The big news
After 18 months of AEW Dynamite and WWE NXT airing mostly head to head, the final installment of that battle took place last night. NXT had more viewers overall, but Dynamite won in the key demo. Of course, the NXT TakeOver show also streaming on the Peacock network in the United States so it’s possible, and maybe even likely, that NXT won in both categories, but the only concrete numbers we have are for the USA Network and TNT broadcasts. Nonetheless, the numbers were relatively good for both shows despite the fact that Dynamite had one of it’s lowest overall viewership numbers in their history.
This week’s numbers
AEW Dynamite averaged 688,000 viewers, down 1.7% from last week. It’s the third straight week of declining audience for the show and this is only the second time since June of 2020 where the show has fallen below 700,000 viewers. The good news is that the show finished 5th on cable with a 0.28 rating, up 7.7% from last week.
WWE NXT had it’s highest viewership since October’s Halloween Havoc episode, which was essentially a TakeOver-quality show. It averaged 768,000 viewers, up 17.4% from last week. The show finished 11th on cable in the 18–49 demo with a 0.22 rating, up 4.8% from last week. It was the 2nd straight week that the show had it’s highest placement on the cable charts since the debut of Dynamite as the show prepares for a move to Tuesday nights.
Monday Night RAW on the USA Network on April 5th had stiff competition in the form of the NCAA Final game, which had the audience for any sporting event with the exception of the NFL since 2019. Despite that, the show had an identical viewership to last week, averaging 1.701 million viewers. It was down 7.1% in the 18–49 demo with a 0.52 rating. However, that was still good enough to finish atop the cable charts for the night despite the fact the basketball game did a massive 4.28 rating in that category on CBS.
Friday Night SmackDown on April 2nd averaged 2.137 million viewers, down 2.5% from last week. It did go up against the women’s NCAA Final 4 games, which did a stronger than usual number for ESPN. The show averaged the same 0.57 rating as it did last week which was 4th on television and 3rd on the networks.
AEW Dynamite was down 0.6% in viewers but up 7.7% in 18–49.
WWE NXT did the best of all 4 major shows here as they were up 10.8% in viewers and 15.8% in 18–49.
RAW was down 19% in overall viewers and 25.7% in 18–49. It should be noted that there was no NCAA finals game last year so this isn’t really a fair comparison.
SmackDown was down 10.9% in viewers but only 5% in 18–49. 3 of the 4 major shows are skewing younger in 2021 which is a positive sign.
Last week, I published the average viewership for March for all 4 shows and with that being the last week of the first quarter of 2021, this week, I’ll present the average numbers for Q1 for 2021 for all the shows as compared to the same time period in 2020. I think this is better information than the week to week or month to month numbers as it shows the trends a little bit clearer.
Presented in order of total viewers per show:
WWE SmackDown averaged 2,184,462 viewers in 2021 as compared to 2,490,538 last year. That’s a drop of 12.3%. The show dropped even higher in 18–49, falling 20.3%. They averaged 0.59 this year as compared to 0.74 in 2020. Approximately 10% of those drops can be blamed on the pandemic as noted a few weeks back in this column but the rest is the actual drops and is relatively in line with what other network TV shows drop year over year.
Monday Night RAW averaged 1,851,313 viewers this past quarter as compared to 2,232,702 in 2020. The viewership drop was 17.1%, the highest of all 4 shows. In 18–49, the show averaged a 0.56 rating in 18–49 this year as compared to 0.71 in 2020. That’s a drop of 21.1%, which is similar to Smackdown but also the lowest of all the shows.
AEW Dynamite averaged 775,154 in the first 3 months of 2021 as compared to 883,000 in 2020. The drop there was 12.2%, about the same as SmackDown. In 18–49, the show averaged 0.3046 this year as compared to 0.3354 in 2020, a drop of 9.2%. That’s the best retention of the 18–49 audience among the major shows and is essentially even when you factor out the effects of the pandemic.
WWE NXT averaged 653,962 viewers in 2021 as compared to 701,077 in 2020. The viewership drop was only 6.7%, the best of all the shows. Factoring out the approximately 10% effect of the pandemic on wrestling ratings, it’s basically an increase. And that holds up when you look at current numbers which are being compared to last year when they were running on a closed set. The last three weeks of March were fair year over year comparisons and NXT was up in every one of those weeks year over year. In 18–49 the show did drop, however. The show averaged 0.1638 in 2020 and 0.2115 in 2021 so it fell 22.6%, so it had the largest decline in 18–49 of all the shows but the best audience retention overall. Obviously this means the show skewed much older in the first quarter of 2021. However, the last few weeks that trend seems to be changing so it will be interesting to see what happens when the show moves to Tuesday.
In next week’s column, you can look forward to a list of the average number of viewers per segment for each regular performer in NXT and AEW.
I’d like to encourage all of you to check out a podcast that airs on the Fight Game Media Network Patreon. Parker Klyn and I are co-hosting The Dynamite Show, a quick recap of AEW Dynamite. Parker also does the written Dynamite coverage for both this site and F4W Online, and this podcast is a nice companion to his work.