WWE Raw ratings have been trending downward over the past few years (well, over the past decade, but let’s be constructive here). We knew that. We also knew that television is an extremely different place than it was back during the Monday Night Wars, when WWE and WCW went head-to-head every week in a grab for the majority of the pro wrestling viewing audience. It’s practically a different medium.
But the ratings still matter to advertisers, and to networks. The USA Network likes being able to boast about Raw and Smackdown winning the cable ratings for the night, and they definitely notice when that doesn’t happen. All that is to say that while ratings have been going down bit by bit, the large contingent of hardcore fans continues to watch. But the people who comprise that hardcore contingent of viewers looks very different than it did 10 years ago.
If you recall, the Attitude Era and the Ruthless Aggression Era were followed by what many fans derisively referred to as “The PG Era,” when WWE pretty much got away from salacious and scandalous storylines altogether in favor of poop and fart jokes, no more blood, less violence, and more family-friendly fare in general. We’re into a new era now (or New Era, if you will), and some of that edge and attitude has returned. It’s a more adult product now than it was a few years ago. And there’s a very pertinent reason for that.
Magna Global conducted a new study for SportsBusiness Daily Global, and they found that the median age of pro wrestling viewers has increased over the past 16 years. Actually, that’s an understatement. The median age has doubled in that time. In the year 2000, the median age — the midpoint of the spread of viewers watching pro wrestling — was 28. The median age in 2006 was 33, and in 2016, the median age jumped all the way up to 54. That increase of 24 years in median age is the biggest jump among all sports by quite some margin. The next-biggest increase was the median age of NHL viewers, which has increased by 16 years in that time.
This data all indicates that fans who got into wrestling during the Attitude Era stuck around, and that kids don’t make up as much of the audience as they used to. The diehards remain the diehards, but they’re aging along with the product, while WWE is having a harder time in the past 16 years bringing in new young viewers as a new generation of fans. Maybe it’s time to hit the reset button on Bayley and give it another shot.