The Heavy Opinion - Do Television Ratings Matter?
In the latest edition of the Heavy Opinion, our resident Aussie Wrestling Fan, Hev asks the question... Do Television Ratings Really Matter?
Hey there, Wrestling Fans, welcome to another edition of the Heavy Opinion, with your friendly bloke from the Land Down Under, Hev. Today on the Heavy Opinion I want to cover a topic that seems to get a lot of coverage these days and that is Television Ratings when it comes to Wrestling Programming and whether they are really all that important in this modern era of wrestling. So please sit down, get comfy and get ready for another Heavy Dose of Opinion!
Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room that is the Monday Night Wars, the hottest era in Professional Wrestling history. In 1996, World Championship Wrestling took the fight to the World Wrestling Federation in what would become one of the biggest feuds in wrestling history, the Monday Night Wars. These wars were not a war fought in the physical sense; no, they were in fact a war being waged by both companies to win over as many fans as they could to become the top promotion in the world of professional wrestling. The battlegrounds were WCW Monday Night Nitro and WWF Monday Night War, the prize? The attention, admiration and love of the fans watching at home, giving the winning side the edge and the losing side a kick up the ass that would kick off the biggest boom period in professional wrestling, WWF’s Attitude Era.
How was success measured during this era? With the Neilson Television Ratings System. This is a system that was primarily created to generate data that could be used to calculate advertising popularity and trends but during this time it was being used as the metaphorical bullets being fired on the battlegrounds of the Monday Night Wars. In the end after an 83 Week Reign at the top, WCW was dethroned by the WWF and the rest is, as they say, history. Eventually the WWF would flat out win the war with the closure of WCW in 2001. Since then, ratings have only been mentioned sparingly in relation to Professional Wrestling, with the most significant time I can think of when they were referred to again was when TNA moved Impact to Monday Nights in an attempt to recreate the Monday Night Wars. It was safe to say it did not work in their favour.
So just to recap, we had the two biggest wrestling promotions in the U.S fighting over ratings, trying to outdo each other on a weekly basis. Talking smack about the opposing product and trying everything they could to win the night and the key demographic groups each and every week… does it sound familiar? Good, it should, because right now it seems that the ratings have become a HUGE focal point now that WWE has some stiff competition from All Elite Wrestling, which is providing a popular alternative. Now just like with all things that are hotly contested in the professional wrestling world, it seems the debate over ratings is becoming such a focal point that it sees hoards of fans, stubbornly standing by their favoured product and hurling abuse, figures and theories at one another and it is all based off the Nielson Ratings.
Now back in 1996 the Nielson Ratings were the ONLY way to gauge which product was popular. Back in 1996 we only really had two ways to watch wrestling. Via live television programming and through Pay Per View. These days, in this modern era there are far more avenues out there to watch professional wrestling. We have television broadcasting, YouTube, and Streaming Services just to name a few. With all these different avenues to watch our favourite wrestling products why is it that we, the fans, and the industry itself focus on one form of data gathering? When there are so many ways to watch wrestling why is it we focus on an outdated form of information gathering to ascertain which product is more popular than the other? I think in this modern era focusing on one form of data gathering to calculate popularity is narrowminded considering the options at our disposal.
When trying to calculate popularity based on the numbers tuning into the shows each week you need to look at each of the different forms of technology that wrestling can be viewed on. This means that you cannot just look at the television ratings, you need to look at the total views on YouTube, the numbers that Streaming Services have got for viewership. There is more than one way to calculate how to deem which product is more popular. An example of looking at other methods of viewership numbers would be the edition of Rampage that went up against WWE Smackdown, the one which had the Buy-In before Rampage aired. That Buy-In was aired live on YouTube through the AEW Channel. The day after the Buy-In aired, it had over 800,000 views. That is a huge significant number of people tuning in to watch that one part of a night’s programming, if that number was added to the television ratings for AEW Rampage then the ratings on the night would have had a completely different outcome and it may not have been such a huge WWE Victory. Just for arguments sake, to this date that Rampage Buy-In for that episode of Rampage has had 1.3 Million Views on YouTube.
So, all this information begs me to ask one question, Do Television Ratings Actually Matter? The short answer is no, the long answer is also no. Why would we as fans take only one source of data collection as the be all and end all of what is popular in professional wrestling? Especially when we have proven in this article that there are so many different avenues for fans to watch their favourite product. Which in turn means that there is more than one way to gauge popularity. Not only that, why the hell do ratings matter when there are so many options for wrestling these days? Why are we so focused on an archaic form of a popularity contest? Is it because we are starved for some cutthroat competition like there was during the Monday Night Wars? Is it because we as fans must justify by all means necessary that the product we have chosen as “Our” product is the better or more superior product? At the end of the day why does it matter? Why do we focus on it so much? Is it because we have been programmed to care so much by wrestling history? Or is it the fault of certain news outlets for always focusing on the ratings when a better use of reporting time would be to focus on the positives of the various promotions that are active today, which is creating what is essentially a New Territory System. One that can see wrestlers thrive in their craft and provide for their families without having to sell their soul to Titan Towers in Stamford.
To me, I do not watch wrestling for a list of freaking numbers that are trying to dictate to me what is popular and what is not. I watch wrestling to be entertained, to appreciate the effort and the craft that goes into the matches and the storylines exhibited each and every single week. I watch wrestling to experience the highs and lows and everything in between. I don’t need my love for professional wrestling to consist of mindless data that, if collected and used in its original capacity, is to help mega corporations decide what products they are going to sling at us to purchase. At the end of the day the Television Ratings were not created to dictate to us what is popular and what isn’t, it was created to assist advertising executives to calculate what would be the best times and days to advertise certain products to certain groups or demographics. So, with that being said let the Television Ratings do what they were intended to do and leave us wrestling fans be so we can enjoy the magnitude of options and talent that is current out there providing us with endless hours of entertainment. I know what I’ll be doing moving forward, I’ll be watching wrestling to enjoy wrestling, not to worry about what a bunch of numbers has to say about what might be considered popular. Wrestling is a huge part of my life, it always has been and I'll be damned if I am going to let something as insiginificant as Television Ratings ruin what I love.
Please feel free to comment and share your theories below and until next time, this is Hev signing off on another Heavy Opinion… say Hi to your Folks for me!