I just LOVE hearing Dave Meltzer and the Observer boys making excuses for POOR viewership numbers regarding All Elite Wrestling (AEW) programming. Anytime their shows dip below 700,000 viewers, it’s always an excuse and NEVER and I repeat NEVER the promotion’s fault. Either we get “but the 18-49 demo was great” or a particular sporting event was to blame. In other words, Dave assumes that wrestling fans and football/hockey/baseball/basketball fans are one in the same.
But again, when you have built relationships with anyone who touches the New Japan Pro Wrestling promotion or appears in your favorite local California independent promotion, you’ll become compromised as a “journalist” and make excuse after excuse. Meltzer has admitted to speaking regularly with Tony Khan and one of his former Observer writers, Chris Harrington, works for AEW as their SVP of Business Strategy. He’s impaired, so thus when AEW’s viewership drops, there are many excuses had. However, when the WWE does lower viewership numbers, there must be something wrong with creative or the talent. Utter hypocrisy.
Recently, Dave Meltzer blamed everything under the sun for lower AEW viewership such as debuting NHL games, debuting NBA games, and MLB playoffs. However, NXT’s viewership numbers haven’t been affected much by the SAME competition. Observer Dave even admitted this on a recent show stating: “For whatever reason, news and sports never seem to hurt NXT. But sports definitely hurt AEW.”
Because they are NOT the same. Majority of wrestling fans watch wrestling first, other sports second. Furthermore, Dave and other AEW fanboys are overstating the impact of MLB, NHL, and NBA on viewership numbers. Those leagues do not draw that well on television, aside from local markets. It’s a fact and each of those 3 leagues DREW BETTER on television viewership during the 1990s than they do through 2023. Just a fact.
For example, the NBA could do between 20 and 30 million during the 1990s for its NBA Finals, thanks often in part to Michael Jordan. Since then, mostly under 20 million viewers (several exceptions) and pushing to be under 10 million recently.
Major League Baseball used to be widely popular on television, even on occasion popping over 30 million viewers during the 1980s for their playoffs. Consistently under 20 million since the 1990s.
NHL? All you need to know is that NBC would never place the entirety of the Stanley Cup Finals on their network, with some games on NBC and other games on NBC Sports. As seen with Olympic Coverage, they place hockey on secondary channels other than NBC because that sport doesn’t draw as well as other sports during the Winter Olympics. Their regular season games consistently draw less than 1 million when featured nationwide with coverage.
And let’s talk NFL. Monday Night Football, when it was on ABC for most of the 1990s, drew between 20 to 30 million viewers consistently. Then, the game was moved to ESPN where it draws below 20 million consistently, if not 15 million consistently.
Are you following me here? Are you picking up what I’m putting down?
Yet, Monday Night RAW for the WWE and Monday Nitro from WCW could draw between 5-8 million viewers on Monday Nights…
Against stronger drawing MLB/NBA/NHL… Against stronger drawing games on ABC for Monday Night Football. NBA Finals with MICHAEL JORDAN that did 30 million viewers.
However, we never heard excuses from Vince McMahon or Eric Bischoff. No, they kept plugging along and making great television.
Or how about that Summertime excuse? Viewership drops when the weather gets worse? Completely the opposite for WWE and WCW. Their viewership kept growing during the Summertime.
AND BY THE WAY, more people actually went outside during the 1990s to enjoy that Summertime weather. It is a TOTAL FACT that more people stay home now more than ever. Therefore, they have more opportunities within their household to turn on a television or watch YouTube TV, Hulu, or Sling on their devices. Many surveys have proven that people, particularly males in that special 18-49 demo that Meltzer often quotes, are NOT going out. In fact, fewer date nights and sexual activity among the younger end of that demographic are happening.
If you want to give me Smartphones, I’ll give you home computers with the internet linked. Many of us had it back then.
Video games? Nintendo 64 and Playstation 1 had major install bases, and both of which involved people LEAVING THE HOUSE to play with others instead of multi-tasking watching RAW and pounding someone in Fortnite.
On Cable TV, we had plenty of channels during the 1990s. Hell, WWE was on USA Network (still exists) and Nitro was on TNT (still exists, hosts AEW along with TBS). Plenty of options to choose from back then. FURTHERMORE, there were fewer than 70 million households with Cable TV back then. Now, we’re down to about 76 million. So fewer had Cable/Satellite back then, yet viewership was higher. Gee, why is that?
Let’s just cut to the chase. Do you want to know why WWE RAW or WCW Nitro did 5-8 million viewers DESPITE having stronger sports competition against it? Because both programs had STARS that everyone wanted to see and compelling storyline. For RAW, you had Steve Austin, Mick Foley, the Undertaker, and the Rock. WCW Nitro had Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Sting, Scott Hall, DDP, and Bill Goldberg. WCW during August 1997 switched to 3 hours and most honestly did not mind. Wow, a bonus 3rd hour to watch a loaded roster of wrestlers? What a blessing!
What does WWE have as the equivalent of that… Well, Roman Reigns… And? Lots of good talents, but they’d honestly be midcarders on the Attitude Era roster. Maybe Roman too? As exciting as the Bloodline is, it’s not as cool as the NWO or the Corporation that (a) drew up to 8 million viewers or (b) sold out 10,000+ arenas consistently.
And then you go to AEW… Well, they let 2 of their top stars go. Cody Rhodes‘s contract expired while they terminated CM Punk. Who is left? I personally like MJF and believe he’ll thrive once he joins WWE. Kenny Omega? You mean the guy whom Meltzer inflates with 6-7 stars per match? The same guy who doesn’t always have that many highly rated matches in AEW? OK AEW, who else do you have? Bunch of ex-WWE guys? Ehhhhh… Sting? Yeah, a 60+ year old Sting.
The FACT is that AEW’s roster lacks stars and Tony’s Creative vision sucks. THAT is what should be reported in the Observer, but instead it’s about the NHL, NBA, and MLB playoffs, all 3 of which are LOWER in viewership from 30 years ago, are harming AEW’s viewership.
No, AEW terminating CM Punk hurts viewership. AEW enabling the immature EVPs, particular the Young Bucks, that hurts viewership. Depushing homegrown talents like Wardlow and others, that hurts viewership. Seeing Jade Cargill jump ship to WWE, that hurts the perception of the company.
And you and your Observer Kool-aid drinking voters have the NERVE to vote Tony Khan as “Booker of the Year”?
Let’s address one last thing… Wrestling marks today will say “you can watch wrestling many different ways today, not just on television”. While 100% true, WHAT EXPLAINS LOWER ATTENDANCE OF SHOWS?!?!?
Seriously, AEW is STRUGGLING to draw 2,000 fans at many of its shows right now. They cannot even fill the television side, at times, with warm bodies. They have been running “2 for 1” ticket sales in Louisville, KY in order to pump up ticket sales, and that’s been a trend in many other places as well. YES, Wembley Stadium drew well… But you didn’t fire CM Punk yet, either, along with weeks of backstage drama being reported and making your company look foolish.
Streaming viewership, DVR numbers, and even YouTube numbers aren’t that high, anyway, as alternative. DVR numbers for RAW used to be 400,000 to 500,000, but are now consistently less than 400,000 (if that). YouTube, by Meltzer’s own reporting, is about 70% international as wrestling programming are featured on premium channels in many countries. Thus, if a segment on YouTube pops 1 million, take 30% of that for the real North American number. YouTube’s ad system pays everyone poorly, anyway.
But again, what describes LOW ATTENDANCE, AEW fans? Fine, we’ll buy your “sports as competition against wrestling” argument, but what about poor attendance? How is WWE Smackdown still drawing packed houses against High School Football on Friday Nights?
Your arguments don’t hold up and lack consistency.
FACT is that AEW programming just isn’t good right now, and that’s a reality you need to face with facts in place.
Numbers don’t lie… Lower viewership = LOWER demand to enjoy your product. Hard to grow when your top stars are leaving (Cody, Punk, Jade), your CEO/President is a coward and bad at creative, and you have no talent development to recognize and promote homegrown talent into stars that wrestling fans have never seen before.
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