WWE released its third-quarter 2012 financial figures, accompanied by the obligatory conference call featuring usual suspects WWE CEO Vince McMahon and CFO George Barrios.
Mired in the sea of mild highlights came a borderline comedic proclamation by an overly optimistic McMahon, who stated that the third hour of WWE RAW is "doing extremely well."
Unfortunately for Vince, it's fact-checking season, and one doesn't need to dig too deep before smelling the cow dung littered about his delusional claim.
RAW ratings from this past week rebounded for the most part, but as has been the theme in the three-hour RAW era, third-hour viewing declined violently to 3.78 million viewers compared to 4.22 million in the second hour.
This marked the 11th straight week that RAW ratings declined in the third hour, and served as yet another indictment on a bold move that was panned from the start.
In a quarter that has seen the WWE continue to bolster television content, with WWE programming now able to be seen four days per week, the addition of a third hour of RAW only increases viewer fatigue and has not produced a justifiable return on investment, with live and televised revenue up only 1 percent in 3Q-12 compared to last year.
A confounding characteristic of professional wrestling is the industry's insistence in promoting ideas, concepts and gimmicks that failed in the past, despite wrestling fans being nostalgic creatures of habit who remember everything.
The WWE tried moving to three hours to compete with WCW Nitro during the Monday Night Wars in the late '90s and the move quickly burned out the wrestling viewers who had become inundated with content they deemed unnecessary.
Back in the two-hour era, WWE viewing habits for three-hour specials included fans tuning in during the hours of 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. while skipping the first hour.
With RAW now permanently three hours, fans have simply adjusted their partial viewership by tuning in to the first two hours while tapping out during the final hour.
The verdict? Two hours is about all wrestling fans can stomach for non-pay-per-view WWE programming. Up against stout competition during the coveted fall TV season, the WWE should adjust accordingly sooner than later.
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