Since the coronavirus pandemic has forced WWE to move live events to the Performance Center, the viewership numbers for Raw and SmackDown have taken a tumble.
The first PC Raw drew 2.335 million viewers on March 16. Since then, things have trended down with the latest episode (April 20) drawing 1.842 million viewers. SmackDown viewership numbers are also down with the first show (March 13) drawing 2.588 million viewers and the latest (April 17) pulling 2.192 million viewers.
Speaking on WWE's quarterly investors call, Vince McMahon was asked about the viewership and ratings trending down despite there being no sports competition.
"We are the only sports environment at the moment, but it's a different feel completely. We're doing really well, beyond anyone's expectations, by doing the show without an audience," said Vince. "Everything we do is about the audience and how they react and the way you read them. We need to be able to figure out ways, which we are, where you'll hear the performers 'putting the bad mouth' on each other, which you never hear before. We can go outside of the environment too, so you don't stay there for two or three matches, we need some relief. We're figuring that out as well. A lot of things to figure out in this environment, what can you do and what resonates. It's brand new for us, for anyone. There's no audience, it's a completely different show. I think we're going to get there; taking this negative and already turning it into somewhat of a positive. As far as ratings are concerned, SmackDown has virtually been no change, very little. Raw has suffered, but not necessarily because of the environment. It's suffered because we bring in a lot of new talent to Raw and it takes a while to get new talent over. We no longer have Brock Lesnar, obviously, but we have a new champion and a lot of new performers coming in. That's the reason, and how you use those performers in this story or that story. With new talent, it's going to take a little while. I'm convinced the Raw ratings will bounce back considerably."
Throughout the past month and a half, WWE has done a mix of live shows and taped shows from the PC. WWE taped Raw, NXT and SmackDown leading up to WrestleMania 36 and taped the Raw and NXT after WrestleMania, but resumed live shows with the SmackDown after WrestleMania.
Some believed WWE had to produce a set number of live events as part of its contractual agreements with FOX and NBC Universal (USA), though that was never confirmed.
WWE has now moved to taping every two weeks and when asked how their television partners feel about the content they are receiving, Vince said both parties understand the situation and are pleased with the shows still taking place.
"Our partners, obviously, are not doing as well as they would like to, nor are we. But as far as the content is concerned, they totally get that it's not our fault, it's not anyone's fault. You're not performing in front of a live audience, but they've lauded what we're doing. There's nothing out there now. We're live sometimes, taped sometimes. We have a really good relationship with both partners. They have our backs, as we do theirs," he said.
WWE continues to produce Raw and NXT weekly on USA and SmackDown on FOX from the Performance Center in Orlando.
You can view the viewership trends for all three shows at Fightful's resources section.
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