WWE has managed to change the trajectory of SmackDown’s ratings. The move to give RAW and SmackDown separate rosters and to put SmackDown live on the USA Network on Tuesday nights began on July 19. The average TV rating for SmackDown before the draft that split rosters was 1.68. After the draft (not including the peak draft rating itself), the average SmackDown rating is 1.78: up one tenth of a point.
Meanwhile, RAW’s ratings have declined from an average of 2.42 to an average of 2.10 over the same period, granted RAW has faced stiffer competition from Monday Night Football and a U.S. presidential debate.
But compare the ratings trajectory above to that of the previous twelve months, October 2014 to October 2015, when ratings patterns for RAW and SmackDown were more similar.
While SmackDown has gotten a minor jump from its exclusive roster, RAW, which was already the flagship program, remains in a steady decline. The Monday night show is on track to decrease by over 10% for the second year in a row.
Most other signs of WWE popularity however remain healthy. The correlation between Google interest in WWE and RAW’s TV ratings began deteriorating in about 2013. That correlation has continued to break down as time goes on. As you can see below, the two lines on this graph veer further and further away from each other.
Attendance and merchandise sales are other indicators we can look to as we consider WWE's overall popularity. While RAW’s ratings have sunk, live event attendance has declined less and merchandise sales continue to peak.
These attendance figures consider main roster live events, only, and no NXT events.
This data seems to indicate WWE’s popularity is stable, even as ratings are down. Increasing merchandise revenue and flat live event attendance is also suggestive of WWE becoming more of a niche product with the same or fewer number of fans who are spending more money per person on what the company offers.
We’ll be able to update these two graphs on Thursday when WWE releases its financial reports (to include the latest WWE Network subscriber numbers) for Q3 on Thursday.
I’ll be covering the earning release and conference call for Fightful.com, keeping you up to date with analysis and any news that comes out of the quarterly release. I'll be tweeting details from the release at @adecorativedrop.