WWE News REPORT: The Daniel Bryan Effect - How Bryan's injury absence has affected Raw TV ratings since Extreme Rules, plus comparison to post-Mania Season in past years
Jul 14, 2014 - 3:17:07 AM
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By James Caldwell, PWTorch assistant editor
C.M. Punk and Daniel Bryan are still on Raw TV - if you go by to a boilerplate USA Network blurb released this weekend promoting their upcoming TV line-up.
If only Bryan were still available. Since May 5 - the night after Bryan's last WWE match at Extreme Rules - WWE has not tasted a 3.0 rating. Not even going back to John Cena as WWE champion has produced a 3.0.
The May 5 Raw scored a 3.02 rating, then Raw slipped below the psychological 3.0 level the following week when Bryan began to be written off TV due to his injury status.
Raw fell as far as a 2.64 rating on May 26 in the meat of the NBA Playoffs, rebounded to a 2.94 rating the night after Payback, fell back to a 2.84 rating before Money in the Bank, and rebounded to a 2.94 and 2.90 rating the past two weeks following MITB.
Now, WWE's business was not centered on Bryan, even when he was champion. It was still about the brand, John Cena, and then Bryan. But, Bryan is one of the few WWE wrestlers of the past five years to truly impact WWE's ratings.
Whether it was a long-form match, a verbal exchange with Triple H, a verbal exchange with Stephanie McMahon, a backstage skit with Kane, or anything else involving Bryan, people flocked to his segments. His versatility made him extremely valuable to WWE, creatively.
Leading up to WrestleMania 30, Raw's TV ratings were at times singlehandedly boosted by whatever Bryan was doing a particular week. The long-term build-up - by today's standards - of getting Bryan to the top of the mountain at WM30 endeared him to the audience, created a new top star, and set up WWE for a strong follow-through after WrestleMania.
But, The Injury surfaced, WWE was forced to go back to Cena as WWE champion without much of a story or title quest to re-engage the audience, and WWE broke up The Shield earlier than anticipated.
The follow-up question is how WWE has fared in past years during the traditional WrestleMania lull season. Is the rating staying below a 3.0 simply a seasonal adjustment compounded by the effect of the NBA Playoffs, DVR'ing, and fragmented cable TV market? Let's examine.
- First, in 2014, from the period of post-Extreme Rules to the current point in the beginning of July, no episode has scored above a 3.0 rating since May 5.
- Last year, four Raw episodes scored above a 3.0 during the same time period. The episodes were June 10, June 17, July 8, and July 15 after WWE took a deep breath in May. The peak rating was a 3.08 on July 8.
- In 2012, six episodes scored above a 3.0 during the same time period. Raw was consistently above a 3.0, then took a huge hit on Memorial Day May 28 against the NBA Playoffs and Hatfield & McCoys, then reset the show and peaked with a 3.42 rating on June 18.
- In 2011, every episode except the Fourth of July was above a 3.0 rating during the period. The peak was a 3.42 rating on May 23, inflated for the first Raw after Randy Savage's death.
Each year, DVR'ing becomes more and more of a factor, but WWE strongly emphasized during TV contract negotiations earlier this year that their programming is "DVR-proof," citing a 90 percent live viewing experience. So, by their own admission, DVR'ing cannot be weighed too heavily in the comparison.
Another factor, the NBA Playoffs, should be weighed, as the NBA drew very strong ratings throughout each round, especially the memorably competitive First Round.
The one wild card is the WWE Network. Are subscribers to the new service getting enough WWE content that Raw has become skippable some weeks? Or, on the flip side, have fans dropped off from WWE because they either cannot, will not, or do not know how to access the Network?
All of these factors have to be weighed. But, at the end of the day, the effect of Daniel Bryan's absence outweighs all of them based on how much of an impact he made before WrestleMania, how WWE went through on paying off his journey at WM30, and the number of opponents that were lined up for Bryan after Kane at Extreme Rules leading to Brock Lesnar at Summerslam.
WWE was forced to call an audible after Bryan's injury pushed him out of the WWE Title picture and all the way off TV. The follow-through has not made up for Bryan's absence.
July is usually when WWE picks up steam heading into Summerslam, but the post-MITB episode on June 30 and the post-Reset Raw episode on July 7 did not get Raw over the 3.0 hump. Perhaps WWE gets another taste after Battleground leading into Summerslam. But, without Bryan, it's been an uphill battle this season.
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