As we reported earlier today, Hell in a Cell fallout brought the RAW viewership up from last week, but the overall numbers for October are still some of the lowest of the year.
October 2014 averaged 3.75 million viewers. That’s not just the lowest draw of the year, but of the last two years. The second lowest month this year was May, which averaged only 3.91 million, even after a tremendous WrestleMania XXX PPV and the successful RAW ratings that followed it. To put that in perspective, the lowest score of 2013 came during the start of NFL season, and still managed 3.83 million people.
I decided to take a look at the last two year’s worth of WWE viewership data, because it comes across to most as a much less abstract number than the TV ratings. Here are my findings, in graph form:
What’s interesting is that RAW actually started in about the same place both years, and is likely heading towards a similar conclusion. The numbers for January are near identical (4.63 vs. 4.58), but there are a few major differences in how the year played out.
The biggest one, as you can see by the huge, plummeting red line segment, came after WrestleMania XXX. Even though the April event took RAW to the best scores its seen the past two years (and possibly beyond), there was a massive drop-off heading into the next month’s PPV.
In 2013, WWE had a much more successful first quarter overall, with the Road to WrestleMania boosting the scores a lot more than Mania itself. The drop-off was much less severe, despite landing around the same place two months later.
What that means is last year there was a gradual loss in interest in the product. It perked back up for SummerSlam, as expected, but then struggled when the NFL season got underway. The graph doesn’t show November or December 2013, but what you’d see is similar to September and October. Those early months where they saw the biggest turnout had The Rock as WWE Champion, and the impending rematch with John Cena at WrestleMania 29. Once that program ended, people slowly tuned out.
This year, the actual ROAD to ‘Mania had a surprisingly low turnout. The major stories were Daniel Bryan being “screwed over” several times by the Authority, Batista’s return, and John Cena working a mid-card program with the Wyatt Family.
This all begs the question: was Daniel Bryan a factor in the RAW ratings?
The months he was champion, or fighting for the title, were the lowest of 2013. That said, they were also expected to be low because of NFL and TV season kicking off. But because January to March 2014 – the time Bryan was fighting his way back to the title – also didn’t seem to generate interest on RAW, it makes you wonder.
On the flip side, WrestleMania month was up almost 8% over March this year. Those numbers held steady until the week Bryan announced that he was injured, and was forced to vacate the title. The important thing is to try and understand why the numbers dropped 16% (that’s SIXTEEN PERCENT) between April and May. Even with a Kane match at Extreme Rules, which you would think wouldn’t bring in a ton of eyes to the show, the numbers stayed firm until the title was taken from Daniel Bryan.
My theory is that WrestleMania just did incredibly well, and it being the 30th anniversary plus the launch of the WWE Network, there were a lot of eyes on the product. They had The Rock, Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan and The Undertaker‘s streak ending on one show, and the product was highlighted in a lot of major media publications. Once people realized it was just “business as usual”, the numbers went back down to just the weekly faithful. That 16% drop looks nasty, but you also have to factor in that RAW was doing way better than it probably should have been in April, and that fall was just the viewing market regulating itself.
Don’t get me wrong – that’s still a problem, and WWE needs to figure out why they can’t retain the fans that show up for WrestleMania season. If they could have curbed that drop to 10%, or even 5% (which is around the average monthly fluctuation), RAW would have blown last year’s numbers out of the water.
The good news is that after the crash, summer 2014 actually did quite well, out-performing 2013 for three out of five months, from May to September.
It’s pretty easy to look at numbers for the month of October and say that RAW is a “sinking ship” and that the numbers are the worst they’ve ever been. And technically yes, October was the worst period of the last two years for RAW viewership. But when you actually add up every month, and look at how many fans watched the show all year long, they’re almost exactly the same. Shockingly close, actually.
In 2013, 42.16 million people watched WWE RAW on average.
In 2014, 42.22 million people watched WWE RAW on average.