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AEW, WWE Ratings Report: Sports competition takes bite out of wrestling ratings

via CBS Sports

The big news: MLB Playoffs and Monday Night Football combined hurt wrestling ratings

AEW Rampage set an all-time low in both viewership and 18–49 demo number, while Monday Night RAW had amongst the lowest numbers in both categories in the 28 year history of the show. WWE SmackDown also fell significantly. All went against big MLB playoff games while RAW continues to battle the resurgent Monday Night Football which is doing its best numbers in years. WWE NXT was the only show to show any kind of increase from the previous week, but the competition wasn’t as tough for that show.

This week’s numbers

AEW Dynamite was perhaps hit the hardest this week of all the shows as it didn’t even air in its regular Wednesday night time slot on TNT due to the NHL regular season starting and taking its place on that network. The first TNT game between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals averaged 817,000 viewers and a 0.32 rating in 18–49, finishing third on cable for the night in the key demo. That’s 26.1% lower in overall viewers and 25.6% lower in the demo than Dynamite had been averaging over the last ten weeks in the same time slot. Dynamite is being moved to Saturday night for the next two weeks before returning to Wednesdays on October 27. 

WWE NXT 2.0 on the USA Network,  averaged 632,000 viewers, the exact same total as last week last week. In the 18–49 demo the show finished 33rd on the cable charts, up from 34th last week, with a 0.15 rating in 18–49. That’s up 15.4% from the previous week. Last week the show was up against the Yankees/Red Sox wildcard game that averaged nearly eight million viewers. This week’s game was the Giants vs. Dodgers that did just over five million. So the 18–49 gain can probably be explained by that although this was a better show than the last few weeks had been. 

Monday Night RAW on the USA Network averaged 1,581,667 viewers for the October 11 episode. That’s down 13.7% from last week. In the 18–49 demo, the show averaged a 0.42 rating, down 19.2% from the previous week. Monday Night Football continues to do strong numbers 11.3 million watching on ESPN and another 3.5 million tuning in for the Giants vs. Dodgers on TBS. The first hour had the second lowest viewership in the history of the show, and the lowest 18–49 number, which speaks to the lack of interest going into the show. The overall viewership and 18–49 demo rating were both the fourth lowest in the history of the show dating back to 1993. 

Friday Night SmackDown on October 8  averaged 2.147 million viewers, down 4.7% from the previous week. The show tied for the top spot among the networks in the 18–49 demo with a 0.52 rating. That’s down 16.1% from the week before. SmackDown was up against portions of two MLB playoff games which averaged 3.9 million and 2.6 million viewers respectively as well as an ESPN College Football game that did 1.1 million viewers. The CBS network original dramas also averaged a stronger than usual 5.4 million viewers on the night.  

AEW Rampage on the same night following SmackDown averaged 502,000 viewers, down 19.3% from last week. It was the lowest audience in the short history of the show for the sixth straight week. In the 18–49 demo the show  averaged a 0.17 rating which was also a series low and down 32% from the previous week. Rampage finished fifteen on the night in the cable charts after winning the night in many recent weeks and finishing third as recently as last week. 

As shown in the chart below, the increases/decreases over the ten-week average, prior to this week, are as follows:

  • AEW Dynamite did not air this week.   
  • WWE NXT was down 6.1% in viewers and 6.3% in 18–49. After having a record high median age of 62 for NXT viewership last week, the audience seems to have gotten a little younger this week. 
  • WWE RAW was down 13.7% in viewers and 19.2% 18–49. This is the effect of the strong sports competition which is hitting harder with younger viewers.  
  • WWE SmackDown was down 1.9% in viewers and 11.9% in 18–49. The sports competition wasn’t as strong for SmackDown as some of the other shows but that will change this coming week.  
  • AEW Rampage was down 31.8% in overall viewers and 48.7% in 18–49. I mentioned last week that this was starting to feel like a skippable show and that sentiment is becoming more and more prevalent with other people covering it. This week they go live which would help under normal circumstances but they are facing ridiculous competition once again so it wouldn’t surprise me to see these numbers drop even lower. 

Year-over-year numbers

AEW Dynamite did not air this week. 

WWE NXT was down 2.9% in viewers and 11.8% in 18–49. This is being compared to when they were running on Wednesdays opposite Dynamite so it’s even worse than it seems on the surface. The sports competition was not as strong last year as TV ratings have been helped with the return of fans. 

RAW was down 14.7% in viewers and 26.3% in 18–49. These are the biggest year to year drops since February for the show. It’s only one week, though, and these comparisons have been mostly favorable in recent months. 

SmackDown was down 1.4% in viewers and 13.3% in 18–49. It’s only the second year over year drop in viewership for SmackDown since July 2.

Ratings extra

This weekend will be very interesting for wrestling ratings and I’ll have the numbers in next week’s column. First off, and most notable on the surface, is the fact that AEW Dynamite is moving to Saturday for the next two weeks. This will almost certainly hurt with viewership and it’s never a certainty that viewers will return when it goes back to the normal day and time. Viewers for this show have been pretty loyal over the last two years, however, as Dynamite had a resurgence in viewers the last time this happen in late May and June of this year.

But the big story is Friday night October 15. It’s long been known that Rampage would air live on this night and that SmackDown would be moving to FS 1 because of the MLB Playoffs taking over FOX for the night. Last week, during the broadcast, it was announced that SmackDown would air an additional 30 minutes, which would go head to head with Rampage. AEW CEO Tony Khan responded to this by announcing that their would be a special “Buy-In” that would air on YouTube for one hour prior to Rampage and go head to head with SmackDown. It was later revealed that one of the buy-in matches would be recent signee Bryan Danielson vs. Japanese legend Minoru Suzuki in an inter-promotional dream match. SmackDown upped the ante by proclaiming that the final half hour of the show would air commercial free.

In the middle of all of this, Tony Khan proclaimed that he looked forward to beating the top show of WWE, which only escalated the AEW vs. WWE ratings war. The winners are the fans who choose not to watch the sports competition and settle in for a night of action. WWE is promoting a much anticipated match between Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks and the return of Brock Lesnar. AEW has the pro wrestling debut of former UFC champion Junior Dos Santos as well as CM Punk wrestling for the second straight week.

We will have a watch along for this historic night on the Fight Game Media YouTube channel starting at 9:30 p.m. ET.

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