This week’s episode of Smackdown is set to run for an extra half hour on FS1, commercial-free. Game 1 of the ALCS will occupy Smackdown’s normal timeslot on Fox, so a “super-sized” episode of the WWE show will be broadcasted on FS1. This means Smackdown is set to go head-to-head against a live broadcast of Rampage for 30 minutes, from 10 pm to 10:30 pm on Friday night.
This will be the first time a main roster WWE program will go head-to-head against an AEW program on national TV. With viewers aged 18 to 49, the valued demographic for advertisers, AEW’s Wednesday night program, Dynamite, twice edged out WWE Monday Night Raw in the same week in September.
AEW President Tony Khan’s tweet, welcoming the challenge, came before fast national data was reported on Saturday, and then final ratings data come out on Monday, showing Rampage viewership was down significantly, while going against MLB playoffs on Friday.
Smackdown viewership was lower than usual, too, but not to the degree Rampage suffered. Compared to the median of the prior four weeks, Smackdown was down 13% in the 18 to 49 demographic, and Rampage was down 37% by the same comparison.
This past week’s Smackdown on Fox was watched by an average of 2,147,000 viewers and did a 0.52 rating in 18 to 49. AEW Rampage was watched by 502,000 viewers and did a 0.17 demo rating. The showed ranked at 15 among cable originals for the day, according to Showbuzz Daily.
The MLB playoff games had a strong effect on these numbers. The Dodgers-Giants game on TBS was the most viewed, and the Red Sox-Rays game on FS1 aired during all of Smackdown an most of Rampage. The games were watched by 3,982,000 (1.08 demo rating) and 2,618,000 viewers (0.65 demo rating), respectively.
This resulted in the least-viewed Rampage in the show’s nine-episode history in both total viewership and in the 18 to 49 demo. For Smackdown, it was the lowest total audience number since September 24 and the lowest 18 to 49 number since July 9.
On the latest edition of Wrestlenomics Radio, Brandon Thurston and Chris Gullo discussed “the 30-minute war,” specifically what numbers both shows could likely do.
When on broadcast network Fox, Smackdown is usually the most-watched weekly wrestling show on television, seen by more than 2 million viewers live and same-day. On the lower profile FS1, though, Smackdown’s ratings will likely be much lower.
This is not the first time Smackdown has been on FS1, and Thurston looked back at how Smackdown has done on FS1 when preempted in 2019 and 2020.
Brandon Thurston: “There are three occasions so far in the history of Smackdown, and what’s it done in the past?
“888,000 viewers, 885,000 viewers, just barely over 1 million viewers. There was a Pac-12 college football championship game that it was preempted for in December of last year. But I think more importantly, yes, we need to look at the demo. What were the demo ratings?”
Chris Gullo: “For 18-49: 0.27, 0.25, and 0.30.”
Thurston: “Okay, and read to me what the last three demo ratings have been for Rampage.”
Gullo: “0.28, 0.29, and 0.25.”
Thurston: “Those are pretty similar numbers aren’t they?”
Smackdown having an extra 30 minutes, which will happen to air simultaneously with the first-half of Rampage, makes it more likely Smackdown finishes ahead of Rampage in the 18 to 49 demo on Friday.
Apparently to counter, AEW will stream an extra 60 minutes of action live on YouTube beginning at 9 pm.
Before the final numbers were released on Monday for this past Friday’s programs, fast national ratings came out for Smackdown and Rampage on Saturday, first reported by Wrestling Inc.
The kinds of ratings normally reported by sources like Wrestlenomics and Showbuzz Daily are called “final ratings”.
Fast nationals, though, are different. They’re a kind of “overnight” rating that’s requested and paid for by a Nielsen customer so the customer can get viewership data sooner than they would otherwise.
Thurston predicted we’ll see more of these early reports in the coming weeks.
Thurston: “I would expect these fast national ratings continue to come out in the weeks to come throughout October, not only for the programming on Friday but maybe for the Saturday Dynamites too, especially if the fast national data can be read in such a way that it looks favorable for WWE or unfavorable for AEW.”
Due to NHL hockey on TNT on Wednesdays this and next week, AEW Dynamite will be preempted to Saturday on October 16 and 23.
Excerpts from Wrestlenomics Radio were edited for clarity.