of-charge social media presence they're the co-producers in their own dwindling audience both live and on television. There's nothing to celebrate when you have to over-saturate your social media with tons of content like WWE does just to create these numbers that essentially prove little to nothing on enhancing their growth especially when with each passing year eyeballs on TV and the live show goes down, casual viewership goes down and the average age of a fan goes up. With the main selling point to drive interest in WWE Network subscriptions being the television shows, they better care about more things than YouTube views that have proven to not net them one new paying fan live or watch weekly to pay to see the conclusion of the stories they air. Sell your tweets and likes to the fans, good luck selling them to the USA Network.
Thanks again for reading and there's my take on why even in 2017 television ratings still matter and why WWE diving head-first into all forms of social media may play a role into their declining audience, though it's not the whole reason. In late 2015 Aaron Rift did a video discussing the declining ratings and here we are 2 years later where not only ratings keep going down but live attendance does, too. There's a saying in (real) sports, "winning cures everything" and perhaps if WWE was hot, it wouldn't matter what they gave away for free, but with the product as cold as ever and those buzz causing moments few and far between, it sure isn't helping giving fans little incentive to pay close attention to their weekly television. Again, it's not like they're in danger of going out of business just yet. As long as they're on TV they will be fine and if the product was hot and interesting, the people would watch and the cold, dark side of the hard cam would be filled with warm, jolly asses gladly willing to spend money on WWE's form of live entertainment. Money very few are given much of a reason to spend when the WWE will willingly put much of their product out there for free. Yes, it's 2017 but there's a reason why the recently deceased Hugh Hefner didn't tweet out fully nude pictures of front-page models... because you're supposed to buy it you freeloading hippies.
Until next time, I will see you again) right here on NoDQ.com
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