In Defense Of WWE: Why Low RAW Ratings Mean Very Little

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Hi, I'm Justin Watry. You may remember me from such classic columns as "WWE WrestleMania 28: Sheamus Should Defeat Daniel Bryan in Less Than a Minute" and "WWE Should Send John Morrison Down to FCW Right Now."

Today, I will be writing about the much discussed low Raw ratings and why they do not really matter for WWE business...right now.

Okay, do not let the title of the column deceive. WWE television ratings are at near all-time lows, and that is obviously a bad thing. Obviously. Every single person would love for RAW to be pulling in 15 million viewers per week, with Smackdown grabbing 10 million each Thursday. Duh! All shows on all channels want bigger and better numbers. That goes without saying...

...however, can we all take a deep breath and just relax for a little bit? As bad as the recent WWE ratings have been, that is not the whole story, nope - not even close. Heck, for those still paying attention, RAW still ranks as one of the most watched cable shows each week, but that is not my point today. Despite all the coverage of that one side of the business, there are many more FACTS that remain. Allow me to explain.

WWE Network Continues To Be A Success - Not just for its awesome value of having live monthly pay-per-views, the outstanding NXT product, new specials, Breaking Ground, thousands of hours of footage, and countless more features. I am talking about financially as well. Current numbers stand at over 1.2 million, well over its initial one million projection. Plus, that does not even factor in October, November, and the recent launch in India. Germany and Japan rumored for January 2016. Needless to say, the assumption is that the subscriber count will increase even more. Do the quick math on 1.2+ million at 10 bucks a pop.

PPV Buys - Keep in mind WWE did away with the pay-per-view as their central focus last year, plus many major cable companies have STOPPED airing them due to the WWE Network. Well, just from the past few months:

– Battleground drew 80,000 buys
– Summerslam drew 121,000 buys
– Night of Champions drew 77,000 buys

Also, a preliminary figure for October's PPV featuring the final Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker battle grabbed about 87,000 buys.

For this section of their business to essentially be "bonus" income they are not really worried about, it sure is a cool little icing on the top.

WWEShop - Business is booming for their online merchandise. You will notice more and more promotion for the website on RAW/Smackdown as of late. Well, number don't lie. Up approximately 20% from last year. Heck, even The New Day merch is flying off the shelves. No doom and gloom on this side of things. Just wait until John Cena returns with a new line of clothing...

37 New Advertisers - Last month, it was revealed that WWE secured 37 new advertised for their programming on USA Network. Remember that Smackdown will also be joining that channel in less than 30 days. That is clearly a step in the right direction for the 'wrazzlin' business that has traditionally been shunned by high end companies. Notice the promos for the 2015 Slammy Awards? Yeah, sponsored by Coca Cola. About as big as you can get right there for a sponsor. Kudos!

Live Events - The third quarter financial results (you know, facts) tell us live event revenue was up 21%. Yes, with more events and higher ticket prices, but welcome to the real world. Supply and demand. If people will pay for it, you can charge whatever you want. See WWE WrestleMania tickets doing record pre-sale numbers and the following night's RAW already sold out.

TV Revenue - Even with the low numbers, the beauty of this all is WWE already signed mega TV deals that will only INCREASE in the next three years. Yes, that is right. Short-term, Raw and Smackdown may be losing viewers, but that is not reflected on the bottom line. Long-term, sure. They will not receive a similar gigantic deal in future negotiations, but that is basing a lot off assumptions. Here are the numbers as we sit here today in late 2015:

WWE made $163 million in TV money in 2013.

WWE made $176 million in TV money in 2014.

*projected* for $180 million in TV money in 2015.

*projected* for $190 million in TV money in 2016.

*projected* for $200-235 million in TV money in 2017 and 2018.

The way the deals were structured means it starts low and escalates each year. Where WWE is at is three to four years is anybody's guess, but the huge TV money listed above speaks for itself, even with the recent dip in viewership.

Overall Business - According to F4Wonline:

"During the period of July 2015 to September 2015, WWE brought in $166.2 million in revenue while third quarter operating income was $17.9 million and adjusted OIBDA was $23.4 million."

Geez, what a terrible company! Man, they must be on the brink of bankruptcy, huh? I man their TV ratings are down, so clearly that means they are failures.

Riiiiight.

Come on folks, take a step back and look at the big picture. This isn't the Attitude Era where ratings are the end all be all. New era, new financial setting. New contracts, new deals. WWE is doing just fine business wise and are more than profitable despite any babbling from the naysayers. TV ratings are merely one slice of a giant pie that is continuing to grow worldwide.

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