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The final year Raw TV ratings do not look pretty compared to last year or a four-year stint looking back to 2010.
The cause of WWE’s pronounced Raw TV ratings decline in 2015 was dissected, poked at, examined, debated, discussed, and attempted to be excused throughout the year as the numbers slipped into historical low-points during the Fall TV season.
The bottom line is Raw fell to an 18-year low average going back to before the start of the Attitude Era.
The final average for first-run Raw TV viewing was a 2.65 rating and 3.705 million viewers. This was down 10.4 percent from an average 2.95 rating in 2014 and down 10.6 percent from an average of 4.143 million viewers last year.
For long-term comparison purposes later in the report, we’re stretching back to 2010, which could be looked at as the beginning of the current window. There is also an interesting tie-in to the time period.
In January 2010, TNA attempted to kick-start a Monday Night Wars 2.0. However, they found out that demand for their programming dropped off significantly both when running taped every-other-week and as the experiment went on. This was not the late 1990s pre-DVR technology when you had to flip back and forth to catch both Raw and WCW Nitro. TNA’s dramatic swings in live viewership during the early part of 2010 captured how much immediate demand there was to watch the programming.
Fast-forward to 2015 and WWE experienced what TNA discovered five years earlier. Demand for immediate viewing of Raw TV programming was down ten percent on a year-to-year basis.
In the two big seasons of WrestleMania and Fall TV, Raw was down 9-10 percent during WM31 season vs. WM30 season and Raw was down 13-15 percent in Fall 2015 vs. Fall 2014.
- 2015 WM31 Avg.: 2.92 rating / 4.049 million viewers
- 2014 WM30 Avg.: 3.20 rating / 4.495 million viewers
- 2015 Fall TV Avg.: 2.34 rating / 3.325 million viewers
- 2014 Fall TV Avg.: 2.75 rating / 3.823 million viewers
It’s interesting looking at the downturn just within 2015. Raw averaged a 2.92 rating during WrestleMania Season (January to April), then was clear down to a 2.34 rating during the fall season (September to December), a 19.8 percent decline within the year.
A contributor appears to be the preceding 14.0 percent decline from WM30 Season to Fall 2014 TV season.
Looking at why there was such a sharp Raw TV ratings decline in 2015, you could name any number of reasons. If breaking it down in a pie chart, a portion could go to this being three years into the three-hour Raw TV experiment where viewers have formed new viewing habits, Raw simply being too long at three hours, Creative issues and stubbornness, John Cena descending from the top spot, resistance to Roman Reigns rising to the top spot, the absence of likable top babyfaces like Daniel Bryan, the over-cooked “Authority” heel faction continuing to dominate the show, an overall downturn in the mix of talent, the available talent being over-exposed and under-valued, WWE routinely exposing the business and telling viewers what they’re doing is a put-on, the inverse rise of NXT as an alternative to WWE’s own main program, a portion of viewers cutting cable/satellite from their entertainment budget, and a general increase in DVR viewing affecting how people consume programming, especially LONG programming without that natural sports-like element of four quarters, nine innings, or two halves to follow along with.
What is most interesting is whether this downward trend continues in 2016. The low-points in 2015 were a 2.16 rating in mid-November and a 2.15 rating on December 7, which then led to WWE cashing in their big chips at TLC and the following week’s Raw.
Has WWE reached the bottom point in this era, or is there a possibility to dip below a 2.0 rating in 2016? Time will tell in a new year with even more challenges to face as the entertainment landscape continues to change on a seemingly-weekly basis.
2015 WWE Raw Break Down
– High: 3.68 rating post-WM31 (March 30). WWE did not reach a 3.0 the rest of the year.
– Lows: 2.15 rating (Dec. 7) and 2.16 rating (Nov. 23).
– Final Avg. Rating: 2.65 (down 10.4 percent vs. 2014)
– Final Avg. Viewership: 3.705 million viewers (down 10.6 percent vs. 2014)
2015 Raw vs. Five Year Break Down
– 2015: 2.65 rating / 3.705 million viewers
– 2014: 2.96 rating (-10.4%) / 4.143 million viewers (-10.6%)
– 2013: 3.01 rating (-12.2%) / 4.157 million viewers (-10.9%)
– 2012: 3.00 rating (-11.9%) / 4.311 million viewers (-14.1%)
– 2011: 3.21 rating (-17.5%) / 4.787 million viewers (-22.6%)
– 2010: 3.28 rating (-19.4%) / 4.785 million viewers (-22.6%)
Notice that 2011 was the last full year of two-hour Raws. WWE shifted to three-hour Raws mid-way through 2012, setting in motion the three-year bill that came due in 2015.
Overall, Raw was down an average of one million viewers in 2015 compared to the two-hour Raws of 2011 and 2010.
WWE’s objective going forward is ensuring that the financial value of the third hour still exceeds the financial value of a better, more-watched two-hour version of Raw. In other words, WWE has to find the point where getting paid for that extra hour is no longer more valuable than getting paid for two hours with a better show that draws more viewers.
WWE is of course locked into a contract with USA Network and they’re set to get paid a substantial amount on the back-end for three-hour Raws in the years to follow. But, if the downward trend continues in 2016, will it be financially prudent to continue watering down the flagship show just because USA Network is willing to pay for 52 extra hours of TV per year?