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Poll: Do TV Ratings Still Matter?

In the wake of the news that more people watched Smackdown than RAW this week, it's time to bring back one of wrestling's great debates.

Five years ago, this very site asked a question that's been debated by many wrestling fans the world over: do TV ratings and PPV buyrates matter.

Consider where the wrestling world was five years ago: WWE was doing 4.5 million to 5 million viewers a week for its flagship show, RAW. TNA's Impact was still doing over a million viewers a week. Ring of Honor was a year into syndication under the Sinclair Broadcast Group, and New Japan Pro Wrestling, having just penetrated the American market for the first time, was about to get new owners.

Five years later, WWE struggles for viewers, while its streaming service is struggling to hold on to its 1.5 million subscribers. TNA is on its third TV partner, its third president, and has fought off elimination more times than the 2016 Chicago Cubs. Ring of Honor's thrifty ways has caused a massive talent turnover. And New Japan Pro Wrestling, while it has emerged as a comfortable #2 promotion in the world, is arguably a far cry from its recent critically acclaimed past.

Just as the wrestling world has changed, television viewing habits have changed. Thanks to streaming services and DVRs and mobile devices, we can watch our TV on our schedule, and ratings systems are still trying to adjust to the new technology. In the wrestling world, PPV buyrates are all but irrelevant; WWE gave up its PPV business model for the WWE Network, and TNA and ROH only run a couple of PPVs a year (not including TNA's One Night Only series).

Yet, it's these numbers that are the basis of decisions of television executives where tens, hundreds of millions, even billions of dollars are at stake. In 2014, WWE was hit with this hard reality, getting only a modest financial increase for their new agreement with USA.That summer, Spike TV cancelled Impact despite being one of the most watched shows on the network. The next year, Impact was the most-watched show on Destination America, and it still didn't stop them from pulling the plug less than a year into the deal.

What does all this mean? Honestly, I'm not sure. It's not for another couple years or so, but USA and WWE will have to decide just exactly how much their TV rights are worth. Sure it's one of the top shows on the top network in cable, but save for that run to Wrestlemania, the downtrend in ratings will continue. But will it matter? Does it matter?

What say you?

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