Vince McMahon appearing on WWE programming during a scandal and a rare championship match on television led to Friday Night SmackDown soaring.
It was SmackDown’s second-highest viewership of the year and largest since April 1st, which was billed as ‘WrestleMania SmackDown’ going into the biggest weekend of the year. In 18-49, it was their best performance since April 8th for the episode coming out of WrestleMania.
SmackDown was the top show on all of television on Friday, which didn’t feature any playoff competition from the NHL or NBA. The show was up 20 percent in viewers and 31 percent in the key demo.
There was a huge upswing of 45.5 percent among females in the 18-49 demographic while men in the demo grew by 20 percent.
The 18-34 demo jumped 44 percent with huge gains among males and females from the previous week.
It was promoted around Vince McMahon appearing on the program just days after being named in a Wall Street Journal report regarding a quiet settlement agreement with an ex-employee worth $3 million dollars that the WWE’s board of directors learned about through an anonymous email sent in late March. The WSJ added that other non-disclosure agreements were discovered involving ex-employees that filed claims of misconduct against McMahon and John Laurinaitis.
After announcing McMahon was stepping away as WWE’s chairman and chief executive officer while maintaining his creative duties, a second press release announced was issued Friday stating McMahon would appear on the program.
The show also saw Roman Reigns defend the Undisputed Universal Championship for the first time on television, defeating Riddle and being confronted by Brock Lesnar to end the program. It was Reigns’ first match on SmackDown this year.
In Canada, the show averaged 134,700 viewers and 58,800 in the 25-54 demographic on Sportsnet 360. The show finished fourth among sports programming in overall viewership and third in the demo. The sports programming was led by the Toronto Blue Jays vs. New York Yankees which averaged 781,100 viewers and 213,900 in the demo followed by the CFL game with Winnipeg vs. Ottawa.