The return of Monday Night Football on ESPN usually spells trouble for WWE and its Monday Night Raw television program on USA Network.
Over the past several years, the first episode of Monday Night Football led to a huge drop in viewers for Raw and while the audience historically recovers somewhat, it’s never to the levels of the numbers before football. Simply put, until the football season is over, the ever-shrinking Raw audience will continue to shrink, and this year, to record levels.
Last year, the Raw before MNF on ESPN did 2.5 million viewers but the Raw head-to-head with the football the week after did 2.1 million viewers, a drop of 400,000 in a week.
2018 wasn’t so bad, with only a drop of 132,000 viewers and 2017 saw only 30,000 viewers difference but two weeks prior, Raw lost another 400,000 viewers and the audience was never recovered until January.
The drop in 2016 was of nearly 400,000 viewers as well and 2015 was the biggest one ever. That year, the Raw prior to Monday Night Football had 3.8 million viewers and the head-to-head broadcast with MNF did 3 million, a drop of a whopping 800,000 viewers.
WWE managed slight drops in 2013 and 2014 but 2012 also suffered a big one with over 400,000 tuning in to NFL rather than Raw.
Raw this year already experienced record-low ratings and a 400,000-viewer drop would put Raw in the 1.3 million range. While the hardcore audience will probably stick with Raw, those who are not deeply invested in the product will without a doubt switch channels.
The question is how many of those 1.7 million viewers that Raw got last week are hardcore viewers who will stick with the show regardless if football is on or not.
Over the past 22 weeks since WrestleMania, Raw only surpassed the 2 million viewer mark twice and had an average of 1.7 million viewers. On average so far, Raw has already lost half a million viewers per episode when compared to last year.