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AEW Rampage beat WWE Smackdown on FS1 in one demo, tied Smackdown in other key demos, but came up short of beating Smackdown in total viewership. Rampage did draw more overall viewers than the previous week’s episode and did beat Smackdown head-to-head in the 30 minute overlap in the 18-49 demo.
These can be marked down as bragging points for AEW, and it shows WWE probably would have lost another key demo or two had they not loaded their show and added 30 minutes ad-free. It’s actually possible that extra 30 minutes, despite being ad-free and featuring Brock Lesnar and a big Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks match, pulled the ratings average down due to the later timeslot of that added 30 minutes. We’ll get that data later this week.
AEW Rampage aired in its usual timeslot and lasted its usual one hour, but faced new competition from Smackdown for its first 30 minutes. Because Smackdown was bumped from Fox broadcast network to the FS1 cable network, WWE was able to expand Smackdown by 30 minutes. They loaded that 30 minutes and went commercial-free, presumably to try to prevent AEW from getting key victory bragging points with Rampage. It worked and didn’t work.
In total viewership, Smackdown dropped from the usual 2.2 million range to 866,000, a substantial dropoff which shows the built-in advantage WWE has by being on the Fox broadcast network instead of a cable network each week. Last October, Smackdown dropped to 881,000 total viewers when they were bumped to FS1, so this viewership drop wasn’t unexpected.
No one, including AEW’s leader Tony Khan, anticipated Rampage drawing more viewers than Smackdown overall. They probably actually expected to take a hit because of the 30 minutes of overlap by the expanded Smackdown could have pulled viewers away from Rampage who otherwise would have watched. Instead, total viewership rose to 578,000 from 502,000 last week, although it’s still the second lowest viewership for the series since it premiered on Aug. 13.
Where AEW clearly hoped for a victory was in the demographics, with knowledge of the big hit Smackdown took last year on FS1 in key demos. That’s where AEW can claim victory, as they tied Smackdown in the 18-49 demo (0.24) and the 18-34 male demo (0.20) while scoring a narrow victory in the 18-49 male demo (0.34 to 0.32).
In the 30 minute overlap, AEW actually defeated WWE Smackdown by about 15 percent in the most coveted 18-49 demo – 328,000 to 285,000.