Should ratings matter?

Posted: January 5, 2012 by Kick Out At 2! in Shane D
Tags: , , , ,

There’s been a lot of talk about ratings over the last little bit through most of the wrestling sites that I frequent.  Most of it started after the Raw the night after TLC, with a Main Event that catered to almost every Internet fan, showcasing CM Punk and Daniel Bryan as the company’s top champions, and “Internet darling” Zack Ryder as the new crowned United States Champion.  Apparently fans turned away from the show in droves and got the WWE startled, which is why our last few shows have ended with John Cena captaining the ship again, and CM Punk hanging out at around the 9PM/10PM changeover, despite being the Champion of the “A” brand.  Rumors ran rampant that the low numbers after the first PPV in God-knows-how-long to not feature John Cena as well as the Raw immediately after it that featured almost everyone in the company that I love were going to initiate change in the company…change that involved CM Punk being pushed back down a bit and possibly relieved of the ten pounds of gold around his waist.

This got me thinking about the role of ratings in the WWE and, heck, wrestling in general right now.

Check out any wrestling news site on Tuesday or Friday and you’ll be greeted with the ratings from the previous nights WWE or TNA show.  Now, I’ve never quite understood why this is news that I need, but then again I don’t understand why a wrestler’s Twitter feed is given to us as “news” either, but that’s a wholly different post right there.  I don’t understand why the ratings matter to us as fans.  Did your enjoyment of the show change because of a lower rating?  If the rating was an all time high, would you like the show any more?  It reminds me of a few years ago when Scott Pilgrim VS The World came out and made almost no money at all.  I loved the movie, but it was considered a failure.  People were so upset that the movie didn’t make any more money than it did, and I really didn’t understand it.  Sure, I loved the movie and in turn feel that the people involved should be rewarded for it, but the fact that it made X amount of money versus Y amount of money didn’t make me like it any less…or feel that it didn’t succeed in what it set out to do.  It just happened to be a very good movie that people didn’t want to go see, for whatever reason.

To me, in a nutshell, that’s wrestling.  For whatever reason, people just aren’t watching it right now.  While we can argue that this is due to writing or by the lack of major stars, it’s just a fact right now that people aren’t watching it like they used to.  I honestly don’t think it’s due to the business being cyclical (an idea that I don’t subscribe to…I think that’s just a phrase promoters use to cover bad booking), I just think that the public’s tastes have changed and we’re on to something different now.  You see the same thing in movies, music, and any other entertainment medium.  Right now super hero movies are in.  Give it ten years and we’ll have found another phase to move into.  Same with the vampire books everyone’s reading right now.  It’s what’s hot right now, and in a few years it’ll move on.  To me, that’s what 98-99 was in wrestling.  It was the trendy thing.  It was sparkling vampires and comic book movies. 

Before I digress too much, as I feel I’m almost trying to write a completely different blog, we’ll head back into the ratings mindset.

Ratings are down, sure, we get it.  But, why as a fan should I care?  I don’t.  Doesn’t change anything at all for me.  I also feel that it shouldn’t change WWE’s booking decisions either…at least not in the short term.  Taking the belt off of Punk isn’t a good thing to do right now just because a Raw had a bad rating…especially one where the rating changed during a match that Punk wasn’t even in.  However, we’re seeing the effects of that panic booking right now as Daniel Bryan is opening the show, the WWE Championship isn’t the focus of the show and we have Zack Ryder in a relationship angle.  They’re scared, and I don’t understand why.  Who is there to compete with as far as ratings go?  In 98-99, ratings mattered because you were in a competition with another company whose driving mentality was to pop a rating.  However, look at what happened to that company based on that mindset.  Yep, they went out of business.  Remember the dumb things that WCW did all for “ratings?”  Giving away one of the biggest PPV main events ever for free on Nitro ring a bell?  Did it get them a big rating?  Sure!  Did it cost them potential millions in PPV purchases?  Sure did.

Ratings apply to two entities…the channel that you’re currently on and your advertisers.  Those are the only two groups that should ever worry about your TV show’s ratings.  If they’re happy, then move on.  Wrestling TV should exist to make you want to buy the PPV at the end of the month.  That’s the purpose it serves.  Back in the day, it served the purpose of getting you to leave your house and head to the local Civic Center to watch the show.  This is because the TV show is free.  They’re not getting a dime from  you.  The time they see money is when you go to the show or when you order the PPV, but somewhere down the line they lost that mentality.  The major numbers that WWE (and TNA for that matter) should be concerned with are their house show attendance, their PPV buyrates and their merchandise sales.  Those things right there are going to tell you how effective your product is at any given time.  CM Punk’s major Raw moment drew a low number…but he’s selling the most merch of anyone in the company right now.  Seems like we’ve got a winner on our hands there.  The crowd is chanting Zack Ryder’s name and has been for a year now.  That’s your barometer right there.  Those people, who came to your show, who bought your products…the people who give you money!  They’re who you listen to, not the ratings.  There’s no competition right now, and even if there was, ratings aren’t the answer or the finish line.  They’re the key to making your channel and advertisers happy, and that’s it. 

Fans, watch the show and enjoy it (or don’t enjoy it) for its merits (or lack thereof), but don’t worry about things like ratings or buyrates, because at the end of the day, they’re meaningless to us.  Those numbers aren’t for us, and they shouldn’t be used as an argument for or against any specific direction.  They’re essentially the barometer of the market for that product right now, which is why you don’t see them change too awful much when they do change.  TNA draws a 1.something because that’s essentially the audience they have.  WWE has a higher audience so it pulls in a 2.something or a 3.something and it’ll stay that way until the general public gets back into wrestling…if it does.

Thing is, I’m not worried if they do, honestly.  Doesn’t affect my love of the product at all.

-Shane

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Comments
  1. Kick Out At 2! says:

    Just blame Michael Cole. 🙂 People are tuning out cause nobody wants to hear the garbage he’s spewing. Sorry, still on that rant from the other night Shane. lol – Robbie

  2. RudoReels says:

    Ratings are a good barometer of how well the business is doing but it’s only a fraction of it. like you said, merch sales and house gates are just as important. I take ratings with a grain of salt, because the mainstream, well, has terrible taste.

    If Britney Spears is topping the charts (I may be dating myself here, I don’t know. Is she still popular? haha) does it mean it’s any better than the #50 album? Usually, when something is massively popular, it’s because it’s had a lot of corporate thought put into it and it’s whored out to be acceptable to a mass group of people. There are rare instances where quality breaks through this and becomes popular, of course. Call it a hipster mentality, but popularity doesn’t mean ‘better,’ and high ratings don’t necessarily mean the show’s enjoyable. Low ratings don’t mean the show isn’t enjoyable.

    Everyone has different opinions, and my ‘definition’ of what’s ‘good’ is still, at the end of the day, completely subjective and my own opinion. But if the mainstream liked quality above everything else, and liked ‘wrestling,’ then I’d think WWE would have had a lot more competition. People like the sports entertainment crap. Hell, I LOVED Brodus Clay.

    A lot of the Attitude Era’s success was due to raw talent and good wrestling, sure, but the mainstream ALSO liked the trash-TV aspect of it all. There were horrible angles and booking that is just as bad as today, and everyone ate it up. So the ratings don’t mean it’s better, and today’s roster certainly isn’t lacking talent. Is it overrun with more talent than they know what to do with? Well, no. But they’re not hurting.

    I forgot where I was going with all of this, but in conclusion… Ratings shouldn’t mean a thing to you unless you’re a stockholder. Watch the show if you like it and stop watching if you don’t. Form your own opinions. That’s how I see it.

    Great article as always.

  3. RudoReels says:

    Also, to echo your sentiments, if the crowd pops for Ryder, eats up his merch, how–in their right mind–could they possibly justify de-pushing him. Mind-boggling.

    Ratings are a bad influence. They rely far too heavily on them.

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