Television viewership comparisons in July for top pro wrestling programs

Photo Courtesy: WWE

With the conclusion of the month of July, we can look at the performance of the top professional wrestling programs with a yearly comparison.

The data is extracted from Wrestlenomics and its viewership spreadsheet (available to Patrons), the now-extinct Showbuzz Daily site, and POST Wrestling’s own reporting regarding Canadian viewership figures.

For the purpose of comparisons, we are looking at the July 2022 vs. July 2023 comparisons for WWE Raw & SmackDown, NXT, and AEW Dynamite in the U.S. and Canada.

An important distinction is that the comparisons do not take into account the number of homes that have cut cable. The July 2023 figures indicate that USA Network was in 72,417,000 homes (down from 74,363,000 in December 2022), TBS was in 72,416,000 homes (73,739,000 in December), and TNT in 71,275,000 homes (down from 73,595,000 in December).

John Ourand of Sports Business Journal reports that approximately 3.1 million homes have cut cable since the beginning of the year.

WWE RAW

Viewership Average
:
July 2023: 1,814,000 (+4%)
July 2022: 1,741,000

18-49:
July 2023: 708,000 (+22%)
July 2022: 579,000

18-34:
July 2023: 262,000 (+25%)
July 2022: 210,000

Canadian viewership:
July 2023: 224,000 (+14%)
July 2022: 196,000

Analysis: While the audience is up slightly (more when you incorporate fewer cable homes with access to Raw this year than last), it is the younger audiences growing that demonstrate Raw’s relevance and a sign that lapsed or disengaged viewers are more likely to tune than one year prior. The summer of 2022 had the Vince McMahon scandal hanging above the company’s head and included appearances by McMahon on television after the first set of stories broke. Canadian viewership has been strong throughout the year with a giant increase in the lead-up to Elimination Chamber and WrestleMania due to Sami Zayn, and to a lesser extent, Kevin Owens when the tag program became the #2 program for ‘Mania.

FRIDAY NIGHT SMACKDOWN
(Excludes one episode in July 2023 that aired on FS1)

Viewership Average:
July 2023: 2,398,000 (+11%)
July 2022: 2,159,000

18-49:
July 2023: 865,000 (+29%)
July 2022: 671,000

18-34:
July 2023: 321,000 (+41%)
July 2022: 228,000

Canadian viewership:
July 2023: 188,300 (+57%)
July 2022: 120,000

Analysis: It is the program that is not impacted by the loss of cable homes but is posting gains when Fox was down 10% in Q2 in overall viewership but up 9% in the 18-49 demographic. With the top star and top storyline in the company, SmackDown is a destination show as The Bloodline angle continues to grow. While there appeared to be a post-WrestleMania malaise in the wake of Cody Rhodes’ loss, the dissension among The Bloodline has more than made up for the exit of Sami Zayn from the story and keeping the championship on Roman Reigns to allow for the 1000-Day Celebration and execution of Jey’s defection from the group. It occurs when SmackDown is aggressively being shopped around and LightShed Media notes the reluctance by Fox to increase their rights fees for SmackDown.

NXT

Viewership Average
:
July 2023: 657,000 (+11%)
July 2022: 591,000

18-49:
July 2023: 250,000 (+49%)
July 2022: 168,000

18-34:
July 2023: 95,000 (+58%)
July 2022: 60,000

Canadian viewership:
July 2023: 79,000 (+58%)
July 2022: 50,000

Analysis: While the show appeared to be dead in the water in the change to NXT 2.0, it has more than found its footing and largely due to the regular appearances of main roster talent. Thus far, the biggest difference-makers have been Seth Rollins for a match in June against Bron Breakker and Dominik Mysterio beating Wes Lee for the North American Championship. The show is gaining a younger audience as the 18-34 increase year-over-year is a major feather in their cap. The growth has been reflected in the Canadian viewership increasing on Sportsnet 360 – where it airs live on Tuesday nights. Long-term, the hope would be for the main roster stars to interact and transfer that star power to key NXT talents that are able to benefit from the crossover rather than use the main roster stars for one-off spikes that will have diminishing returns. NXT will always be disadvantaged by the purpose of its existence where a star gets hot and should be called up to the main roster, so the creation of new stars is never-ending.

AEW DYNAMITE

Viewership Average:
July 2023: 883,000 (-7%)
July 2022: 952,000

18-49:
July 2023: 397,000 (-9%)
July 2022: 436,000

18-34:
July 2023: 155,000 (-1%)
July 2022: 153,000

Canadian viewership:
July 2023: 110,000 (+3%)
July 2022: 107,000

Analysis: When considering the drop in cable homes, this essentially becomes a wash year-over-year. While there is no arguing that AEW is less popular, Dynamite is still a must-see show for the company, and maintaining that audience overlaps with the launch of Collision. The jury is out if strong Collision viewership will have any impact on viewership for Dynamite, but the early results do not suggest it. This year featured Blood & Guts in July while last year’s B&G was in June while last year saw CM Punk regularly featured on Dynamite and since returning, has made one appearance on Dynamite with the Chicago event in June. There is the potential for momentum building over the next two months with the lead-up to the biggest show in AEW’s history, All Out the week after, and the annual Grand Slam show in New York in September.

AEW RAMPAGE

Viewership Average:
July 2023: 354,000 (-18%)
July 2022: 430,000

18-49:
July 2023: 138,000 (-26%)
July 2022: 186,000

18-34:
July 2023: 36,000 (-27%)
July 2022: 49,000

*AEW Rampage is only available in Canada through the TSN+ streaming service and we do not have viewership data for the program.

Analysis: Rampage’s reputation has suffered significantly, and the arrival of Collision has only highlighted the fact that it’s the least essential program produced by AEW. While it’s an easy-to-consume, one-hour program that by and large has good wrestling each week – that portion of the audience’s diet is being filled by tons of shows and companies they have access to. The lack of importance attached to the show, matches, and outcomes is a broken record and frankly, rehabilitating Rampage should not be the top priority as they are still getting fans accustomed to tuning in on Saturday nights and the competition on that night of the week is only going to intensify when the fall season begins. By the standards of Friday night programming, Rampage was still ranking high in its timeslot and the true worth of the program will bear itself out in the next round of negotiations and whether this show stays on Friday nights, disappears, moves to a streamer, or TBS/TNT find a better usage of this hour elsewhere.

About John Pollock 5411 Articles
Born on a Friday, John Pollock is a reporter, editor & podcaster at POST Wrestling. He runs and owns POST Wrestling alongside Wai Ting.