WWE is facing pressure from the USA Network to improve the ratings of Monday Night Raw at a time when the promotion struggles to deliver consistently good content.
Television ratings was one a topic for statistics nerds who followed each week closely. Now it is a frequent conversation that brings out the worst in wrestling “fandom.” However, there are times when news around the ratings are very important. Such as this week when Alex McCarthy of TalkSPORT reported that the USA Network is upset with recent WWE Raw ratings. 2020 was a highly successful year for the WWE from a revenue standpoint, but the promotion is at a serious crossroads when it comes to the content that is presented each week.
McCarthy’s report makes it very clear. Coming off a record-low week for WWE Raw that hit 1.527 million viewers, no one who watches or reports on the content were surprised. On recent investors’ calls, Vince McMahon has cited everything from injuries, to the impact of COVID-19 forcing fans out of the buildings as to why ratings are dropping. However, viewers know that is far from the case as the content on Raw becomes much more nonsensical and pointless. Monday Night Raw is no longer appointment viewing and the numbers show that as they depreciate at an alarming rate year after year.
An important quote stood out in this report about the frustration that the USA Network has toward the largest promotion in the industry.
“USA Network are furious,” the source said, according to McCarthy. “They want more adult content. Not sexy adult, but dark and violent adult.”
The question is how with McMahon, who is the creative force behind what appears on television each week, will react to that insight from the network. The Attitude Era that brought forth names like Austin, The Rock and others is known for having some of the biggest numbers in wrestling history – but it was very problematic in several ways as well. So much so, many of those ideas of the past would not fly on television today. These complaints by USA forces WWE to come up with creative approaches that will draw fans back to the content for the long haul.
Look at how WWE has answered the call to improve ratings in recent years. Drafts, Super Star Shake-Ups, Wild Card rule, Brand-to-Brand Invitational, RETRIBUTION, Raw Underground, and other rushed ideas. Often, viewers across social media would place make believe bets on how long this new idea would last before it was erased from WWE lore like it never occurred. This is a prime example to why the numbers have dropped to an all-time low, in the grand scheme of things, very little within WWE truly matters.
WWE is not in a hopeless situation. Look at SmackDown. That show is faring well on Fox as it is headlined by Roman Reigns, Sasha Banks, and Bayley. Those three individuals have created some of the most watched segments for the promotion this year. Their angles and matches have, for the most part, been some of the most-watched aspects of the wrestling industry this year – showing that WWE can create content that fans want to see when they put the time into the product.
The days of professional wrestling garnering millions upon millions of viewers each show may be long gone. But that does not mean there is not a strong base of viewers to tap into. All Elite Wrestling is proving that growth is possible when care is put into the product. That same care, patience, creativity, and planning is needed within the WWE as they lose viewers at a rapid rate. Perhaps this pressure from the USA Network will be the catalyst for real change. Fans can only hope.