WrestleMania season is the time of year when the WWE’s ratings are at an annual high.
But this year, it hasn’t all been plain sailing as far as TV viewership is concerned.
As reported last week, Raw posted a slight dip in the ratings—and such a trend continued this week with Monday’s episode garnering an average audience of 4.37 million. This figure marks a 4.6 percent drop on the previous week, but more worryingly it represents a year-on-year decline of over nine percent.
Furthermore, the installment Raw in question from 2013 wasn’t even one of the most star-studded of shows. The Rock didn’t even feature, and though Brock Lesnar showed up to attack the New Age Outlaws and CM Punk confronted the Undertaker, the episode saw few other developments of any note.
Given that the WWE were publicising “WrestleMania announcements” from both Hulk Hogan and the Undertaker this week, this suggests this drop in viewership is indeed somewhat problematic.
Which once again brings me to last week’s discussion. If you can cast your minds back (or failing that, click the link at the beginning of the article), I questioned whether or not these ratings really even matter anymore.
The general consensus (beyond the clamour for the return of the Rock) was that yes, the ratings still matter—and having researched this further, it would seem that a number of you were indeed correct.
Last year, the WWE’s television right were expected to reach a total of almost $170 million. The graph below depicts this along with some historical figures for context:
Now, one of my main arguments last week was that with the WWE Network launching, TV ratings may no longer be as important as they once were. And based on these figures, one could argue that if the company can acquire roughly 1.4 million Network subscribers for the year, they would cover 2013’s the predicted revenue from TV rights.
Based on this logic, TV ratings do seem less significant given the Network’s launch.
However, it has recently been suggested that Vince McMahon is looking to increase TV revenues and to do so significantly.
Jeff Macke of Yahoo! Finance reports that McMahon is hoping to secure TV deals in a similar price range to that of NASCAR, who are currently earning over five times as much from TV per year than the WWE. And given the way the WWE’s current ratings compare with those of NASCAR, such ambitions seem very fair indeed.
In that case, the amount of subscribers the WWE Network would need to attract in order to make up for such foregone revenues would be vastly increased.
And furthermore the WWE needs roughly one million subscribers in order to break even on the venture in the first place. Sure, the break-even point doesn’t necessarily have to arrive within the first year, but if that's what the company is aiming for, then we'd need to add that million to the previously discussed 1.4 million subscribers needed to cover TV revenues.
The resultant figure is starting to look less and less achievable by the second.
Thus, I would conclude that if the WWE wish to carry on making the same amount of money as they currently are, then no, TV ratings aren’t so important anymore.
However, if they want to maximise their potential, both by signing NASCAR-like TV deals and taking advantage of the WWE Network’s full promise as a potentially massive supplement to existing revenues, then yes, TV ratings still very much matter.
Whichever way I look at this one though, it seems to me that the WWE really is on the verge of reaching that next level.
It’s a very exciting time for the professional wrestling business, particularly if you’re lucky enough to be employed by the WWE!
As ever, I’d love to get your opinions on this. If anything in the article has stood out to you or if there’s any point that you disagree with me on, then please feel free to comment below with your thoughts.