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Leading entertainment industry trade publication calls Vince McMahon on his ratings excuses

Vince McMahon

Wrestling fans and the wrestling media have been arguing about WWE’s declining television numbers for the past couple years. Today (July 22), days before the company will announce their financials for the second quarter of 2019, one of the leading entertainment industry trade publications chimed in on Raw & SmackDown’s ratings, and the reasons WWE CEO & Chairman’s Vince McMahon provided for them when the last two sets of numbers came out.

In an op-ed entitled, “Vince McMahon Out of Excuses for WWE Woes”, Variety’s Senior Media Analyst Gavin Bridge highlights the year-over-year audience decline for Raw (20%, or 616,000 viewers per episode on average, from the first half of 2018 to the first half of 2019) and SmackDown (17%, or 446K viewers). He also runs down talking points which will be familiar to readers of this site: Wrestling Observer’s report that executives at Fox - which just agreed to pay $205 million a year for SmackDown’s broadcast rights - and NBCUniversal - who renewed their contract for Raw at a $265 million annual price tag - are “nervous about WWE’s recent performance,” live event attendance & merchandising revenue is also down, and competition if coming this fall from All Elite Wrestling & their TNT cable show.

Calling attention to all that is bad enough. The Variety piece also picks apart the claim Vince made in January that “engagement metrics over the past two quarters were impacted by superstar absences”. WWE Co-President George Barrios also brought up “superstar absences” in April. Bridge lists ten wrestlers Barrios mentioned, and points out that only Sasha Banks and Dean Ambrose/Jon Moxley appeared significantly less in Q1 2019 than they did in Q1 2018. And, yes, the reasons those two aren’t currently appearing on WWE television is mentioned, too.

McMahon’s belief that “talent return and... a successful WrestleMania” would help turn things around for WWE is also skewered, since the downward audience trend has continued into the second quarter.

When Q2 numbers come out Thursday (July 25), it’s expected WWE will heavily emphasize the hiring of Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff to Executive Director positions for the two shows as they attempt to convince investors they’ve figured out the problem. If the market doesn’t buy that, we may see their stock price continue to fall. It’s trading today at around $70 per share, down from a $99 high in April - days before the Q1 numbers were released and Barrios repeated the “superstar absences” excuse.

It’s an excuse they won’t be able to use this time. And Variety - a publication who back in May published a glowing cover story on McMahon and his Hollywood & Wall Street success - made sure everybody knows it.

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