Ideally, television ratings should show a natural growth in viewership, culminating with the finale.
For the most part since its inception, Raw has been exemplary in the way it has accrued viewers from the very first image to the last.
However, since Raw has added a third hour to its already two-hour slog, all bets have been off.
Because the wrestling marketplace isn't nearly as hot as it once was, it simply isn't in any position to stretch itself beyond the usual slot of programming.
As a result, a long, drawn-out show with mostly less-than-compelling characters becomes a challenge for viewers.
As illustrated by the ratings for the September 3 edition of Raw, fans dropped out in droves for the all-important final hour between 10-11 p.m.
According to PWTorch.com, the number of viewers for hours one through three were the following: 4.31 million in the first hour, 4.40 million in the second and 3.91 million for the last hour.
The data for the third hour is telling. As a reference point, November 7, 2011 was the last time 3.91 million viewers or fewer watched Raw's 10 to 11 hour.
According to the Nielsen ratings emailed to B/R, six out of seven times since the July 23 episode—the only exception being the Sept. 3 episode—the strongest quarter hour in terms of viewership is in the last hour of the show. So for the first six weeks, it's apparent that viewers have been willing to stay tuned in for the full three hours.
So, why did nearly 500,000 viewers decide to step away as Raw revved up for its third hour?
Certainly, the fact that three hours is too long for any show, let alone one that has a tendency to rest on its laurels, would be a logical answer.
Still, there may be other factors that contributed to the sharp decline.
It's possible that much of the lackluster material in hour two, such as the the continuation of the Vickie-A.J. storyline and Zack Ryder vs. Heath Slater, didn't entice fans to gut it out for another round.
Another reason could be that John Cena is no longer compelling enough to keep viewers attached to their TV screens until the main event.
Whatever the cause, though, WWE should be very concerned about a fanbase that is not as loyal as it used to be.
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