MR. TITO: The TRUTH About WWE and AEW’s Television Viewership & Drawing Abilities

I always LAUGH at anyone who crunches WWE or AEW television numbers. Then, when they are presented, we hear things like “Nielsen is outdated”, “what about YouTube or Social Media”, “so much competition out there”, “everyone is watching DVR”, or “the 18-49 demo looked great though”. Always an excuse for why their favorite promotion is under-performing.

Then, I’ll bring up something like Attendance or Merchandise, and multiple other excuses will come with that. “Ticket prices are too high”, “merchandise prices are too high”, “parking prices are too high”, “they’ve been at the same arena too much”, etc… However, when you crunch the numbers, wrestling fans attending a wrestling event are paying FAR MORE per person than they did 10 years ago, let alone 20-25 years ago when wrestling was hotter in North America.

Always an excuse… Let’s run through some actual facts:

(1) DVR numbers viewing WWE declined from the early 2010s through the late 2010s. They ranged from 400,000 to 500,000 during the early 2010s, but then became 300,000 to 400,000 during the late 2010s. I would imagine some rebound, but probably not much.

(2) While RAW is on a declining Cable/Satellite system (once early 100 million homes, now clinging onto 70 million), Smackdown is on Network television and available to almost 115 million homes. Hence being consistently at 2 million and going up to flirt with 3 million whenever the Bloodline storylines get hot or when the Rock appears.

(3) Hulu replay numbers for WWE shows were insignificant, as that streaming channel actually has a higher female demographic and WWE shows were never in top shows streamed. Ever.

(4) WWE’s YouTube channel is reportedly 70% viewed by international sources, according to what Meltzer once heard from WWE officials. Thus, for most videos over there, take off 70% to see how many North American viewers there are and how that could be “competition”.

(5) WWE’s YouTube channel only pops mostly for Main Event programs, and nothing more. You’ll flirt with 1 million views on bigger segments, but most everything else are under 400,000 views if not lower.

(6) AEW’s YouTube channel only has top drawing videos from like 2-4 years ago. Their recently stuff only pops when you have a big debut, such as Adam Copeland. Otherwise, their recent big angle stuff hasn’t drawn much at all. 275,000 for the Young Bucks recent in-ring promo, for example.

(7) AEW’s television, live attendance, and merchandise were all CM Punk related. Made it to 1 million viewers, first $1 million gate, and moved tons of merchandise. All 3 have been down ever since, and AEW made a recent change-up in executives overseeing merchandise and live events.

(8) AEW’s attendance since late 2023 has been well under the building’s capacity, and even significantly under the seating set-up. Getting above 3,000 is a good day.

Yes, Cable and Satellite has declined… But if wrestling provided quality programming during the 2010s and 2020s, wouldn’t subscribers be willing to pay money to retain cable? And I’d argue that with everything else on Cable/Satellite right now. ESPN is losing viewership, bigtime, for their programming other than their games. Why? ESPN’s content has become irrevelant and they’ve become very political, while giving no creative freedom to their hosts (constantly terminating talent). 24/7 Cable Channels are total trash right now and completely biased. And I would strongly argue that WWE during the 2010s was subpart often, especially watching 3 hours of it per week.

If there was something GOOD on Cable/Satellite to keep watching, then you’d be willing to fork out cash for it even if the prices go up. You know, LAW OF DEMAND. But shows on Cable/Satellite have SUCKED, and that includes pro wrestling. Before ESPN obtained Troy Aikman and Joe Buck, the presentation of Monday Night Football even sucked. Hence why ESPN probably paid $30 million of so for that pair, alone.

Then you hear people today trying to blame the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL games to consider them as competition. Hell, I’ve even heard one idiot claim US Open tennis “took away viewers”.

Let me put that to rest, folks…

(a) Though NFL is drawing strongly right now, NFL Monday Night Football actually drew better on ABC 25 years ago. ESPN’s broadcast gets between 10-15 million, but ABC’s broadcast did up to 30 million viewers.

(b) MLB viewership has been down for years. And remember 25 years ago, too, MLB viewership was way up because of the Homerun chase.

(c) NHL’s viewership is insignificant. Warner Bros. Discovery is finding that out real fast, despite paying more for them than networks have paid for WWE programming.

(d) NBA’s viewership has been way down from just 5 years ago, let alone 25-30 years ago when the most popular player, ever, named Michael Jordan existed and was winning a second pair of 3 straight NBA titles. Jordan pushed those playoff games to 30 million viewers. Then, the NBA had Shaq/Kobe, though it didn’t draw like Michael, it still did well and ditto for Lebron vs. Golden State Warriors. Since then, viewership has dropped HARD.

During the late 1990s, Monday Night RAW and WCW Nitro drew 5-6 million viewers EACH when going head-to-head not just with each other, but against HIGHER VIEWED NFL, NBA, and MLB games.

And QUIT acting like the 1990s were the stone ages… GOOD LORD.

1990s had the following:

(1) The internet existed, believe it or not. Yes, a slower version, it existed.

(2) Video rental places existed and were very popular to watch movies.

(3) Video games existed. Super Nintendo and Genesis sold a ton of systems and games, and so did the Nintendo 64 and Playstation. Could we play online? No, but we had friends over our houses instead.

(4) Cable TV existed. I had up to 50-60 channels back then, and you could split that cable throughout the house.

(5) VCRs existed to record shows on a timer that you couldn’t watch.

(6) You could attend live events and buy merchandise at the events. We complained about higher prices back then, too.

(7) Wrestling had a higher degree of competition back then. WWE and WCW were completely cut-throat, and ECW was a stronger 3rd promotion than what we have today.

(8) Cable channels paid wrestling much less than they do today, even with higher viewership. The desperation to remain relevant with live sports content is why cable/satellite channels are overpaying now.

Could you make the argument that wrestling draws better internationally, sure… International markets are better connected with technology today than they are now. Fine, have that argument, but WWE and AEW still do like 80% of their business in North America.

So there go, Bryans, Davids, Brandons, and other “wrestling influencers” of the world…

HOWEVER, I’m here to tell you what is REALLY happening right now with the wrestling world. Are you ready?

I’m here to solve why both WWE and AEW are relevant, besides being overpaid by very desperate Cable/Satellite channels in need of live sports content…

Are you ready?

Are you sure?

Majority of wrestling fans are just watching Pay Per Views or Premium Live Events only.

*Mic Drop*

And the same goes for attending wrestling events as well.

Most people DO NOT have time to watch 3 hours of RAW on Monday Nights. If you have a family or want to have fun with the opposite sex (or the same, if you’re into that and that’s OK), they aren’t going to sit in a chair for 3 hours on Monday Nights. Furthermore, Friday Nights are a DATE NIGHT and for many, the primary night for High School Sports. Who wants to sit in front of a television and watch wrestling for 2 hours when they could use that prime Friday Night real estate to party and chase women? Gee, why is AEW a complete failure on Saturday Nights? Oh yeah, same thing, another big date night.

I’m willing to bet that if WWE reduced RAW from a 3 hour show to a 2 hour show, they’d consistently be above 2 million viewers on USA Network right now. It’s always that 3rd hour where wrestling fans are like “screw this, I’m out”. Even the WWE knows this because they purposely have their biggest segments in the first 2 hours and half-ass the 3rd hour. During the Attitude Era, the 2nd and last hour of RAW drew stronger than the first.

There’s a reason why you don’t see RAW, Smackdown, Dynamite, Collision, or Rampage reviews from me. If I watched the full shows with commercials as they are presented on Cable/Satellite, that’s 3+2+2+2+1 = 10 hours of watching wrestling programming a week in Prime Time. If a PPV/PLE occurs that weekend, it piles on 3-4 more hours on top of that.

Who has time for watching so much BAD wrestling programming? The Television shows are just infomercials for PPV/PLEs. Most of the highlights of the TV shows are displayed before a PPV/PLE match, anyway. These 2-3 hour wrestling shows are a WASTE OF YOUR TIME, and I really feel bad for the folks attending these shows.

Most wrestling fans have realized where the best portions are and they are clearly on PPV/PLEs of AEW and WWE. AEW’s television shows, especially, are a real chore to watch but their Pay Per Views are usually pretty good. RAW and Smackdown are a struggle to watch, so why not just wait for the PLEs?

3 hours of RAW… Who the hell wants to keep a price gouging Cable/Satellite package to watch that crap?

I sure as hell don’t, as time is not a luxury that we all have.

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