With the go-home episode of Monday Night Raw now done and dusted, the Road to WrestleMania is almost at its end.
From a fan's perspective, we were given our fair share of entertainment. The Undertaker chokeslamming Brock Lesnar through a table, the brilliant promos involving John Cena and Bray Wyatt and, of course, the Yes! Movement’s occupation of Raw last month were just a few of those memorable moments.
But how successful was the Road to WrestleMania from the WWE’s point of view?
With viewership figures now in for Raw’s go-home show, we can begin to try and answer that question. WrestlingINC.com reports:
Last night's WrestleMania go-home episode of WWE Monday Night RAW averaged 4.39 million viewers, up 3% from last week's show, which did 4.273 million viewers. The three hours were the top rated programs on cable last night.
The first hour averaged 4.231 million viewers, before rising to 4.603 million viewers in the second. The audience dipped in the final hour to 4.338 million viewers.
On the face of it, this slight increase (of 2.8 percent, if we’re being pernickety) looks pretty encouraging. In fact, of the 13 shows since the turn of the year, Raw has now posted seven positive week-on-week uplifts versus six negative. This gives an average week-on-week uplift of 0.7 percent, as shown in the table below:
|Average Raw Viewership|
|Week||2014 Avg. Viewers||WoW Increase|
|Jan 6||4.54 million||9.9%|
|Jan 13||4.40 million||-3.1%|
|Jan 20||4.86 million||10.5%|
|Jan 27||4.72 million||-2.9%|
|Feb 3||4.21 million||-10.8%|
|Feb 10||4.33 million||2.9%|
|Feb 17||4.36 million||0.7%|
|Feb 24||4.66 million||6.9%|
|Mar 3||4.58 million||-1.7%|
|Mar 10||4.37 million||-4.6%|
|Mar 17||4.08 million||-6.6%|
|Mar 24||4.27 million||4.7%|
|Mar 31||4.39 million||2.8%|
If we then multiply this average week-on-week increase by the number of weeks, we get a total increase in viewership of 8.6 percent for the Road to WrestleMania.
But it’s hard to ascertain the true significance of this number without any wider context; therefore, it’s worth taking a look at last year’s numbers to gauge this figure’s true success. The following table shows this year’s viewership numbers compared to the corresponding show of last year, as well as the year-on-year increase (or decrease) that this yielded:
|Average Raw Viewership (2013 vs. 2014)|
|Week||2014 Avg. Viewers||2013 Avg. Viewers||YoY Increase|
|Jan 6||4.54 million||4.42 million||2.7%|
|Jan 13||4.40 million||4.55 million||-3.3%|
|Jan 20||4.86 million||4.32 million||12.5%|
|Jan 27||4.72 million||5.02 million||-6.0%|
|Feb 3||4.21 million||4.81 million||-12.5%|
|Feb 10||4.33 million||4.26 million||1.6%|
|Feb 17||4.36 million||4.66 million||-6.4%|
|Feb 24||4.66 million||4.71 million||-1.1%|
|Mar 3||4.58 million||5.02 million||-8.8%|
|Mar 10||4.37 million||4.81 million||-9.1%|
|Mar 17||4.08 million||4.26 million||-4.2%|
|Mar 24||4.27 million||4.63 million||-7.6%|
|Mar 31||4.39 million||4.31 million||1.9%|
|Average||4.44 million||4.60 million||-3.3%|
As we can see, this year's go-home episode of Raw did actually outperform last year's by 1.9 percent. However, for the period as a whole, 2013's viewership was clearly stronger than that of 2014.
Noticeably, 2014’s figures were down on the previous year for six successive weeks between Feb. 17 and Mar. 24. This streak contributed heavily to an overall year-on-year decline of 3.3 percent.
Thus, we could conclude that 2014’s total increase in viewership of 8.6 percent during the Road to WrestleMania is not a particularly successful return. However, there are of course some qualitative factors to take into account, namely the fact that the 2013 Road to WrestleMania benefited from the drawing power of The Rock.
One could argue that the 2014 returns of Hulk Hogan and Batista made this year’s roster stronger, but these additions can largely be negated by the fact that last year’s line-up featured Chris Jericho, CM Punk and, of course, Shawn Michaels (albeit in a noncompetitive capacity).
Thus, The Rock is the only significant difference.
It’s difficult to put an exact figure on the value The Great One adds, but given his star power in both the mainstream entertainment and wrestling worlds, I think it would be fair to say that his absence this year could explain the 3.3 percent drop.
So to wrap it up, 2014’s Road to WrestleMania was less successful in terms of viewership that 2013's. This will be arguably of less concern to the WWE, though, as its recent launch of the WWE Network is more than capable of offsetting a 3.3 percent dip in its TV audience.
Furthermore, I don’t think it would be fair to say that stars such as Daniel Bryan are the reason for this year-on-year decline, mainly because The Rock's absence can explain this drop.
Thus, if we take all factors into account, from a business standpoint, it would appear that 2014’s viewership figures are not particularly concerning for the WWE.
Sure, it's not an increase on 2013, but it was always going to be difficult to reach last year's heights without the same level of star power on the roster. And if you consider the groundbreaking WWE Network launch, you may even go as far as saying that 2014 has in fact been a better year for the WWE.
Of course, this is just my interpretation of the situation.
Please feel free to comment below with your own thoughts on this matter, as well as any of the issues that were discussed in the article itself.