KELLER'S TAKE KELLER'S TAKE: Readers overwhelmingly want to see Raw returned to two hour format, plus Random Thoughts on Gail Kim, Adam Rose, WWE survey missing key options
Oct 16, 2014 - 11:32:09 AM
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By Wade Keller, PWTorch editor
Yesterday, we asked you whether you'd watch Raw more often if it were cut back to two hours again. By a wider margin than I anticipated, you voted yes by an 84-16 percent margin. In fact, 55 percent said you would "for sure" watch more of Raw more often if it were two hours instead of three, and another 29 percent you'd "probably" watch more often.
In the comment area, M.T. wrote: "60 minutes of solid content in a 120 minute show is much more tolerable than 60 minutes of solid content in a 180 minute show."
Nick wrote: "I don't currently watch Raw, but length doesn't have anything to do with it. I'd be perfectly willing to watch six hour Raws, as long as they were GOOD, which is not the case now, and wasn't even the case the last time it was only two hours."
That's part of the issue. Every NFL fan loves a competitive, exciting, dramatic three hour football game, but no NFL fans loves a sloppy, low-scoring, dragged out three hour game. So part of Raw's issue isn't length, it's quality. Insert your own joke here.
But cutting back to two hours, when the booking is weaker, would at least likely lead to less of a sense they are filling out the show for the sake filling of time.
T-Dub wrote: "If the show was two hours, the extra garbage put in would be lessened. And the wrestlers wouldn't be on TV as much, which now makes them all feel watered down. I haven't watched a full three hour episode straight through in months and watched very little of the last few weeks. The shows have been so bad I find myself forcing to keep it on than enjoying it. And if it's that bad, why put myself through it?"
The overexposure of top talent is one of the consequences of the expanded Raw. In order to try to hold the audience, the "proven draws" or "top-top guys" get called on more often. When Raw was chasing Nitro in the ratings and Steve Austin got red-hot, WWE featured him in almost every segment of the show. It worked then because Austin was so over, but it was unsustainable over the long-run.
The negative ramifications of Raw and USA Network going for that third hour is less tangible than the simple-minded math driving the decision. Wall Street insists WWE "grow grow grow," but the focus is quarter to quarter growth sometimes at the expense of long-term stability without an eye on sustainability. Sure, if they make 2X from two hours, they'll make 3X from three hours! Easy decision, right? Then why not add a fourth hour if the logic is so simple? Or a fifth and sixth! A six hour Raw would produce three times the revenue of a two hour Raw, right?
The reason they don't do a six hour Raw is the same reason it's a mistake to do a three hour Raw. There's a break point where the talent on the show is overexposed, storylines are either sped up or stretched out - sped up to keep things exciting or stretched out because there's so much time to fill. Yes, if Vince McMahon cared more about protecting mid-carders and cultivating the value of more than just his top six stars, Raw's three hour format would be more tolerable and it might even work. But I'd still argue a tight two hour format packed with an array of stars top-to-bottom who were protected and cultivated is going to be healthier for the product in the long-run, including giving Raw a true chance to increase ratings over time rather than constantly fighting viewership erosion.
The NBA is looking this preseason at cutting minutes off games to try to preserve the health of star players and keep fans more interested. Every major sport is trying to find ways to shorten games, not lengthen them, yet Raw expanded. Raw likes to compare itself to weekly episodic TV shows, yet there isn't another episodic weekly TV show that lasts over three hours 52 weeks a year. There's a reason CSI is one hour, not three hours.
Realistically, WWE isn't going to cut Raw back to two hours, even though they should starting as soon as next week. The short-term blow to ad revenue would prohibit a move at a time they are reeling from the disappointing WWE Network subscription numbers and the demoralizingly and disappointing new TV deal they signed this year with NBC Universal. So the answer is WWE doing a better job with the three hour format they're essentially stuck with. This week's Raw was a step in the right direction, with better wrestling, longer matches that feel like they matter, and more backstage promos before and after matches to set the stage and put in perspective the consequences of what happened inside the ring, with less juvenile humor and embarrassing celebrity skits.
If WWE did a better job with Raw, I should be able to ask this same poll question in three months and get a much different response.
I was disappointed to read that Gail Kim said in a recent interview it was a "great thing that happened" that Dixie Carter was driven through a table. Nearly a year of TNA TV time was essentially wasted building around a heel authority figure for a payoff that didn't even pop a rating or help create a new star. All that came out of it was a breakup between Rock Star Spud and Ethan Carter III. TNA lost a likable on-air leader that gave TNA a sense of having sane, compassionate, upbeat leadership, a contrast to WWE's ridiculous set-up of being run by two arrogant smug rich assholes who ask you to support them with $9.99 coming off your credit card each month. Also, didn't Dixie legitimately get hurt? How is that "a great thing that happened" when, really, literally nothing good and a lot of bad came from centering nearly a year of TV around a 50sh year old on-air authority figure instead of building new stars and focusing on the wrestlers in the ring?... I'm curious if WWE sticks with the focus on in-ring wrestling and less on comedy. Vince McMahon isn't much of a fan of the Adam Rose character, but Triple H is. Last week on Smackdown, Rose lost without fanfare to Kane, and Monday on Raw, the Bunny was nowhere to be seen. It's Vince's nature to lash out and blame someone else when things go bad - like last week's Raw ratings did - so I could see Adam Rose being one of the scapegoats... WWE is sending surveys to ex-Network subscribers asking why they cancelled. They have a question that presents nearly 30 options for why they cancelled, and WWE can learn a lot from responses, such as whether people find the technology difficult to deal with or they want more classic vintage content. They did ask if the fan isn't into WWE enough to justify a subscription and they ask if Raw and Smackdown are enough WWE for them each week. What's missing, though, is an option that overtly says WWE programming lately has been disappointing or they don't like the current mix of top stars or they don't want to support a company run by two big jerks like Stephanie and Triple H. A lot of viewers aren't exposed to Steph's Tweets saying how she "loves playing a villain" or Triple H's rah rah nice guy version of himself in NXT media conference calls. Some of those fans might be sour on the WWE brand itself because it's a company operated and controlled by awful human beings, based on the presentation of the brand on TV. Mostly, though, WWE has to realize that a hot product on air is going to lead to more interest in Network subs, and going back to the main editorial above, the more fans are left "wanting more" instead of feeling exhausted and frustrated at the end of three-hour Raws, the more likely they are to desire more programming on the Network...
(Wade Keller launched the Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter in 1987 and launched PWTorch.com in 1999 and the PWTorch Apps in 2008. He hosts the daily PWTorch Livecast a couple times per week. He has done the longest insider interviews some of pro wrestling top stars have ever taken part in including Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Goldberg, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Jim Ross, Eric Bischoff, and many others. Those interviews are available to PWTorch VIP members. You can sign up here: 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.
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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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