The preliminary buyrate for Royal Rumble, one of the year's top events, is out and the news isn't good for WWE. Viewership dropped for the third consecutive year, which proves changes to the product will become necessary following a star-studded WrestleMania.
Richard Gray of Wrestling News World provides the details:
WWE has updated their key performance indicators and have revealed the preliminary buyrate for Royal Rumble 2012. According to their numbers, the show did 438,000 buys (272,000 being in North America and 166,000 being international).
In comparison, Royal Rumble 2011 did 446,000 buys and Royal Rumble 2010 did 462,000 buys. This year’s preliminary estimate is down 1.7% from last year and down 5.2% from 2010.
Losing 24,000 viewers over the course of two shows should be a clear sign to Vince McMahon that something isn't working. They put a bunch of time into John Cena's feud with Kane and the return of Chris Jericho, yet the numbers still took a hit.
One reason for the drop was a poor build up to the event. Considering it was the 25th Rumble in history, the weekly programs leading up to the pay-per-view were extremely subpar. It's been a common theme over the past few years.
It's almost like the expanded PPV lineup has caused the company to become overly reliant on them to move storylines along instead of having a strong, consistent build leading up to the event.
Another factor is a stale product. The company hasn't done a good enough job of working fresh faces into the mix. While old standbys like Cena, Big Show and Kane will draw a reasonable audience like the company received, they aren't enough to reignite interest from the fans that stopped buying.
The WWE needs to give people interesting and unique reasons to tune in. Teasing a Cena heel turn isn't new, and diehard fans know it won't happen anyway. Everybody was pretty sure heading into the night that CM Punk and Daniel Bryan would defend the two marquee titles.
In other words, when the creative team doesn't give members of the WWE Universe a really good reason to tune in, they won't.
WrestleMania should do well. The Rock's return paired with Jericho, Undertaker and Triple H will attract those fans who loved the Attitude Era, but decided to tune out in recent years.
The question becomes will the WWE do enough to keep those people coming back in weeks after the event. It's going to take some outside-the-box thinking to make it happen, but it's not impossible.
Vince McMahon hasn't built the company into a powerhouse by accident. The Royal Rumble numbers make it crystal clear changes are needed moving forward if he wants to reverse the trend of fading buyrates. He's done it before, but not enough recently.
So, it's time to reach into his bag of tricks and shake things up a bit.