Examing Quarter Hour Raw Rating Trends (2011-2013)

All Analysis by Chris Harrington (@mookieghana)

Versions of this have appeared on Last Word on Sports and my blog and 2/10/14 Wrestling Observer Newsletter and a new extended person-by-person look at at What Culture


Article

There’s a been a lot of talk about whether WWE has a defense on why they haven’t strapped a rocket on Daniel Bryan in light of the outspoken crowd reactions at the Royal Rumble. I decided to resurrect a project that I had started months ago, namely – dissecting the raw ratings quarter hour viewership gains & losses by person.

Methodology:

  1. Take all of the detailed Raw quarter-hour reports from Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer newsletter (subscription; available online at wrestlingobserver.com)
  2. For each “segment”, tally which people were involved.  (More difficult than it sounds.)
  3. By person, take the “average” of all their segments (noting whether we’re including the notoriously hot overrun segment)

This data covers (though not every week has every quarter-hour, sometimes only over-run available):

2011: 52 weeks
2012: 53 weeks
2013: 42 weeks (weekly ratings only through 10/7)

This is clearly an imperfect science. It covers weeks with strong competition on television to weeks with little competition on television. It covers time-periods where you may be pushing a wrestlers as a main-event title contenders during one month and pushing them a comedy tag team goofball during a different time period. Why people do and do not tune in is not purely driven simply by who is on the screen. However, the hope is that by looking at the information over long periods of time we would be able to draw some conclusions about the trends we’re seeing. Lastly, it gets spotty since early October — this isn’t some fiendish plot by me to thwart people from evaluating Cena/Orton/Punk/Bryan in the post-Battleground world. Instead, Dave just hasn’t been providing the weekly Raw segment data in the newsletter. That’s all.

“The rule of thumb is not to overreact to one week’s rating” – Dave Meltzer

I decided to run the data essentially four different ways: with and without the overrun segment (the final period where Raw spills over the 11 PM EST hour and viewers for next USA programming tune in as well as fans that have been programmed to check out what’s going on to close out Raw) and using show averages and using show maximums. Since I was trying to tallying all the people involved in a segment, oftentimes a wrestler can appear more than once (interview, match, video package, etc.). To give the benefit of the doubt, I ran the numbers using both the “average viewership change” by wrestler in that show as well as a “maximum viewership change” by wrestler in that show.

You did have to appear in a minimum of 5 shows to be included in the calculation. This was to prevent any freak show circumstances from being overly influential and leave off guest hosts (though I think we can all agree that Wayne Brady is the key to a WWE renaissance).

Gains & Losses

2011 – 2013 Viewership Gains/Losses for Raw

Biggest  Viewership Gainers  2011

1          Jim Ross          344,893

2          John Cena        331,171

3          HHH                246,231

4          The Miz                  241,065

5          CM Punk         165,536

6          Michael Cole   164,008

7          John Laurinaitis        104,608

8          R-Truth                        101,238

9          Christian             95,217

10        Alex Riley          93,311

11        The Big Show            86,191

12        Jerry Lawler        83,522

13        Rey Mysterio      23,013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biggest Viewership Losers     2011

1          Mike McGillicutty  (336,938)

2          Zack Ryder      (323,981)

3          Santino Marella    (308,125)

4          David Otunga  (245,324)

5          Kofi Kingston  (233,407)

6          Evan Bourne    (227,944)

7          Beth Phoenix   (222,444)

8          Mason Ryan    (218,875)

9          John Morrison (209,629)

10        Nikki Bella      (196,341)

11        Kelly Kelly      (194,762)

12        Cody Rhodes   (191,909)

13        Natalya             (184,154)

14        Jack Swagger   (169,717)

15        Sheamus          (150,990)

16        Dolph Ziggler   (136,509)

17        Eve Torres       (108,318)

18        Brie Bella            (97,567)

19        Vickie Guerrero   (76,179)

20        Daniel Bryan      (69,000)

 

Biggest Viewership Gainers   2012   

1          Undertaker       572,657

2          HHH                380,624

3          Vince McMahon       342,781

4          The Rock                310,149

5          Shawn Michaels       303,315

6          Brock Lesnar   290,827

7          Vickie Guerrero     223,403

8          John Cena        218,700

9          Paul Heyman   192,610

10        CM Punk         179,546

11        John Laurinaitis    179,165

12        The Big Show         153,624

13        Chris Jericho    124,365

14        AJ Lee         121,523

15        Kane           68,418

16        The Great Khali    58,000

17        Mark Henry       56,738

18        Wade Barrett      50,308

19        Randy Orton      36,935

20        Ryback               30,146

Biggest Viewership Losers     2012

1          Kelly Kelly                 (251,571)

2          Jinder Mahal               (245,750)

3          Santino                     (216,836)

4          Cesaro                        (202,467)

5          Primo                          (191,933)

6          Kofi Kingston             (189,067)

7          Epico                          (187,592)

8          Christian                     (186,100)

9          Zack Ryder                 (156,023)

10        Layla                          (153,273)

11        Kaitlyn                        (150,700)

12        Titus O’Neil                (138,000)

13        Damien Sandow          (134,454)

14        Darren Young             (131,929)

15        Rey Mysterio              (131,580)

16        Cody Rhodes              (121,731)

17        Tyson Kidd                 (121,571)

18        Justin Gabriel              (121,167)

19        Jack Swagger              (105,278)

20        The Miz                         (95,891)

 

Biggest Viewership Gainers Jan-Oct 2013 

1          The Rock           335,698

2          Brock Lesnar   330,068

3          John Cena       328,401

4          Paul Heyman   317,531

5          HHH               259,420

6          CM Punk         246,534

7          Stephanie McMahon   242,841

8          Vickie Guerrero     234,359

9          Vince McMahon      203,475

10        Brad Maddox 168,819

11        Seth Rollins     167,388

12        Roman Reigns 166,292

13        The Big Show  161,143

14        Daniel Bryan   155,341

15        Dean Ambrose   135,652

16        Ryback               91,294

17        Curtis Axel         59,699

18        Kane                  48,198

19        Sheamus             40,064

20        Randy Orton      36,306

Biggest Viewership Losers   Jan-Oct 2013

1          Cameron          (496,714)

2          Layla              (486,500)

3          Aksana           (397,000)

4          Naomi            (389,417)

5          R-Truth           (322,143)

6          Brie Bella        (322,133)

7          Nikki Bella      (311,375)

8          Natalya            (299,300)

9          Alicia Fox       (234,875)

10        Christian          (208,000)

11        The Uso’s        (205,417)

12        Kofi Kingston (202,158)

13        Great Khali     (201,200)

14        Damien Sandow   (184,140)

15        Fandango        (179,640)

16        Santino Marella   (179,438)

17        Bray Wyatt     (171,225)

18        Zack Ryder     (153,643)

19        AJ Lee                (152,838)

20        Erick Rowan   (142,250)

 

The viewership number calculated here is an amalgamation of the four numbers I previously mentioned. It’s the average of w/ & w/o overrun #s split between where you’re using the average method (75% weighting) and the maximum method (25% weighting).

Commentary

Again, this is quite imperfect but I must say the results do seem to align to general WWE-think. That is to say, when you look at who they push on television and which segments they put those people, there is an intent to promote certain people. While I find the results quite interesting, I do want to emphasize several points:

  1. This looks at quarter-hour viewership changes. That’s how many people tuned in or tuned during the fifteen minutes measured.  There’s a host of reasons that viewers tune-in and tune-out through a show. Some of it has to do with specific time periods (top of the hour, the end of show overrun). Some of it has to do with television competition – specifically major sports events like Football games. Some of it has to do with who is on the screen. Some of it has to do with who was on the screen (i.e. big-drop offs following major viewership gains). Some of it just appears to related to the unexplained fickle variations that you get from Nielsen household reporting. Also, people in the first segment can be short-changed. Essentially, there isn’t a “delta” to compare them against, so usually the participants for that entire segment don’t get credited with anything even though they were on Raw. (In fact, we know that the night after a PPV usually experiences a major 1st hour boost as people tune in to see what transpired last night.) A possible improvement would be to add a secondary variable looking at hourly Raw viewership so we could account for the people that appeared throughout all four quarters (and smooth it out a bit).
  2. This pretends everyone in each “segment” was equally responsible for driving the viewership change. If JTG is destroyed by Brock Lesnar and a half million people tune in, both JTG and Brock would get a +500,000 for that segment. Clearly, there’s room for improvement because a thoughtful analysis would consider what acts appear to be driving the quarter-hour rating and what acts just happen to have a little cameo during that time. My workaround was to try and focus on wrestlers that appeared on several shows (not just several segments, but many different episodes of Raw) as well as to look across large swaths of time for the average.
  3. This (mostly) ignores normal Raw ratings patterns. There are quarter-hours when Raw viewership normally picks up and there are quarter-hours where Raw viewership normally drops. After more than two decades, WWE has trained and re-trained their fans about when the important stuff normally happens. Interestingly, the dawn of the weekly 3-hour Raw has generated another set of viewership habits where Raw often loses viewers from the start of the show to the end of the show. WWE is hardly ignorant of the trends, and therefore it’s not surprising that they often program similar material and similar people (at least on a status basis) in the same slots week-over-week. In some ways this can become a self-fulfilling prophecy – treat someone like a goof in a blow-off timeslot and the audience will view them that way for a long time. That doesn’t “prove” they can’t draw- it just shows that the company doesn’t think enough of them to protect them. However, without a fully functioning model of who draws and repulses viewers, all we have is our scattered data points. The caveat to this was that I did throw in some safeguards around the “overrun” segment (the “big angle” before WWE goes off the air each week). The overrun segment can see a million people tune in — now, it says something about your placement in the company when you’re in the overrun segment, but on the other hand, it’s going to greatly boost your numbers the most often you’re slotted in there, and that doesn’t necessarily imply you’re the driving force behind why those viewership numbers explode. That’s why I find it necessary to look at people’s numbers with and without overrun included.

 A lot of people have asked to see the data since Daniel Bryan’s start-stop push in August hoping to prove/disprove that he is/is not a draw/failure. I’ve looked at the numbers and honestly feel that our dataset is too constrained to really pull meaningful conclusions.

bryanratings

In this comparison, Bryan has gone from losing viewers (-101,792) in the first quarter, to gaining viewers (+186,331) in the second quarter to strong gains (+491,967) in the third quarter and beyond.  Sounds compelling right?  But consider Big Show from September to November he was averaging viewership gain of +647,167.  However, there hasn’t been a groundswell of Paul Wight supporters trying to prove he was cheated out of a championship run. That’s because simply using skewed viewership numbers without context is just yelling into a vacuum.  You can prove or disprove whatever you want based on whatever narrative you have.  If you don’t control for who is in the overrun segment (which is key because it’s such a disproportionate viewership swell) you are just going to prove that whomever was in the big angle that week, is the big draw.  It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy.  (And if people are wondering why authority figures draw well – that’s because when they’re on television, usually important people like the champion is also on TV.)

The reality is that WWE carefully crafts who they put in each segment.  Consider how they doubled the length of the ADR/Kofi match this past week so it would fill a quarter hour originally set aside for a CM Punk interview.  They didn’t want to throw off the rest of the schedule.  Women’s wrestling doesn’t usually draw big numbers.  Even the days of Sable driving viewership through the roof are gone.  However, WWE routines books the women in the same slot and they routinely lose viewers.  Hell, even great wrestling matches like the Shield versus Dolph Ziggler/Usos from 10/14/13 Raw lost over a million viewers because there was a Football competition.  In 2011, Daniel Bryan wrestled Sheamus on the 3/14 Raw and lost 1.1 million viewers. There’s people like Rock & Brock who pop ratings and John Cena has been a proven ratings mover.  Beyond that, people tune in the beginning of Raw after a major PPV to see what happened, and sometimes they tune in for big returns (like Big Dave Batista a few weeks ago).


Raw data

Here is the Raw data (no weighting to compensate for overrun or max/avg per show)
Click on each name to see trended lines

Wrestler Count  Average 
AJ 48 3,354
Aksana 9 (293,667)
Alberto Del Rio 119 25,218
Alex Riley 37 161,911
Alicia Fox 29 (188,556)
Antonio Cesaro 44 (139,364)
Battle Royal 18 78,166
Beth Phoenix 20 (125,200)
Big E Langston 15 (95,267)
Big Show 74 158,822
Brad Maddox 16 178,813
Bray Wyatt 10 (178,600)
Brie Bella 39 (252,796)
Brock Lesnar 23 450,435
Brodus Clay 48 (75,083)
Chris Jericho 58 78,840
Christian 34 (36,176)
CM Punk 158 272,788
Cody Rhodes 71 (104,573)
Curtis Axel 14 222,786
Damien Sandow 47 (164,000)
Daniel Bryan 142 47,800
Darren Young 28 (129,571)
David Otunga 51 (46,911)
Dean Ambrose 50 154,048
Dolph Ziggler 140 (25,618)
Drew McIntyre 27 (167,082)
Edge 14 122,484
Epico 22 (208,955)
Evan Bourne 26 (233,437)
Eve Torres 61 (82,497)
Ezekiel Jackson 10 62,095
Fandango 26 (204,308)
Great Khali 31 (107,965)
Heath Slater 53 (62,335)
HHH 58 349,119
Jack Swagger 89 (120,165)
Jerry Lawler 29 158,108
Jim Ross 9 417,657
Jinder Mahal 29 (156,138)
John Cena 201 389,007
John Laurinaitis 37 219,892
John Morrison 45 (86,383)
Justin Gabriel 23 13,998
Kaitlyn 26 (77,846)
Kane 93 50,746
Kelly Kelly 29 (191,425)
Kofi Kingston 90 (188,258)
Layla 26 (231,994)
Mark Henry 68 48,779
Maryse 13 (148,950)
Mason Ryan 9 (226,111)
Melina 12 (105,809)
Michael Cole 27 84,462
Michael McGillicutty 18 (293,749)
Mick Foley 9 543,000
Miz 151 125,606
Naomi 11 (364,364)
Natalya 34 (203,896)
Nexus 9 149,892
Nikki Bella 31 (265,131)
Paul Heyman 50 319,540
Primo 24 (192,125)
Randy Orton 112 102,425
Rey Mysterio 39 8,340
Ricardo Rodriguez 13 (29,462)
Rock 35 431,514
Roman Reigns 50 170,528
R-Truth 94 12,302
RVD 9 (52,000)
Ryback 64 104,469
Santino Marella 74 (208,406)
Seth Rollins 51 160,753
Shawn Michaels 16 267,188
Sheamus 125 11,769
Sin Cara 37 (65,865)
Stephanie McMahon 15 167,667
Tamina 12 (88,984)
Ted DiBiase 18 (95,475)
Tensai 38 (48,421)
Titus O'Neil 28 (138,500)
Tyson Kidd 20 (103,444)
Undertaker 15 474,933
Usos 22 (194,307)
Vickie Guerrero 52 89,955
Vince McMahon 25 334,790
Vladimir Kozlov 12 (11,460)
Wade Barrett 65 66,828
Zack Ryder 66 (170,888)
Zeb Colter 9 (87,556)
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