Tuesday Morning Backlash on WWE Raw Ratings Panic and John Cena in Nexus

I love John Cena in Nexus. This is a storyline with a clear plan about it and a lot of differing plot elements that offer various ways to go.

First off, we have reluctant John Cena. He’s pretty clearly going to remain with Nexus reluctantly for a good while. This will result in either him being freed eventually by circumstance or freed and then immediately turning on whatever face is around, Randy Orton likely, and joining Nexus by choice. For this to work, we had to address why he’d listen to Nexus at all. The first segment of Raw, while long, took its time and had several swerves in answering this question, showing a great understanding of the storyline’s logical progression and how to play the audience.

Next we have the involvement of Husky Harris and Michael McGuillicuty in Nexus. While this is only an alliance now, it could later be revealed they are actually members and, once they are, the Cena in Nexus decision can be overturned and he can dismantle or choose to stay with them.

Meanwhile, we have David Otunga trying to befriend Cena. With that on a slow boil, over time, he can come to see some members of the Nexus as friends and allies and so when he’s freed he can rejoin of his own volition… or he can trick them into offering freedom and then dismantle the group.

Randy Orton has been, of course, John Cena’s enemy long-term, and while they had an alliance, Cena is now forced to try and help Barrett become champion. This makes Cena a target of the Viper and, with him being befriended, could push him to join the Nexus for real to get revenge on Orton for, you know, attempting to murder him last year.

Of course, Sheamus is now wandering around without a real opponent or plan and could become involved as well, and with Triple H due back soon, there are just a ton of options around for Cena to become more a part of Nexus or dismantle the group. While, for the older fan, the former makes more compelling television and seems likely, the latter would still please the younger members of the audience and could still draw.

The best part of all of this is, with so many options being foreshadowed and so much time being spent on this, for the first time in a long time, it feels like the WWE has a plan for a nuanced story that can play out over time. With three PPVs in 7 weeks, many fans had given up on this kind of storyline unfolding, especially with the haphazard portrayal of Nexus, but things are firing on all cylinders and the Cena in Nexus is making for compelling television.

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From our own commenter, Walter Kovacs (it was a comment earlier in the week, but is so thoughtful and insightful, I thought I’d present it on its own here) on the Raw Ratings slide:

“Most recent: 2.7
2 years ago: Sept 24, 2008 got 3.4
3 years ago: Sept 25, 2007 got 3.5

This is percentage of Nielson TVs that were tuned to it (doesn’t count DVR, which has increased in use over the years) at the time. This is supposed to equate to a similar percentage of actual TVs, which has actually increased over time (of course).

So, in 2010, it’s rating equates to about 3.1 million TVs. In 2008, it’s rating equates to about 3.8 million. In 2007, about 3.9. Of course, that is with estimation and rounding errors that will equate to some +/- within acceptable ammounts. It is a drop of 700K (or so) over the past several years. However, in terms of actual Nielson houses, a ratings change of .8 equates to: 200 Nielson homes. So, if that many Nielson homes were DVR’ing Raw, that would more than explain the shift in the ratings.

In January of 2007, according to Nielson, 12.3 percent of Nielson homes had DVR. In March 2009, that had become 30.6 percent.

Based on that, the 2007 stat would be approximately 4.2 (assuming the Raw viewers had that percentage of DVR use). The 2010, using the 2009 stat, it’s a modified 3.9. Still a drop, but a drop of lower significance.

Again using it as percentage of total homes adjusted for PVR availability, that’s 4.67 million vs. 4.48 million.
And, on top of that, there is also the most recent change to the WWE’s programming strategy. Youtube. In the US (Where the ratings matter) you can go on Youtube and watch Raw in parts. So, that means skipping the stuff you don’t want, and watching the stuff you do. That is new, as of this year. Hulu has been doing it for a while, but the Youtube thing is more recent. They have yet to include full episodes, but considering the effect that the “hilights” are perhaps having on the rating, it’s no wonder.

I’m not saying the WWE isn’t losing viewers. However, it isn’t the show you have to watch so that you can talk about it the next day … you can DVR it while watching football or the newest episode of Castle or whatever first. Or you can just watch it online after it’s aired. The number of people watching (or at least the number of Nielson homes) isn’t changing by much. It’s fluctuated by about 200 during the “post Monday Night War” lull, part of that number be attributable to DVR, and maybe some to YouTube. Ratings matter for advertisers, but really only during Sweeps. Buyrates are a better overall view. It may not predict how many people are watching their TV shows (although, how good Nielson is at it, especially in terms of shows at the lower end of the rating scale where the margin of error is a significant amount of the ratings themselves) but, assuming the number of people watching TV doesn’t change too much (especially considering that most watching intermittently are either DVR’ing or keeping track enough that they at least know sort of what is going on with the PPV) they know how many are shelling out for PPVs.”

That’s it for me today, but tonight is the debut of Will Time, the daily column of our own awesome Will Pruett at 7pm EST. Check back for that and tomorrow for thoughts on Daniel Bryan’s usage to make Sheamus look good and more for the Wednesday Morning Backlash! Remember to keep it at InsidePulse Wrestling for all your wrestling news and opinion needs!

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