Before getting to the big television ratings discussion, let me be clear here: WWE Smackdown was an excellent show on Christmas night. The episode that aired on Friday had a freakin’ mini pay-per-view card and delivered big time. I have written about the blue brand MULTIPLE times since at least August. Once Roman Reigns returned, the show became the “A Show” for WWE. Not a doubt in my mind. The quality has been top notch and yeah, I give most of that credit to The Head Of The Table Universal Champion.
With that praise out of the way, WWE Smackdown did not gain a significant jump in viewership last week due to just ‘quality.’ I am sure that definitely added to the intrigue and is always good for us wrestling fans watching. However, you do not jump two million viewers in one week because of the quality in the show, which has been going on for about four months now. Think for a second ladies and gentlemen. That makes no sense. If the quality was so good, it would have been slowly gaining viewers since the end of summer. It did indeed begin an uptick, hovering around 2.2 million viewers per week as of late in the latter half of 2020.
WWE Smackdown grabbed nearly 4.1 million viewers for the first hour this past Friday. Their biggest number in a long, long, time.
Sorry to burst everybody’s bubble, but that doesn’t pass the smell test, especially when the second hour was back down to somewhat normal levels, at 2.5 million viewers. Over 1.5 million viewers left from hour one to hour two. From a huge spike down to nearly ‘normal’ numbers. Yeah, save me all that junk about viewers loving Smackdown and suddenly wanting to tune in for a holiday edition. Or the steel cage match. Or Sasha Banks, Bianca Belair, Charlotte Flair, Asuka, or anybody else wrestling. Please use some common sense…
…and here it is.
There was an NFL game airing on FOX right before Smackdown. if you live outside of the United States, you don’t quite understand the popularity of the football league. It is big. Even on Christmas night, it is going to draw viewers from all over the country. Airing in the afternoon when festivities are dying down and leading into the 7pm central time slot for Smackdown was MASSIVE! That is why viewership jumped so much. People already had the game on at the time and guess what? It even bled into the start time of 7pm central by a couple minutes. An overrun. No different than any other major sporting event bleeding into the next top of the hour and that timeslot sees a huge increase.
Um yeah…because viewers were still finishing up with the NFL game and post-game crap. If FOX were smart, they would do this more often and bank on that relationship. This is exactly why WWE signed with FOX; they have so many sports connections to help them out. We saw that on Christmas night.
Look no further than one hour later after a Universal Championship steel cage match and WWE Womens Tag Team Title match, those extra viewers were gone. As mentioned, Smackdown was back down to 2.5 million viewers an hour later by the time Big E won the IC Title in the main event. Those four million viewers that were there were now gone. Again, football had ended, and they slowly changed the channel. Yes, it did grab those extra viewers initially to HOPEFULLY stick around going forward, but don’t hold your breath.
If you think four million viewers are watching Smackdown again come Friday night, you don’t get it. Same with anything even close to three million viewers. Or more. It doesn’t matter. Smackdown got the ‘big pop’ due to the NFL and unless there is a big sporting event scheduled every single Friday afternoon on FOX, WWE is on its own here. Similar to AEW giving Impact Wrestling a big boost two weeks ago. People tried to convince themselves it was due to Impact Wrestling. A laughable argument. Sure enough, one week later, numbers were back down to normal and one week after that, it was below the previous average.
Smackdown got the boost in viewership last week due to the NFL and nothing else. As sad as it is, I don’t believe “quality” is going to give wrestling THAT much of spark out of nowhere. Here is the good news though: I said it in the beginning. Smackdown was a PPV caliber show with three title matches and a good story line in between with Daniel Bryan. If viewers who hung around after the NFL game enjoyed all that good stuff, maybe they do give it another shot this week? Maybe, just maybe.
Then we can have another conversation. Until then, thank you NFL on FOX.
By Justin Watry (Twitter: @JustinWatry)