According to some, the WWE’s status in popular culture seems to be slipping. Online, you don’t have to look far to read a report that claims that the WWE is irrelevant and that the fans are giving up on the organization.
However, despite what some are saying, there are plenty of factors that can be used to demonstrate that the WWE isn’t on the way out. In the company’s history, the numbers that have represented their success have always been their ratings.
And their ratings have dropped, but does that indeed mean the end is near for the nearly 40-year-old organization?
According to PWInsider Dave Scherer, who has analyzed the company, WWE has lost 20 percent of its television audience since last year. You don’t have to look far within the world of the internet to find individuals who echo the tone of that bleak outlook.
There’s a lot of conversation among followers of WWE contemplating the future success of the industry. But, despite the fact that for the last several years part of the WWE’s buzz has been questioning its ability to remain relevant, there is a lot that points to the fact that it is indeed just as popular and just as much a part of American culture as it always has been.
The WWE’s network ratings have dropped, but their revenue hasn’t — which hints at a fanbase that still exists, but shows its appreciation in a novel way, different from the previous generation of viewers.
Despite what the TV ratings show, it turns out those ratings aren’t actually everything. While they once were a strong indication of the show’s popularity, now, other streams of revenue point to a different reality.
“Google Trends show WWE interest has not declined like WWE’s TV ratings have,” says Brandon Howard Thurston of Seeking Alpha. What this means is that live show performances, merchandise purchases, etc., have all allowed WWE’s revenue to remain consistent, at the very least.
In fact, last year Maury Brown at Forbes went so far to as to say, “While you weren’t paying attention, WWE, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., has grown into a juggernaut. It continues to see its bottom line expand.”
WWE’s own financial report highlights for the 2017 second quarter, “Revenue increased 8% to a record $214.6 million as WWE’s Live Event and Network segments achieved their highest quarterly revenue in company history.”
Additionally, this spring the company reached a record 1.95 million total subscribers for its digital subscription service, WWE Network. Thus, the proof is there that more people are watching and investing in the company more than ever before.
Due to the aforementioned numbers, it’s clear that the shift in ratings is not a product of lost interest, but of viewers watching in higher rates via digital platforms instead of the traditional methods.
What’s driving the success of this “sports-entertainment” world? The same dynamic that has always driven the success. As WWE super-fans will always attest to, the “sport” draws fans because it includes the dynamics apparent in all the other successful forms of entertainment, combined.
The stars of the industry are so much more than just wrestlers, as per Fitness Advisor states, Instead, they bring into the ring with them every kind of story. In the WWE, the performance never really ends. Instead, fans greedily lap up the bravado, the rivalries, and the love triangles. It is a spectacle on a grand-scale.
The WWE is genius at building matches up and at keeping their fans on the edge of their seats. Even traditional athletic organizations understand that the intersection of sport and marketing is crucial for success, and there is no organization that wouldn’t do well to take notes from the WWE.
Chris Mueller at Bleacher Report says, “Wrestling is entertainment at it’s very best. It contains all aspects of almost every other entertainment medium. Action, drama, humor, infidelity, love stories, betrayal, overcoming adversity, facing tough obstacles, pain, both mental and physical, joy, happiness, and family issues are just some of the aspects of pro wrestling that make it entertaining.”
So, while the means that fans are utilizing to participate are certainly shifting, their loyalty to the WWE remains. The company has a long and robust history, which showcases that it has become adept at navigating the shifting expectations of fans and culture, and remaining a pillar of the American (and international) entertainment industry.