MR. TITO: AEW and NBA Gambling on 18-49 Demo Submitted by Mr. Tito on 10/07/2020 at 01:14 AM
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Recently, National Basketball Association (NBA) owner Mark Cuban said something very interesting in an online debate with FOX Sports radio host and owner of Outkick the Coverage sports website Clay Travis. Both were in a heated battle over politics, the Coronavirus, and whatnot when Clay taunted Mark regarding NBA's declined ratings. It was then that Mark Cuban made this very revealing Tweet or statement about the NBA:
@mcuban on 9/26/2020 at 12:23pm: Hey Clay, I won't try to educate you on ratings. We have the audience our advertisers want. But I do want to know what the AQH is for your radio show . If ratings are so important to you, let us know your actual ratings and why Fox Sports Radio doesn't publish them for the public
Did you see that? Focus in on the specific phrase "we have the audience our advertisers want". What is Mark Cuban referring to?
Let's take a look at recent NBA Ratings numbers... If you compare Game 3 of the NBA Finals, year over year, you'll find the following:
6/5/2019 NBA Finals - Game 3 (Warriors vs. Raptors):
From my review, it appears that the NBA viewership, year over year, is DOWN across the board and almost equally. I just can't pinpoint specifically where to go.
What does Mark Cuban mean? And then you dig deeper into his public statements made via Twitter. If you look at this one in particular from 9/3/2020 at 6:50pm. Here, is is boasting specifically about viewership within the 18-49 Demographic how well it ranked among OTHER Cable/Satellite or Network channels.
If we revisit the 10/2/2020 ratings numbers, the NBA Finals did a 2.4 rating within the 18-49 Demographic and was ranked #1 for the night... By comparison, WWE Smackdown did 0.6 and I'm laughing really hard at that right now!
Huh... Boasting about how you ranked nightly on the 18-49 Demographic? Does that sound familiar to anyone?
@TonyKhan on 7/23/2020 at 4:30pm: Thank you everyone who watched #AEWDynamite last night! It was a great show & Iím thankful for our great audience too! It was our 4th straight week in the top 7 cable shows 18-49, + back-to-back weeks in the top 5, meaning my parents are drinkiní A Lilí Bit of The Bubbly tonight!
@TonyKhan on 8/3/2020 at 6:15pm: Thank you everyone who watched #AEWDynamite last night! Thanks to you we were top 5 in the 18-49 demo again + our biggest overall audience since pre-pandemic! With Fulham winning the Play-Offs & back in the Premier League + this Dynamite rating, itís the best week Iíve ever had.
@TonyKhan on 9/17/2020 at 5:43pm: Thank you everyone who watched #AEWDynamite last night! We got great feedback from our fans & amazing numbers, finishing #1 for the night among all cable shows in total 18-34 year old viewers + #1 Males 18-49 + #1 Males 12-34, all due to our great fans + great wrestlers & staff!
Oh that's right, All Elite Wrestling (AEW) LUSTS over the 18-49 Demographic. Even though they have RARELY exceeded the 1 million mark for 2020 (just once I believe), they are quick to brag about how their 18-49 rating RANKED for the night. NOT how it drew but how it RANKED... That's the important part to Tony Khan here as well as Mark Cuban. The overall numbers could show a DECLINE but if it ranked well against other shows in the 18-49, it doesn't matter.
For example, AEW Dynamite saw a 0.33 18-49 Demo and was ranked #12 for the night (NXT ranked 50th with a 0.19 rating, ouch). Using my estimated Nielsen Ratio, 0.33 equates to about 380,000 viewers. That's quite low in the overall scheme of things... By comparison, South Park's Pandemic Special scored a 1.16 in the 18-49 Demo, which I estimate to account for over 1.3 million viewers (holy cow). THAT is a rating... AEW's number is weak and on a Wednesday night PACKED with competition from NBA Finals, MLB Playoffs, FOX News, and South Park, their 0.33 rating looked light in comparison.
On a week without that raging competition, AEW breaks the Top 10 and sometimes breaks the Top 5. Somehow that causes Tony Khan to want to be "drinkiní A Lilí Bit of The Bubbly tonight" even though his true 18-49 Demographic number is consistently LESS THAN 400,000 viewers in that 18-49 Demographic. Doesn't matter... If Tony Khan can hand Advertisers any ratings list that can show AEW Dynamite being in the Top 10 or Top 5 to television advertisers, even though the true math is horrible, desperate advertisers will pay up. The NBA is seeing the same thing... Sure, they've lost just 50% of their audience in ONE YEAR, but that 18-49 Demographic still RANKS in the Top 5.
Yeah, it ranks alright...
This is the game that some content providers are playing right now in this declining Cable/Satellite era of many people cutting the cords and preferring not to watch traditional channels.
But dig deeper into the NBA... I'm looking specifically at games appearing on TNT for the Western Conference Finals. Unfortunately between 2019 and 2020, I could not get any of the games to line up between Weekdays. Thus, I'm using Game 2 for 2019 and Game 1 for 2020.
Western Conference Finals - Game 2 on 4/30/2019 (Warriors vs. Rockets):
And there it is... Following several incidents in Minnesota, Louisville, and Atlanta, the NBA, upon returning from COVID-19 suspension of their season, opted to push social messages on behalf of their NBA players. If you've watched any games for the past few months, "Black Lives Matter" is painted on the court, NBA players have phrases on their jerseys, and the ESPN (especially) and TNT are heavily invested in stories regarding social justice. While viewership is down across the board, at a time when more people are staying at home, the declining trend seen in both the NBA and NFL when politics is injected into sports is the departing of the older half of the 18-49 demo (35-49) and especially the 50+ aged viewers.
FORBES reported that the median age for wrestling viewers has become 54 through 2017 which was up from ae 28 during 2000. If you look at the WWE's weekly RAW rating, the 50+ Demographic is their #1 viewership base by a significant margin and almost doubles what they receive weekly on the 18-49 block. Hence, why the WWE does a ton of fan service to remind fans of the glory years and why they won't let Randy Orton, John Cena, Brock Lesnar, the Undertaker, and other older names to retire already. Anytime that Rock or Steve Austin want to appear on WWE television, they can. Many younger wrestlers are thrown through the wood chipper as seen following Paul Heyman's Executive Director release, as Heyman was trying to push several younger names that the WWE ignored in years' prior.
There is a reason why AEW has a particular style that pushes high flying matches, hardcore matches, and often try to be as politically correct with their production and performance. Just watch an AEW commercial to easily see what they want to push. This is contrary to what many older wrestling fans, notably ones who lived through Hulkamania/NWA and/or Monday Night Wars/Attitude Era are expecting from a wrestling brand. Just tune into Jim Cornette's Podcasts to hear someone who speaks in favor of the 1980s style of wrestling versus what AEW is presenting right now. That is across the board and AEW's numbers for the latter half of the 18-49 and the 50+ numbers are rather LOW, hence why they can never consistently stay above 900,000 viewers, let alone break 1,000,000.
In other words - the strategies of AEW and NBA are IGNORE the 50+ Demographic in terms of television viewers. For the WWE, however, they cannot live without them.
BUT - Where AEW's strategy, especially, is short-sighted is considering WHO subscribes to Cable and Satellite subscription services... Through 2017, the following was estimated as Cable TV subscriptions per age group according to AskWonder.com's research:
18-29 Year Olds: 31%
30-49 Year Olds: 52%
50-64 Year Olds: 70%
65+ Year Olds: 84%
It's no wonder why AEW is unable to exceed 900,000 viewers on a weekly basis. They can only draw 380,000 viewers within that 18-49 key demographic. For TNT, they are not reaching the majority of adults through the age of 29 and only half of people in their 30s and 40s. These numbers keep declining because people in their 30s and 40s, myself included, are becoming cord cutters. I joined that revolution during August 2015 and never looked back. Having Network channels + Netflix/Disney+ and other channels, on occasion, has proven to be a better and way cheaper option than having Comcast, Dish, or DirecTV. Plus, I can no longer tolerate the excessive commercials on channels and how political certain channels have become. Plus, watching 3 hours of RAW on USA Network is a chore.
Look at that 50+ year old number... 70% of people aged 50 years or older have Cable TV.
On top of that, the 50s are one of the top peak Income years for individuals. On top of annual income, those in their 50s have their houses paid off and have much more savings and investments than those in their 30s and 40s. Much more WEALTH...
50+ fans are more likely to afford not just Cable TV packages, but expanded ones as well.
50+ fans are more likely to spend money on higher priced tickets and attend more events. They'll bring their kids and grandkids to events, too. NBA Season Tickets, especially...
And this is the age group that the NBA is trying to disregard and whom AEW is trying not to market towards... Yet for the NBA, who was buying Season Tickets for all of those years? Older guys who grew up loving the NBA since the 1970s. They grew up seeing the NBA when it WASN'T political. They remember Michael Jordan once saying "Republicans buy shoes too" and when the NBA enforced that Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf must stand to honor the playing of the National Anthem. They have DECADES of watching a non-political NBA (or NFL) and are in shock when NBA and its players become heavily political during 2020. NBA, in a year where they have no Season Ticket holders (most of them are 50+ or financed by them), are rolling the dice to back the politics of their players as a long-term strategy versus the loyalty of their older customers who once saw the league in a different light.
Meanwhile on AEW, they are trying to avoid the 50+ year old fans... They just don't want to hear from anyone who grew up on wrestling of the 1970s, 1980s, and up to a point with the 1990s. Seems like Tony Khan and many of its wrestlers are highly influenced by the latter years of the Attitude Era and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW).
WWE, on the other hand, knows how to milk that 50+ audience... Here's WWE Network for only $9.99 and we'll throw as much nostalgia at you as we can. They are constantly bringing back older names and infatuated with pushing guys from the Ohio Valley Wrestling "Class of 2002". I swear, we'll never see the end of the Randy Orton push. Brock Lesnar will be back, no doubt... Otherwise, if the Undertaker wanted to keep wrestling, WWE would take him. Bill Goldberg brings those older WCW Fans along with him. Why do you think that WWE won't let poor Rey Mysterio go? Nostalgia baby... Edge wants to return? Here's more money not to join AEW.
WWE is getting more $$$ per fan than ever and that's due to the loyal 50+ year old fans who are just set in their ways. WWE's failure is that they don't appeal to younger fans at all. AEW is equal to them on the 18-34 demographic DESPITE WWE RAW doubling AEW Dynamite in viewers each week. WWE has a stronger draw in the 35-49 bracket and really outdraws AEW in the 50+ demographic.
What is really hurting AEW and NBA are the following things with this 18-34 lower end of the 18-49 Demographic:
(1) Younger kids aren't as big of sports or wrestling fans as prior generations. They have other interests besides sports or wrestling. Many streaming services to watch instead of sports/wrestling.
(2) Price gouging on Live Events by both WWE and major sports leagues (NBA, NHL, NFL, MLB, etc) has caused many families to avoid taking their kids to games.
(3) You must own Cable/Satellite to watch AEW Dynamite or NBA games. There are no independent streaming services for AEW aside from Pay Per Views with B/R Live. For the NBA, they do have a streaming service to watch NBA games but it is very expensive on a monthly basis unless you consume a ton of NBA.
If AEW and the NBA wants to reach a wider audience, they have to make their products more accessible to the younger generations. Yes, from 18-34, part of that demographic DOES have a higher amount of disposable income to spend on Fast Food, Clothing, Video Games, Media, etc. BUT they also earn much less per hour than the upper demographics. Even after you graduate college at 22-24, depending on your degree, high earning jobs are not there. The maximum money earned is seen during your late 30s and pushes on through your late 50s. You have to take an entry level job first to gain experience and prove yourself before the money starts arriving.
NBA is locked into big money deals with ABC/ESPN and TNT... But AEW is a new company and does not have the lucrative deal like the NBA. They have to figure out a way to make their product more accessible. No, I don't mean pushing hot garbage on AEW Dark, your YouTube show. But your premiere show, Dynamite, has to become more widely available to that younger audience that you seek. Sorry, but $59.99 or so per Pay Per View is a rip off when I can watch monthly WWE events at just $9.99 per month while having a HUGE library of past wrestling to enjoy.
UNTIL you are able to net in more of this 18-34 half of the 18-49 demographic, your wrestling promotion and basketball league could be doomed because younger folks do not like sports as much, they aren't subscribing to Cable TV/Satellite, and they seem to dislike what their Dads grew up loving or was unable to enjoy it because ticket prices were too damn high.
The 50+ year olds have lots of money and will shower it at anything that tickles their nostalgic bones. Older NBA fans remember TALL TALES of Magic Johnson versus Larry Bird, the Bad Boy Pistons, and then Michael Jordan. Presenting an NBA that is contrary to that loses interest to an older audience. Older wrestling fans got to enjoy Andre the Giant, Hulkamania, Ric Flair and the NWA, the Road Warriors, amazing Tag Team wrestling, Monday Night Wars, and the Attitude Era. Presenting a wrestling product that is contrary to that loses interest to an older audience.
If AEW and the NBA want to begin disregarding this 50+ year old demographic, they need to grow the 18-34 age group at a quicker pace and make their products more accessible and available to those fans. Start to realize that you can hook them if you made your Games/Shows cheaper to watch and tickets for live events lower in price. In return, your loyal AEW/NBA customers will do things like buy more merchandise or consume more games/live events. It's called a multiplier effect and building goodwill towards your fans.
To me, the 18-49 Demographic is a joke unless you can draw REAL numbers instead of just a higher ranking among a declining Cable/Satellite TV field of channels. Of course you are regularly beating TBS, Comedy Central, TNT, USA Networks, AMC, A&E, etc. on a nightly basis. Their re-run market is shot thanks to Netflix and other streaming services stealing their old bread and butter. Those channels made a killing on re-runs and now they make nothing because they are poorly rated. Of course AEW and its 380,000 18-49 year old fans will rank high because the competition sucks right now in the Cable/Satellite field.
At least AEW is new at this game and could learn to be a product for everyone with time... NBA has bigger issues because it was how they marketed their league that drove away many fans, younger ones included but especially older fans. They have to figure out how to please their players, who are feeling empowered right now by recent events, but maintain that their leagues are about legitimate sports competition too. Otherwise, fewer fans watching means that their Salary Cap is about to shrink and that is BAD for NBA players.
Meanwhile, WWE needs to figure out how to appeal to younger fans, period. They need better talent development at NXT and better Creative on the main WWE roster. Do you honestly think that Bruce Prichard and Vince McMahon know what wrestling fans age 18-34 want? Ditto for Triple H or his NXT product would market better with younger people (because it doesn't).
50+ year olds are very nostalgic... All they want is an NBA similar to the one they watched over 20 years ago, and ditto to seeing wrestling similar to what they saw more than 20 years ago. They have lots of cash to spend it on and they'll pay for their kids/grandkids, too. That's how you get that 18-34 demographic half of the 18-49.
I'll be honest... I'm in my 40s and I'm not spending any money on wrestling products for my kids. I've tried to show them a few shows and it bores them quickly. WWE used to create obsession among kids for their wrestlers and brands. Steve Austin, DX, the Rock... John Cena sold so much merchandise to kids. Nothing about the WWE today appeals to the younger audience, even when they try the spotfest and hardcore matches. What it boils down to is that younger fans look at WWE as old and they know that Vince McMahon decides everything... With AEW, the wrestlers are in charge and Tony Khan is still a young guy.
But again - Younger wrestling fans aren't buying Cable/Satellite, aren't into sports like prior generations, and are subject to over-exposed products in the marketplace compared to the past.
Damn 18-49 Demographic... Because AEW and several dirtsheet writers are obsessed with that demo, mostly as a way to ignore the REAL PROBLEM of having LESS THAN 900,000 fans weekly, it has the rest of us wrestling fans ready to fight against it.
I'm still part of that demographic and if I weren't writing columns as Mr. Tito, I'd probably be long gone too. Pro Wrestling really needs to up its quality with better Creative, Talent Development, and Promos. Otherwise, it will continue to decline and things will get worse when the Cable/Satellite deals aren't as lucrative in the future.
So just chill... Until the next episode!
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