Discussion Of Wrestling Ratings And Their Misuse

Bill Behrens


When the Nielsen Rating for the 10-20 RAW was announced as a 2.97 down from a 3.07 the previous week, a .1 or approximately a 3% drop…I saw numerous explanations suggested as to why.

But this is not much of a drop at all honestly, and until we see the quarter hour breakdowns the many internet reports I’ve read blaming a weak show are assuming facts not in evidence. We do not know whether the show lost audience quarter hour to quarter hour, and so we do not know if the show’s content had folk tuning out. All we know is some folk who watched didn’t like the show because they wrote that they did not like the show. We know the show’s rating was down slightly. Therefore some believe the show was the reason. But obviously no viewer knows whether a show will be good or bad until that viewer tunes in and watches, so the audience that tunes in does so for reasons that have nothing to do with the show they are watching. If they tune out certainly that could mean the show is not so good.

WWE RAW did a 2.93 this week, 3.07 last week, 3.0 the week before, 3.1 the week before that, 3.05 a week before that and on September 1 it delivered a 2.7……so WWE could say it audience is up .23 from Sept 1. The greater point is there’s not much % difference most weeks up or down, and given the margin of discrepancy up or down in the #s themselves, not much can be really learned, nor can we really make much of a real point when we present our guesses as to why #s are up or down week to week.

Here’s a better comparison that does tell us something:

RAW’s Average rating in 2007 was 3.61, and year to date in 2008 the average is 3.29 so to date RAW is down by .32, around 9-10%. ECW went from 1.47 2007 to 1.26 year to date in 2008. Smackdown went from 2.64 in 2007 to 2.39 year to date in 2008. So we can say WWE’s TV average audience is down across the board year to year (2007 to 2008) by at least 10% or more.

TNA on the other hand averaged 1.04 in 2007 and is averaging 1.04 year to date in 2008, so at least their audience is flat (not up nor down). TNA can say they are keeping their fans while fans are fleeing WWE. Unfortunately the audience WWE is losing doesn’t seem to be going to TNA.

Oh well…….

Ratings are frequently misinterpreted and misunderstood. They are a great tool, but you need to know how to use the tool. You don’t hammer a nail in with a screwdriver.

For example there is a difference between Broadcast & Cable ratings. Broadcast ratings are based on the total universe of viewing households that are available, then discounted by whatever % of the country each network does not cover. Cable ratings are based on the Household coverage of each cable network, so for example a .4 rating on Country Music Television is not the same as a .4 rating on TNT, as each reaches a different number of subscriber households.

Everyone looking at ratings info needs to understand that there are no simple week to week reasons for discrepancies and whatever can be learned is learned only through multi-week analysis, quarter hour breakdowns, lead-in-leadout programming flow, the competition week to week, HUT levels (viewing levels) week to week, and lots more.

So the fact that someone thought a show was bad one week may not mean much at all, if anything except that person did not like the show.

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