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The big news: TNT era comes to an end for AEW Dynamite

AEW Dynamite debuted in October 2019 on TNT, the former home of WCW Monday Nitro, and quickly established itself as a cable television stalwart. After 18 months doing head-to-head battle with WWE NXT and chasing the WWE developmental brand to Tuesday nights earlier this year, Dynamite enjoyed a ratings surge unprecedented for a company finishing up it’s second full year on TV. With the acquisition of NHL cable rights, TNT made the decision to move the show to it’s sister station TBS and that will happen next week with a show that should be kicked off by an AEW World title match between Hangman Page and Bryan Danielson.

Since October 2, 2019 AEW Dynamite has aired 107 times on Wednesday nights in the 8–10 pm eastern time slot. During that time, the show averaged 876,000 viewers and a 0.34 rating in the 18–49 demo. Prior to the debut, it was thought that 500,000 viewers and a 0.25 in the demo would be something that the network would be happy with and they blew past those numbers and even was able to secure rights fees for a third hour airing Friday night at 10, which will continue. By all measures, it was an unequivocal success and a new era kicks off on January 5, 2022 with AEW Dynamite on TBS.

This week’s numbers

  • AEW Dynamite averaged 975,000 viewers, down 4.4% from the previous Wednesday but the second highest viewership for the show since November 17. In the 18–49 demo, the show averaged the same 0.37 rating as last week. Dynamite finished fourth on the cable charts, trailing only three college football bowl games on ESPN. Looking at the numbers a little more closely, the biggest increase was with females. In 18-49, they were up 31.6% while men in the same age group were down 4.4%. In 12-34, females were up 33.3% while males were down 13%. The show was also down significantly with people over 50, dropping by 16.3%
  • WWE NXT 2.0 on the USA Network, averaged 662,000 viewers, up 12% from last week. In the 18–49 demo the show finished fifteenth on the cable charts. It’s the largest overall audience for the show since October 26. The show did a 0.16 rating in 18–49, up 45.6% from last week, so the show skewed much younger this week.  The show did have major competition in the form of a bowl game on ESPN that did 3.9 million viewers and a 0.9 in the demo but there was no NBA Basketball on TNT, which likely helped NXT. The show was up in every age group with the exception of people over 50, which dropped 2.8%. 
  • Monday Night RAW on the USA Network averaged 1,592,000 viewers for the December 27 episode. That’s up 2.5% from last week, which was the fourth lowest audience in the history of the show. In the 18–49 demo the show averaged a 0.41 rating, up 7.9%, and was the best rating of December. They finished sixth on cable in the demo, but topped all non-NFL related programming. 
  • Friday Night SmackDown on December 24 averaged 1.972 million viewers on FOX, down 14.4% from the previous week. The show finished second among network programming with a 0.48 rating, down 5.9%. They did not finish last among overall viewers, as they usually do, as they beat four holiday related specials on ABC. They finished third among network shows with a 0.30 rating in 18–34, a category they usually lead in. All things considered, the numbers held up pretty well considering it aired on Christmas Eve. 
  • AEW Rampage, moved to Christmas Day at 8 pm eastern, averaged 589,000 viewers, up 3.2% from last week. In the 18–49 demo the show averaged a 0.26 rating and finished twenty fifth on the cable charts in that category. There’s not much to read into this number other than it did feature a taped title change and those types of shows usually do see a slight bump in expected numbers. 

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

  • AEW Dynamite was up 9.6% in viewers and 12.1% in 18–49. It’s the second week in a row the show has been above it’s 10 week average. Probably not coincidentally, NBA Basketball has not aired head to head either of those weeks. 
  • WWE NXT 2.0 was up 7.4% in viewers and 14.3% in 18–49. Like Dynamite, NXT had no NBA competition this week, at least on TNT or ESPN.  
  • WWE RAW was down 1.6% in viewers and 2.4% 18–49. Statistically speaking, that’s as close to even in both categories as you’re going to see so this was just an average number. 
  • WWE SmackDown was up 3.6% in viewers but down 2% 18–49 but there were two weeks where the show aired on FS 1 that affects that average. In comparing to the eight weeks of FOX airings, the show was down 7.9% in viewers and 12% in 18–49. Christmas Eve would be the reason for those drops. 
  • AEW Rampage was up 8.9% in overall viewers and 23.8% in 18–49. Saturday night and one hour earlier are both net positives for this show, which more than offset whatever drop they might have had for the holiday airing. 

Year-over-year numbers

AEW Dynamite was down 0.2% in overall viewers and 7.5% in the 18–49 demo. This is being compared to the Brodie Lee tribute show, which did incredible numbers at the time. 

WWE NXT 2.0 was up 13% in viewers and 33.3% in 18–49. This is the first time that they were the only one of the major four television shows to show year over year increases in a given week. My expectation is that when the NBA season ends, this show is going to see a significant bump in viewers. 

WWE RAW was down 10% in viewers and 21.2% in 18–49. It’s the twelfth straight week of year over year declines in the demo after a good run of growth earlier in the year. The average decline over that time span has been 18%. This is almost certainly due to the NFL which is way up from 2020.  

WWE SmackDown was down 40.3% in overall viewers and 50% in 18-49. This is being compared to the Christmas Day episode that had an NFL leading and did the third biggest audience on FOX to that point in time. 

Ratings extra

I’ll continue to present the Q3 quarterly segment data next week as I’m still in the process of collecting and assessing that data. In the meantime, here are the quarter hours for this past Wednesday’s Dynamite, courtesy of Brandon Thurston of Wrestlenomics.com.

It’s unusual that the main event segment is the highest rated on the show but that’s what happened this week. The show opened strong and then had a slight drop for the second segment and essentially maintained before growing 7% for the final quarter. The 18–49 numbers were similar.

What could’ve been the difference from last week was the limited interaction between CM Punk and MJF, which has been a ratings winner in recent weeks. We did get a backstage promo from MJF and an in-ring one from Punk but nothing face to face. All things considered, these numbers were very good in relation to how the show has done of late.

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