KELLER'S TAKE KELLER: Raw ratings sink to lowest in years - what must WWE be considering?
Oct 2, 2012 - 10:17:37 PM
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By Wade Keller, PWTorch editor
With Raw ratings sinking to a 2.5 rating, a rating I predicted would be common shortly after WWE announced to the expansion to three hours early this summer, what must WWE be thinking?
They might be tempted to blame the Dallas Cowboys vs. Chicago Bears. But it was a just over a dozen years ago that Monday Night Football was worried about losing young male viewers by the hundreds of thousands to Raw and Nitro. A strong pro wrestling product can hurt MNF just like a weak wrestling product can be hurt by MNF.
The rating indicates the Raw is more vulnerable to competition than at any time in recent history. Yes, they peaked at a 4.0 for the Raw #1,000 special, but they've since driven away over a third of that viewership.
WWE could also blame John Cena's absence. There is no doubt his absence was a factor, but if he were on the show, would it be worth celebrating a 2.6 or 2.7 rating instead? Or even a 2.8? Cena will probably end up being more of a ratings draw in November and December because of this time away. In the long-run, it might be a good thing. What this 2.5 rating exposes, though, is WWE's over-reliance on Cena and lack of wrestlers beneath him on the roster whom fans see as a true attractions. At least a slice of fans won't watch if Cena's not on the show.
What WWE should be looking at is an escape plan from the three-hour format. Sooner is better. Vince McMahon told me back in the early months of the Monday Night War when Nitro began destroying Raw in the ratings week after week that he wasn't too proud to "blink first." His explanation to me was that he wouldn't be too prideful to move Raw from Monday to another night if he felt it would help his company survive. He also said he feared WCW would just move Nitro to whatever night Raw aired on.
Is it time for Vince to do what Spike TV and TNA did two and a half years ago and pull the plug on this experiment? It didn't take long for Spike and TNA to realize that they weren't ready to compete head-to-head with Raw. Rather than stubbornly stay on Mondays, they moved back to their comfort zone of Thursdays where they had a larger loyal audience.
There are a lot of small things WWE could have done better in the first two months of the three-hour Raw format to give the longer show a better chance to retain viewers. They stuck with the same formula as the two-hour show, but just made everything longer and added some filler that otherwise would have ended up on Thursday's old Superstars show on WGN.
Now, though, the damage is done. The viewing habits of WWE viewers have been broken. They're selectively watching parts of Raw, choosing 60, 90, 120, maybe 150 minutes, but a big percentage of former dedicated, start-to-finish viewers aren't watching the entire show anymore. WWE should move rapidly to doing what needs to be done, regardless of a desire to "save face" and "not look like it's a retreat," and do what's best for WWE in the long-term.
My conclusion to this commentary will be part of this week's new PWTorch Newsletter, available in three formats to VIP members tomorrow - PDF digital edition, online web text edition, and mobile text edition. For information on going VIP, click here: http://www.pwtorch.com/govip/
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PWTorch editor Wade Keller has covered pro wrestling full time since 1987 starting with the Pro Wrestling Torch print newsletter. PWTorch.com launched in 1999 and the PWTorch Apps launched in 2008.
He has conducted "Torch Talk" insider interviews with Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Steve Austin, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Eric Bischoff, Jesse Ventura, Lou Thesz, Jerry Lawler, Mick Foley, Jim Ross, Paul Heyman, Bruno Sammartino, Goldberg, more.
He has interviewed big-name players in person incluiding Vince McMahon (at WWE Headquarters), Dana White (in Las Vegas), Eric Bischoff (at the first Nitro at Mall of America), Brock Lesnar (after his first UFC win).
He hosted the weekly Pro Wrestling Focus radio show on KFAN in the early 1990s and hosted the Ultimate Insiders DVD series distributed in retail stories internationally in the mid-2000s including interviews filmed in Los Angeles with Vince Russo & Ed Ferrara and Matt & Jeff Hardy. He currently hosts the most listened to pro wrestling audio show in the world, (the PWTorch Livecast, top ranked in iTunes)
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