Posts Tagged ‘TV Ratings’

The new USFL wrapped up its regular season last week and is now heading to the playoffs, so we now have full regular season TV numbers for them. Ben Fischer goes through those at Sports Business Journal, breaking down how the league’s average TV audience of 715,000 (for 36 of its 40 games across Fox, NBC, USA, and FS1; no numbers were available for its four Peacock-only broadcasts) viewers is ahead of the 556,000 the AAF averaged across 20 CBS, TNT and NFL Network telecasts in 2019 before it folded but behind the 1.9 million the XFL averaged across 20 telecasts on ABC, Fox, ESPN, ESPN2 and FS1 in 2020.

It’s interesting that the USFL wound up in the middle of those leagues. Both the XFL and AAF beat it in premiere audience, and the USFL also saw a big Week 1 to Week 2 slide. But the USFL made it through a full regular season, unlike those past two leagues, and its Fox ownership meant it didn’t have the constant financial doom stories that followed the AAF. It’s also notable to see it surpass the AAF considering that the general sports rating environment we’ve seen in many cases lately is “rises from 2020 and 2021, below 2019 and 2018.”

There are some further significant ratings notes in there also. One is that the lowest-rated game of the season was Sunday’s regular-season finale on FS1, which only averaged 181,000 viewers. That’s not great. But it’s notable that there was a more than 3-to-1 edge for games on broadcast TV versus cable games (1 million average viewers for broadcast counting the Fox/NBC simulcast debut’s 3.1 million, 927,000 without that, 305,000 for cable). There’s usually some level of broadcast audience boost versus cable, both because of broadcast networks being in more homes and because of their increased primacy in program guides, but this is a larger split than what we see in most sports.

One possible explanation for that is that the USFL audience might be more casual than diehard. That’s perhaps especially true in a first season, and especially true in a season where teams’ associated cities were just names (with all games played in one location in Birmingham). That likely decreases the incentive for many to really care about a particular team and seek their games out. And that might change in a second season if they stick with the plans to have actual home games for teams then, which could perhaps narrow that broadcast-cable gap.

The really important part for the USFL’s future is how their broadcast partners feel about those ratings. On that front, Fischer spoke to both Fox executive Mike Mulvihill and NBC executive Jon Miller. And both had generally positive things to say, which is particularly notable from Miller considering that his network (unlike Fox) doesn’t have an ownership stake in the league. Here are the key parts of their comments to Fischer:

Mulvihill said “All we wanted to do is demonstrate that spring football can do viewership at the levels of Premier League, NHL regular season, Formula One or MLS. … We want to show we belong in that category, and I think that happened.”

…“The USFL worked for us on a bunch of fronts,” said NBC Sports exec Jon Miller. “Is it a profitable property? All things put together, I would say yes, it was a profitable property for us.”

Miller said NBC was happy with the product, the play quality, the joint production with Fox and the viewership. “It did what we hoped it would do, and we’re excited to begin planning, once this season is over, to talk about 2023.”

Miller does note concerns about the sparse in-person attendance: empty stands do impact the TV presentation. And some of that’s about all regular-season games being held in Birmingham this year and the city names on the franchises just being branding. But the one-location setup was done as a cost-saving move, and was only intended for one year. And Miller said they anticipated low attendance this year, and are working with Fox to address that for next year.

It’s not necessarily that surprising that Fox is fine with how this has played out so far. All their comments have been about being in this for a while, with stated commitments to fund the league for at least three years and a discussed plan of only selling franchises to local groups five to seven years down the road.  That might have evaporated if the league had been a complete ratings disaster, but it wasn’t; it may not have hit the highest possible heights, but as Mulvihill notes, it drew comparable viewership to some other sports, and let Fox and FS1 program new windows with live sports. So it makes sense that they’re carrying on.

But it’s even more notable that NBC looks like they still want to be involved. As they don’t have an ownership stake in the league, their read on the USFL as a TV property is a more objective one. For them to describe it as “profitable” for them is notable. (Of course, unlike Fox, NBC isn’t funding the league, so this doesn’t mean that the overall league was profitable; it means that NBC got more value out of it than they spent on production costs and/or possible rights fees, and we don’t know exactly what their arrangement there was.) And with Miller showing interest in bringing the USFL back to NBC in 2023, that means this property at least currently works for more than just the network that owns it.

Of course, there’s still part of the story to be written here, with the USFL playoffs getting underway in Canton, Ohio this week. The semifinals will air Saturday, with Fox broadcasting the Philadelphia Stars-New Jersey Generals game at 3 p.m. Eastern and NBC carrying the New Orleans Breakers-Birmingham Stallions game at 8 p.m. Eastern. The championship game will take place next Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. We’ll see how the ratings work out for those games, and if that adds to the case for both Fox and NBC to again carry the league in 2023.

AEW’s MJF recently spoke with Rasslin’ about his future, as he continued to tease a potential move to WWE. His contract expiring in 2024 is something he has been open about many times, and that continued.

Whether he stays in AEW or moves, MJF is planning on earning plenty of money.

“Let me explain something to you, by 2024, daddy is going to make more money than The Hardys have made in their entire run,” he said.

MJF then went on to claim that he can’t wait to leave AEW, although he then teased retracting the statement. He also went back and forth on his relationship with Tony Khan in the interview.

“Once you get into Long Island, you don’t want to leave Long Island, so what does it matter if the traffic is bad coming out? I can’t wait to leave this company, how about that,” he said. “Oh no, hope that doesn’t ruffle any feathers in the office, oh no. Who said AEW? I didn’t say AEW, you just said AEW, maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. Maybe I’m in a shit mood, maybe I hate my boss, maybe I fucking love my boss, who knows?”

MJF explained what it is that causes his frustrations, which is down to former WWE Superstars earning lots of money. He doesn’t think they can hang with him when it comes to the ratings, and that is why he believes management has an issue with him.

“I think there’s a lot of stuff going on in this company that is inaccurate,” he said. “I think all these ex-fucking WWE guys that are making an absurd amount of money. When quite frankly they can’t sniff my fucking jock when it comes to the ratings I pull in whenever I am on screen, I think they can all go to hell. I think that somebody in the upper management has a problem with me, and it’s very obvious if you see what I am dealing with week to week.”

WWE are reportedly disappointed with NXT 2.0’s first four months of operation.

Per WrestleVotes, the brand’s myriad new wrestlers not catching on with the audience appears to be key to this, though changes to the format aren’t expected anytime soon:

Internally WWE is said to be disappointed w/ NXT 2.0 in its first 4 months. Source said they thought more fans would gravitate towards the newer stars quicker than they have. Could it just be too much, too fast? Either way I don’t expect any changes to the concept… just yet.

NXT was completely revamped with its 14 September episode. As part of a wider overhaul of WWE’s developmental system, NXT 2.0’s debut killed the brand’s black and gold era did as older, more experienced wrestlers were cycled out in favour of younger, greener performers, with the likes of Von Wagner, Toxic Attraction, Bron Breakker, and countless others becoming fixtures.

Part of a plan to engage with younger viewers and ease the transition of wrestlers from NXT to the main roster, NXT 2.0 wasn’t particularly well-received, critically, and hasn’t caught on with viewers either. In Q4 2021, the show averaged 622,000 total viewers and 183,000 in the key 18-49 demographic, with its median viewer over the age of 60 on some weeks.

WWE’s developmental switch has seen dozens of wrestlers leave the promotion. In addition, the promotion has shed prominent behind-the-scenes figures like William Regal and Brian ‘Road Dogg’ James, who part of a team assembled by Triple H over the past few years. Triple H’s own NXT role remains unclear following his September 2021 hospitalisation due to a “cardiac event.”

Thanksgiving’s game between the Dallas Cowboys and Las Vegas Raiders is estimated to have drawn an average viewership of 38.53 million, per CBS Sports Public Relations, which would make it the most-watched regular-season game on any network since 1990.

That 1990 game was a Dec. 9 meeting between the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers that brought in 41.474 million viewers.

Viewership during Thursday’s game was up 26 percent from last year’s comparable game window based on preliminary data.

The Raiders won 36-33 in overtime thanks to a 29-yard field goal from Daniel Carlson after a physical, flag-filled game.

The two teams combined for 28 accepted penalties for 276 yards. The Raiders were penalized 14 times for 110 yards and the Cowboys were flagged 14 times for 166 yards.

Friday’s AEW Rampage: The First Dance saw the debut of CM Punk inside the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. Punk wasn’t outright advertised on TV for the show, but fans who follow news online were well aware of when Punk would show up.

This looks to be the case as preliminary numbers from the top ten TV market indicated ratings were up 57 percent from the previous week’s Rampage debut, according to a column written by Dave Meltzer for Sports Illustrated.

If that number holds, Friday’s show would be at 1.16 million viewers.

Rampage’s debut brought in 740,000 viewers, featuring Christian Cage defeating Kenny Omega for the Impact World Championship. In the main event, AEW Women’s World Champion Britt Baker retained against Red Velvet.

Speaking to Ariel Helwani at BT Sport to promote this weekend’s SummerSlam PPV, Roman Reigns has thrown a sprinkling of shade in CM Punk’s direction – and the Head of the Table’s comments have caught the attention of WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley.

After Helwani asked Reigns for this thoughts on part-time stars returning to take the spotlight from some of the full-time guys and gals on the WWE roster, the current Universal Champion threw out Punk’s name and said the Second City Saint was never as good as John Cena or The Rock.

“I do think there’s that strange threshold, but I think those statements are coming from bitter people who possibly thought they were better than they really were. When it comes down to it, CM Punk was not as good or as over as a John Cena, wasn’t as good or as over or moved the needle like The Rock. It just was what it was.”

Of course, Punk was extremely vocal in the past about part-timers returning and hogging the spotlight, particularly when The Rock returned to face John Cena in the main event of WrestleMania 28; a main event the Straight-Edge Superstar thought should’ve been him going up against Cena.

Once Roman’s comments made their way online, the legendary Mick Foley was quick to respond and declare CM Punk as “damn good” and “damn over”.

It’s all subjective whether CM Punk was ever better or more over than John Cena or The Rock, but those comparisons are obviously putting Punk up against two of the best to ever do it – one being the poster child of WWE for 15 years, the other being one of the top three names in company history.

As Foley said, there is no doubting that CM Punk was great, was over, and was responsible for some amazing matches and memories during his WWE career and beyond.

WWE Hall of Famer Kevin Nash is the latest guest on Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Sessions. After being delayed for a week the new episode is now streaming on Peacock/WWE Network.

During the conversation, Nash spoke about when he and Scott Hall jumped from WWE to WCW and how the fans believed the two of them could take over an entire company. Nash recalls talking with Eric Bischoff that same night and how Bischoff believed they were going to put WWE out of business, but Nash wasn’t quite as optimistic.

“So, we’re flying back that night, and Bischoff goes ‘We’re gonna put Vince [McMahon] out of business,’” Nash remembered. “I said, ‘Dude, do you realize what happened tonight? The perception that two guys from WWE jumped ship and are going to take over your company — the people believe that. They think two guys can beat 100. No, you’re not gonna put him out of business. He’ll sit back and watch it.’ Hogan said the same thing, that’s what Vince did. Vince sat back and watched.”

Nash says he even remembered the day when the tide turned for WWE and they made their move to consistently beat WCW in the TV ratings. He believed 1998’s WrestleMania 14, which featured Mike Tyson as the Special Enforcer in the main event between Austin and Shawn Michaels was the catalyst for change.

“And I won’t forget the day in my life when Tyson came to WrestleMania [14],” Nash said. “Every WrestleMania match had a movie quality trailer in front of it, in case you hadn’t been watching, you were caught up. Kane was shooting fire, everybody — it was amazing. The next day I go to TV, and I just knew. You know, man, you watch something, you’re smart to the business.

“I walked by [Kevin] Sullivan. He said, ‘Feel that, Nash? Water got a little cold last night, hit an iceberg called WrestleMania.’ [Laughs] He knew, he knew, I knew, anybody who was smart knew that. And all of a sudden [the ratings war] was back and forth. All of sudden it was just like, ‘and the Lakers have won 33 straight.’”

Former WWE Champion The Miz sat down with Alfred Konuwa of Forbes to talk about wrestling and his reality TV series Miz and Mrs. The interview, which was released today but was conducted prior to Miz suffering a torn ACL at WrestleMania: Backlash this past Wednesday, also focused on some of the criticism towards Miz’ spot on the card. Miz pointed to a specific example of how fans react when things go well for him.

“When I did the interview with Pro Wrestling Illustrated, we were all talking ‘it’s amazing, it’s incredible,” Miz said, recalling when he topped the PWI 500 list in 2011.  “When I see the cover, and I’m on it, and I’m like ‘wow that’s amazing…’ and it says ‘Yeah, he’s really #1’ and it’s like ‘Come on! I just did amazing interview!’ That’s the mentality that everyone has when I win something. But the thing is, all I care about is that people are talking. That’s it.

“When I won the WWE Championship for the second time, nobody believed that was gonna happen, and if you looked at the ratings—and I know you probably did—they went up. And they went up the next week.”

Compared to WWE Champions such as Bobby Lashley, Drew McIntyre and Randy Orton, Miz was seen as a beatable world champion when he won the belt in February. For Miz, that was a good thing.

“There’s just something to a WWE champion not always being the strongest or toughest, and basically running away from a fight,” Miz said. “And I always prided myself on being a champion where you never know, anybody can beat him at any given time.  I remember my first WWE Championship, my first match, I think, was against Jerry Lawler on his 60th birthday. We had everyone in Philadelphia, which, Philadelphia are our uber fans, like the people that are just very intrigued and always know everything about WWE, and we had them literally thinking Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler was going to go to WrestleMania as WWE champion. That’s how much they wanted it.”

Another thing Miz is thrilled about is Miz and Mrs’ success. The reality show has been climbing the ratings charts during its recent run and Miz believes its the one thing about his career that everyone agrees about.

“With Miz and Mrs’ success, top 5 in cable last week, our ratings are through the roof!” Miz exclaimed. “I think USA is absolutely happy with our show and everything we’ve been doing. It’s a great show. Honestly, it’s the only thing I get on the internet that is absolutely positive 100%. With Miz and Mrs, people seem to really gravitate toward that, and our fanbase is only getting bigger.”

Miz being out of action will leave his regular tag partner, John Morrison, to fend for himself for awhile. Regardless, Miz believes the partnership between him and Morrison will never truly end, even if he does think Morrison is capable of having a prolonged singles run.

“I don’t see myself and John Morrison splitting up for a very long time, if ever,” Miz stated. “I don’t see that happening. We’re too connected, we have too much chemistry and we still have more to go. John pushes me more than anybody else in WWE. Right now, he is just absolutely incredible, he is on a tear, and I think if he’s not in the main event scene going for the WWE or Universal Championship in the next year I think this is something we’re missing in WWE.”

Blood & Guts was a considerable ratings success for All Elite Wrestling this week, with the Dynamite special propelling the promotion to the top of the night’s cable rankings for the first time in the brand’s history.

Dynamite improved to a 0.42 rating in the key 18-49 demographic. This is up from the previous week’s 0.33 and is the show’s highest number since its first uncontested week, when it hit 0.44 on 14 April.

AEW’s closest cable competition on the night was The Challenge: Double Agents Reunion Part 2, which hit 0.32, meaning Blood & Guts finished well ahead of every other show.

As far as overall viewership goes, Dynamite improved from the previous week’s 889,000 to 1.090 million viewers, meaning the show has now broken the million viewer mark on three of its four uncontested weeks without NXT competition.

Last week’s numbers were greatly hindered by a clash with President Joe Biden’s address to Congress.

Dynamite’s biggest improvement came in males aged 12-34, where the show was up 69.2% to a 0.22 rating. This came following a slight decline from 0.15 to 0.13 the previous week.

In an interview with ET Canada, AEW star Matt Hardy talked about headlining the first unopposed AEW Dynamite three weeks ago against Darby Allin. The show drew the second highest rating in the history of Dynamite and Hardy was thrilled to be in the main event segment.

“It was super exciting,” Hardy revealed. “It was our first week unopposed, so I was very happy to be in that slot. And Darby is starting to prove to be a ratings guy because people really like him. And he gets it so much.

“He reminds me of my brother in so many ways as to how he sells from underneath. He gets sympathy and he’s just he’s cool. The kids like him. He’s super cool. And me at this stage of the game, being an older competitor, especially with the younger AEW audience, I am the perfect bad guy, I think, for a Darby Allin or someone like that.

“So I was expecting them to be big. I hoped we would break a million and do a good number. But when we heard 1.2, I was blown away and super happy, super excited. And I really think it was a good payoff because people didn’t know when they tuned in if Darby Allin was going to lose the TNT title or retain the title. And I think that was part of the charm of it.”

With AEW now working together with companies such as Impact, New Japan and NWA, Hardy discussed how healthy cross promotion is for wrestling. In particular he pointed to the Hardy’s feud with The Young Bucks a few years ago as an example of it working.

“I think it’s great,” Hardy said of cross promoting. “I’ve always thought it was great for business. A lot of people don’t know about this. It’s not a well-known fact. But I had been negotiating and working with the Young Bucks.

“And right before my brother and I left Impact to return to WWE, we were actually going to do a Ring of Honor-Impact crossover angle with the Hardys and the Young Bucks for three or four months. And we had that set. But then some things changed in their management and then ended up we’d return to would return to WWE once we ended up leaving.

“So I’m all down for it. I’ve always been down from it from the beginning. And I think especially considering WWE is such a massive global promotion, I think any other promotion that is up-and-coming when they work with other promotions, has it helps to add the element of unpredictability and unpredictability is what makes wrestling successful in 2021.

“I think more than anything else, because information’s out there, so many people see spoilers, so many people have a clue of what’s going on because the Internet is very wide and people know. So I think the more you can surprise people, you have someone show up on this promotion or someone show up on AEW or someone shows up in New Japan, I think it really adds that unpredictability to pro wrestling.”

Hardy was also asked about his brother, WWE star Jeff Hardy. Despite being in two separate companies, the brothers remain as close as ever.

“We always text each other before the shows,” Hardy revealed. “”We go, ‘hey, man, are you on tonight or when you are or what are you doing?’ We just kind of keep up with it.

“I don’t think there’s any competition any longer. I think we’re just both supportive of one another. So it’s cool. We’ve almost done it enough where there was a point where I was in WWE and he was in TNA. Or he was in TNA and I was in ROH. I mean, we’ve kind of done this before.

“So it’s kind of an old hat in some ways. But we’re now more than ever just supportive of one another.”