By Ryan K. Boman, Editor in Chief
On Monday night, RAW found itself in a pretty bad spot. And no, I’m not talking about the lovely city of Richmond, Virginia.
Sandwiched somewhere on the dial between the NBA Western Conference finals and the first game of the NHL’s Stanley Cup, it was a bit of a throwaway night for WWE’s flagship show. A portion of the valued 18-to-54 male demographic would certainly have its attention divided by the real life, athletic drama playing out on TNT and NBC, respectively.
So, clearly no ratings records were going to be set tonight. Content to tread water, the company treated fans to a final hour that included a comedy barbecue segment and closed the show with the women’s division performing the fastest gauntlet match in history. In between, a lot of star power seemed to be missing, and we heard about the upcoming programming on The Network, along with previews of next week’s show in Houston (all of which, will apparently be a LOT better that this!)
With all due respect to the performers involved, it was basically the equivalent of hitting the showers early. In other words, WWE creative took a look at the star-studded, sports schedule, and decided that Memorial Day really was a day off.
It’s understandable that the company might decide to lay down a sacrifice on a holiday evening, where a segment of their audience will be lost to mainstream sports.
At its core, there isn’t a lot to lose: The ‘rasslin’ bleacher bums will watch the show regardless, and have no interest in LeBron James or Stephen Curry… or basketball in general, for that matter.
But overall, any marquee sports match-up forces a much larger (and valued) segment of the audience to choose sides. And on nights like this, WWE has traditionally been known to take a Monday Night Mulligan.
Which is fine, for now. But, you have to wonder if they will be able to just play through when Smackdown Live becomes property of FOX in 2019. What will the ratings standards be, when WWE has to compete in a new arena, against major-revenue sports?
One of the company’s saving graces has always been that, at every network stop, they are a big fish. Whether it was Spike or USA, WWE was statistically their home channel’s MVP in terms of ratings. It’s a luxury they won’t have at FOX, where they will routinely be outpointed by some of the highest-rated shows in television.
It will be interesting to see if WWE is marketed by the network as a sport, or as merely entertainment. Because it will indicate if FOX expects them to volley with mainstream sports in terms of ratings, and counter-program against major events like the World Series and the Olympics, year-round, with no excuses for failure.
To put this difference in perspective, the level of major sports viewership normally exceeds that of your average, run-of-the-mill show, like a sitcom or drama. That makes the competition even stiffer for WWE. And while each of the four major sports gets the ability to refresh their storylines by actually having an off-season, pro wrestling is forced to be the Cal Ripken of television – an ‘iron man’ in terms of endless programming.
They’re getting a billion dollars now, and being treated just like any other mainstream sports property. So, by rights, they aren’t allowed to throw in the towel against the likes of the NHL or the NBA anymore.
The ratings from this May 28th, 2018, edition of Monday Night RAW will be telling, for a number of reasons. They will be an example of how far away from the mainstream sports arena the company is in terms of ratings, and how much work they will have to do to close that gap when they arrive on FOX.
It should be an indicator that -starting next Fall – there are no more nights off in the Universe. And, maybe even provide an idea of what it will take to hit a home run at the big-league level of network television.
They might as well practice now… After all, it’s going to be a whole new ballgame in 2019.