You've either heard it or said it yourself -- "three hours is just too long for any program to keep my interest."
That's why pro wrestling fans have been dying for WWE to switch its flagship program, Monday Night Raw, back to two hours. Starting with the historic 1,000th episode back on July 23, the broadcast moved to three hours on a permanent basis and it's lead to declining ratings, a watered down product, and a burned out fanbase.
But that's not stopping the company from pushing ahead with its schedule.
On a conference call recently (check out a full transcript at SeekingAlpha.com), WWE Chief Financial Officer George Barrios revealed some news that both WWE and USA are happy with the returns they've seen, claiming the third hour is up 35-percent from the show it replaced, NCIS. The third hour they are referring to is the first hour of the show starting at 8 p.m. ET, as opposed to the actual third hour of the program that has seen nothing but decline.
That's a tradeoff all parties are apparently willing to accept.
What really reveals WWE's plan for running so many different shows with six hours of first run content each week is that the audience for each show isn't duplicating, which is to say, each show has its own unique audience, making each show a viable commodity.
"When we went from six hours of television to four hours of television domestically couple of years ago, our total viewership declined. Is there duplication between Raw, Smackdown and now Main Event, Saturday Slam? Of course there is some duplication, but there is non duplicate of the audience."
That actually makes sense with even Raw and SmackDown having a decidedly different group of folks watching it. You could argue that's not good for the product but they've been making it work just fine so far.
At the end of the day, as long as WWE and USA are seeing ratings bigger than what they would have gotten otherwise -- and USA was number one in cable on prime time last week -- they will continue to run three hour episodes of Raw.