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Brace for IMPACT: With better shows and bigger stars, why is IMPACT’s viewership dropping?

Ratings continue to fall

Brandon Thurston of Wrestlenomics reported that the August 5 episode of IMPACT! on AXS TV averaged 103,000 total viewers with a 0.04 rating in the 18–49 demo.  Not counting the technical glitch that led to a record low on July 1 (69,000), that is the lowest viewed episode since the move to AXS TV. Thankfully the demo ratings appear to be holding strong, which is the most important. The first quarter (Q1) total viewership averaged 155,000. The second quarter (Q2) saw a 17% drop to 128,000. Currently the third quarter (Q3) is down to averaging 109,000 (not counting July 1), which is down another 14% from Q2 and 30% from Q1.

Last weeks number is surprising considering Kenny Omega and the Good Brothers were in the main event competing against Eddie Edwards, Sami Callihan and AEW’s Frankie Kazarian. The show also featured New Japan’s Jay White and legendary Knockout Mickie James. With so much star power, fans returning, and each episode since Slammiversary being heavily praised, why viewership in a free fall?

Was moving to Thursday nights a bad idea?

IMPACT, to avoid competition to moved to Thursday night’s on April 8. The debut episode, which oddly enough went head to head to head with a NXT special on Peacock, averaged 168,000 viewers, which is the fifth highest total in 2021. The demo rating (0.06) was tied for the highest of the year. The main event featured Kenny Omega’s IMPACT! on AXS TV in-ring debut. They have not been able to reach those heights since.

From April 8 to Aug 5 (throwing out the July 1 episode) the show has averaged roughly 122,000 viewers. That is down from January 5 to 30 March (first quarter) which averaged 155,000. With Thursday Night Football fast approaching we could see IMPACT dip below 100,ooo routinely throughout the season.

This begs the question, should IMPACT have stayed on Tuesday Nights?

The short answer is no. Going head to head with NXT would be absolute death. IMPACT was on Thursdays for years and always did well, even with football as competition. The move may have disrupted some routines, but I highly doubt that the night is the problem, considering one of their top five episodes occurred on Thursday.

Is Omega’s bloom off the rose?

Kenny Omega and the partnership with AEW has generated the most buzz for the company in years. Their Rebellion pay-per-view shattered all previous Anthem era records, and was nine times higher than Bound for Glory in 2020. His television debut on December 8 averaged 221,000 viewers, since then the show has not broken the 200,000 mark. Omega has proven to be a pay-per-view draw for the company, but it looks like Omega is not enough of a reason to watch IMPACT these days. Furthermore, the novelty of AEW talent on IMPACT TV has definitely cooled off.

But is Omega and AEW the reason for the drop? It’s possible, but not likely. If IMPACT were to feature an Omega title defense against a worthy opponent it would likely draw a significant number. There are a vocal few fans online who want nothing to do with AEW and and claim they refuse to watch the show now. I do think think that Omega is no longer as special as he once was and may even be featured a little too much. I find it hard to believe that having a star the caliber of Omega on the show is the reason for the decline.

So, what’s missing?

Despite the increase in star power and quality, the weekly show has not been “must-see” television. IMPACT is missing heated feuds and babyfaces the audience can get behind. The top three babyfaces are Eddie Edwards, Josh Alexander, and as of June, Sami Callihan.

  • Callihan was one of the more unlikable heels in wrestling for years, then was suddenly turned for the sake of a match with Omega, and always loses.
  • Eddie Edwards is a fantastic wrestler currently in a feud with W. Morrissey, but he lost at Slammiversary.
  • Alexander is being built well by IMPACT, but he hasn’t had heated conflicts with anyone yet. Contenders win multi-person matches and just challenge him in the hallway, and then he beats them.

No babyface on the roster is involved in a major conflict. Poor Rich Swann went from top guy back to the happy-go-lucky babyface that opens the show. None of them are being built with a significant win streak to challenge Omega. Most are just spinning their wheels, but hopefully that changes at the next set of tapings.

Should IMPACT sign bigger stars?

If IMPACT can sign big names like Bray Wyatt or Braun Strowman, then they should absolutely go for it. But doing this is more of a band-aid over the problem than a cure for it, however.

People watch wrestling for a few reasons: Compelling stories, great matches, and big stars. All three are necessary to hook viewers and really keep them engaged, and IMPACT has the ability to do that. Maybe the current decline will spark the team to create stories to get the audience to prioritize their shows over others. To eliminate the excuse of “there were better things to watch on television,” you have to become the show that people want to watch, first.

IMPACT Ratings 2021

Date Total Viewers 18- 49 Demo Rating Notes
5-Jan 148,000 0.04
12-Jan 161,000 0.05
19-Jan 147,000 0.03
26-Jan 186,000 0.05
2-Jan 173,000 0.05
9-Feb 153,000 0.04
16-Feb 197,000 0.06 FinJuice Debut
23-Feb 170,000 0.04
2-Mar 134,000 0.03
9-Mar 144,000 0.04
16-Mar 146,000 0.04
23-Mar 116,000 0.04
30-Mar 148,512 0.04 Final Tuesday Night Episode
8-Apr 168,000 0.06 Thursday Night Debut, head to Head with NXT
15-Apr 132,000 0.04
22-Apr 145,000 0.05
29-Apr 120,000 0.05 NFL Draft Night
6-May 123,000 0.04
13-May 112,000 0.03
20-May 109,000 0.04
27-May 140,000 0.06
3-Jun 143,000 0.04
10-Jun 124,000 0.05
17-Jun 111,000 0.03
24-Jun 111,000 0.03
1-Jul 69,000 0.02 Technical glitch w/TV Guide
8-Jul 120,000 0.03
15-Jul 109,000 0.02
22-Jul 104,000 0.04
29-Jul 113,000 0.02
5-Aug 103,000 0.04

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