Exclusive: Roman Reigns, John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Braun Strowman are Top Performers for WWE YouTube Views

Who’s in the most videos with over 1 million views?

For videos uploaded to WWE’s YouTube channel since the Royal Rumble, Roman Reigns is the talent featured in the most videos that have reached 1 million views.

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For this analysis, on the morning of July 17 I collected view count data from all 2,260 videos WWE uploaded to its YouTube channel between January 29 and July 10.

During that time 27 videos with Reigns mentioned in the title eclipsed 1 million views. In that ranking, Reigns is trailed by John Cena with 23, and both Braun Strowman and Brock Lesnar with 21.

This ranking could be skewed by the number of videos a given wrestler is featured in. Surely being featured in more videos gives one a better chance to accumulate videos with a high number of views. However while Reigns is featured in most videos than most, he’s featured in less than some others.

During the period studied, Reigns was featured in 50 videos. That’s less than Cena (68), as well as others who we might think of as not being pushed as hard as Reigns: Seth Rollins (71), Miz (60), Randy Orton (58), Kevin Owens (56), the Hardy Boyz (56), Samoa Joe (56).

Furthermore, there are others like Bayley (60) and New Day (51) who have more videos during the period than Reigns but who don’t have enough videos with over 1 million views to make the chart above.

Despite being featured in fewer videos than the aforementioned, Reigns still outpaced them for videos surpassing 1 million views.

Someone like Lesnar is disadvantaged here by appearing only occasionally. He was featured in 43 videos.

The 1 million benchmark was selected somewhat arbitrarily, simply because it’s a round number that most videos don’t achieve. Of the 2,260 videos studied, only 340 (15%) surpassed 1 million views.

What if we look at a higher benchmark like 2 million? Only 115 videos (5%) reached that milestone.

The leader by that analysis becomes Strowman who narrowly edges out Reigns and Cena.

What about a lower benchmark like 500,000? 684 of the 2,260 videos (30%) reached that view count.

Reigns leads by that measurement also.

Perhaps Reigns was disproportionately helped by being in a key feud with the Undertaker, his opponent at WrestleMania, who all but explicitly retired after the match. Four videos involving both Reigns and the Undertaker had over 1 million views. Without the Undertaker, Reigns has 23.

Even without the Undertaker program, Reigns and whomever he might’ve been programmed with instead likely would have had at least 1 video that reached 1 million views, and therefore Reigns still would’ve edged out Cena here.

Top 10 Most Viewed WWE Videos uploaded Jan. 29 - Jul 10, 2017 (as of July 17)

Rank Title Views
1. Matt & Jeff Hardy make a shocking return to WWE: WrestleMania 33 (WWE Network Exclusive) 18,221,127
2. Braun Strowman savagely attacks Roman Reigns: Raw, April 10, 2017 13,549,269
3. Braun Strowman puts Brock Lesnar on notice: Raw, April 3, 2017 8,122,316
4. WrestleMania 33 Kickoff: April 2, 2017 8,043,507
5. Two-time NXT Champion Shinsuke Nakamura debuts on SmackDown LIVE: SmackDown LIVE, April 4, 2017 8,037,537
6. Brutal Backstage Brawls: WWE Top 10 7,825,004
7. John Cena proposes to Nikki Bella: WrestleMania 33 (WWE Network Exclusive) 7,634,725
8. Brock Lesnar brawls with Samoa Joe: Raw, June 12, 2017 7,536,190
9. 20 Greatest WrestleMania Entrances: WWE Top 10 Special Edition 7,529,385
10. The Undertaker introduces Roman Reigns to his "yard": Raw, March 27, 2017 7,284,584

The most viewed video uploaded during this period was the return to WWE of Matt and Jeff Hardy at WrestleMania, which has over 18 million views as of this study.

An angle involving Strowman attacking Reigns also reached eight figures, at 13.5 million views.

Strowman’s confrontation with Lesnar on the RAW after WrestleMania came in at #3, with over 8 million views, edging out the WrestleMania pre-show.

Shinsuke Nakamura’s main roster debut, on the SmackDown after WrestleMania, also surpassed 8 million views.

Some notes about this study

One issue with this study is it collected standing view counts on July 17 of all videos uploaded between January 29 and July 10. Ideally I would liked to have collected data from all videos when they were exactly the same age (e.g., 24 hours after upload time), but that was not feasible.

Videos uploaded later in the time period are at a disadvantage versus videos uploaded earlier. Obviously, videos uploaded in January or February had more time to accumulate views than videos uploaded in July.

This study expects the vast majority of views happen early in the life of most WWE YouTube videos. Especially when it comes to clips from weekly programming, I’m under the impression the vast majority of views are accumulated within one week after the upload date, afterwards they become old news. For this reason, any videos less than a week old (those uploaded between July 11 and 17) were discarded from this analysis.

Some content WWE uploaded to its YouTube channel during this period was non-current content. For example, WWE frequently uploads full matches that are several years old. Videos like those were included in this study. The Summerslam 2002 match between Lesnar and The Rock and the 2012 Money in the Bank ladder match are two instances of old matches that were uploaded during this period whose data was counted in this study. Still other videos are of top 10 lists that highlight video from various years.

The majority of videos were of current content that was recorded during the period studied. Of the 684 videos studied that had over 500,000 views, 558 (82%) were of new content.

A given talent was counted by this study to have been featured in a video only when their name appeared in the title of the video. If a given talent appeared in a video but was not named in the title of that video, they were not counted to have been featured in the video. WWE names the main subjects of its videos pretty clearly, so the effect is probably minimal.

It’s also worth explaining what a video view is to YouTube. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube all have slightly different criteria for counting an engagement as a video view. A view is counted on YouTube when, for monetized videos (which includes most if not all of WWE’s videos), 50% of the video is played.

While this study may be insightful for considering which performers are driving interest in WWE, the video views themselves don’t yet drive much money relative to the company’s overall business. WWE’s Digital Media segment generated $26.9 million in revenue in 2016. Probably a large portion of that segment is YouTube revenue. That’s 3.7% of all of WWE’s revenue. Only $4.6 million of that revenue translated to OIBDA; to compare WWE overall reported $80.1 million OIBDA for 2016.

However this study is suggestive in my opinion of which talents are good drivers of other revenue streams and metrics, such as traditional TV viewership, WWE Network subscriptions, ticket sales and merchandise sales.

The data for this study can be found here. Chris Harrington was very helpful in processing this data.

Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonThurston. Email him at [email protected].

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