WWE's viewership numbers for Raw and SmackDown have rapidly declined from the start of 2020. Raw started the year with 2.3 million viewers and was down to 1.6 million viewers on Monday. SmackDown began the year with 2.4 million viewers and is now down to 1.9 million viewers for its most recent episode.
Speaking on WWE's second-quarter earnings call, Vince McMahon addressed the declining numbers.
"More than any other sport, our audience is part of our program. Audience interaction is always a plus. It goes back to the origination of this genre in terms of 'yay!' and 'boo!' The audience is integral to our success and ratings," he said.
WWE has been running empty arena shows at the Performance Center since March 13 due to COVID-19. The final Raw show with a live audience drew 2.1 million viewers and the final live audience SmackDown had 2.4 million viewers. Viewership was up for the first empty arena shows (2.3 million for Raw, 2.5 million for SmackDown) but the numbers have declined from there.
While the lack of a live audience has certainly hurt, Vince did admit that there are other issues.
"Notwithstanding that, I think we can have more compelling characters, better storylines, new characters coming in, and more content that is not necessary in-ring and is more focused on personalities outside the ring," he said.
When asked how AEW and NXT have maintained their viewership numbers during the pandemic, Vince said, "Both are new. It's up to us to make Raw and SmackDown feel more youthful and that is where we're going. You always have to build characters, constantly."
NXT started the year with 721,000 viewers for its first live show of 2020 and drew 707,000 viewers for the July 29 episode. The first NXT empty arena show drew 542,000 viewers.
When asked if NXT founder Triple H might be of some assistance to Raw or SmackDown, Vince replied, "As far as [Triple H] helping out on Raw and SmackDown; that happens. It's all hands on deck in terms of all of what we do."
Vince was also asked about Paul Heyman being relieved from his duties as executive director of Raw. He replied, "I thought he did a very good job in terms of creativity" without going into further detail.
Bruce Prichard is now the executive director of Raw and SmackDown.
You can find the viewership changes by the week at Fightful's viewership numbers page.
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