Monday’s episode of WWE Monday Night Raw (2/18) on USA Network drew a 1.96 rating, the highest rating for Raw since Aug. 27, 2018 before NFL season. It was up from the 1.74 rating last week and well above the 1.78 average for 2019 headed into this week. One year ago this week Raw drew a 2.21 rating and Raw averaged a 2.24 rating through this date in 2018. Two years ago this week, Raw drew a 2.20 rating and averaged a 2.20 through this week in 2017.
This week’s rating beats the post-Royal Rumble episode of Raw, which drew a 1.92.
On the down side, though, Raw experienced one of its biggest drop-offs between the first and third hour in recent history. The first hour drew 3.046 million viewers, the second hour 2.840 million viewers, and the third hour 2.427 million viewers. That drop-off from the first to the third hour of 619,000 was the second biggest decline during Raw in the last year. Only the Jan. 21 episode of Raw this year had a bigger drop-off from the first to the third hour (697,000 viewers).
Both of the biggest drop-offs this past year came during shows where Ronda Rousey was the main event of the third hour of the program. This week it was Rousey vs. Ruby Riott. On Jan. 21 it was Rousey & Natalya vs. Bayley & Sasha Banks. The previous time Raw lost more than 600,000 viewers came on Nov. 12, 2018, and that episode headlined with Bayley vs. Sasha Banks in the third hour.
When Raw starts with a stronger-than-average first hour viewership, there is more room to drop, but it’s not inevitable. Back on Aug. 20, Raw opened with 3.110 million first hour viewers and dropped in the third hour to 2.936 million, a mere 174,000 drop-off. The next week, though, it also opened with more than 3 million viewers in the first hour and it dropped 446,000 for the third hour.
Back on Apr. 16, 2018 Raw drew 3.634 million viewers in the first hour and lost only 155,000 viewers for the third hour. In fact, on June 19, 2017, Raw opened with 3.075 million viewers and closed with 3.029 million viewers for a drop of only 46,000 viewers. More often than not, though, when Raw opens with over 3 million viewers in the first hour, the drop-off by the third hour is well above average. There are exceptions and it is not inevitable. WWE just has a tougher time holding onto “infrequent” viewers beyond the first hour, so even if they tune in because it’s the day after a PPV or there’s a social media buzz, they end up dropping down to usual levels by the end.
This week the first hour viewership was 500,000 above the first hour average dating back to the start of November, and the third hour viewership was just 234,000 above the third hour average for the same time period. So they kept about half of the viewers who don’t normally watch the first hour but lost half of them by the end.
Raw’s three hours topped cable’s rankings for Monday night in the coveted 18-49 demographic, finishing with 1.1, 1.0, and 0.8 ratings. The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC drew the largest total viewership for the night, though, with 3.229 million viewers.