NXT and AEW have now traded victories on Wednesday nights leading to the results of TV ratings the topic for many wrestling fans.
Former WCW President Eric Bischoff was a key player in the Monday Night Wars with the battle between WWE and WCW being the hot topic of the '90s. Bischoff spoke to Wrestling Inc. on our WINCLY podcast about how concerned Turner executives were about TV ratings.
"Going back to the beginning of WCW, if you read anything about Ted Turner, Ted believed three things that could get eyeballs to his fledgling cable network, WTBS in Atlanta, was professional wrestling, baseball and Andy Griffith. He believed those three things would create a great foundation to build a viewing audience so ratings were always important," said Bischoff.
Bischoff also talked about his first impression when he first arrived to lead WCW.
"At one point, when I first got to WCW, the consensus amongst many of the employees, talent included, was that Turner wasn't as concerned with WCW making a profit as it was making a good television product," said Bischoff. "That's not really true, but there was certainly an element, I think, within the early WCW business plan that as long as it was drawing eyeballs, that was first and foremost, and profitability was probably second. That changed over the course of the years and probably by the time I got there. The financial situation was much more of a focus along with ratings."
The 18-49-year-old demographic is a talking point when it comes to ratings today, and Bischoff also talks about how important it has always been including the kids demographic.
"The 18-49 demo has always been the cornerstone to professional wrestling and the ads sales business. It's not until the last couple of years that it becomes a focus within the wrestling news sites. The 18-49 was always the key demo. That's what you're looking for. That's your core audience," said Bischoff. "Once you break 49 years old, there's not a lot of advertisers that are looking for those demos so the value of those demos trails significantly. I can also tell that kids demo was always very important to WCW early on because we believed that without a kids demo you can't build a solid licensing and merchandising demo. That's proven not so much to be true, but at that time the kids demo was just as important to us in some ways to 18-49-year-old males because the kids demo was a valuable target for advertisers."
When asked about how ratings were calculated in the '90s, Bischoff explained how he did not have a detailed understanding, but he had a general idea of how the process worked.
"Back in the day, when I was very involved in the business side of the wrestling business, there were boxes, little black boxes, that the Nielsen company would distribute around various markets around the United States and people would volunteer to have these boxes in their home attached to their television," Bischoff said. "That box would track what viewers were watching along with information that the subscriber or volunteer, in this case, would submit to Nielsen, and they kind of just extrapolated all that information and came up with a national Nielsen rating and to my knowledge, it's pretty much done the same way today."
Bischoff also gave his thoughts on the amount of crossover there was between RAW and Nitro.
"I don't think anybody really knows. I don't know. I don't think I've ever heard anybody with any firsthand knowledge, research or experience been able to figure that out," said Bischoff. "I think my gut tells me that I've always believed the crossover is probably closer to 25-35 percent would be my guess. I used to always refer to it as duplication as opposed to crossover. I think you may have in a given quarter-hour 25-30 percent of your people bouncing back and forth during that quarter-hour. I don't think it was any more than that but even that's a significant number.
"It's just a gut instinct than anything else but what's interesting is that even if you take that number to let's say eight million people and you reduce that by two million people just to account for the crossover or duplication of audience you still got six million people watching wrestling on a Monday night, whereas now I don't think you've got six million people in total if you add up RAW Smackdown AEW NXT together. I'm not sure if you can crack 6 million. Maybe?"
Finally, Bischoff talked about the future of television and how he sees television going the way Blockbuster went out.
"I think that television, five years from now, will be in the same category as Blockbuster; wow, remember when everybody had one. Remember when there was a Blockbuster in every street corner.
"The way people consume music, the way people consume entertainment, it evolved so rapidly over the last five years, over the last three years really. I mean Martin Scorcese is now releasing one of the best films of the year, probably, on Netflix. Martin Scorsese, I mean come on. You would never imagine that a couple of years ago, and now it's happening. I think television, as we know it today, is gonna go by the wayside. I think there's always gonna be some big monitor on the wall but what's feeding that monitor 10 years from, now five years from now, is gonna look a lot different than it does today."
Bischoff's full interview with Wrestling Inc aired as part a recent episode of our WINCLY podcast. It can be heard via the embedded audio player at the bottom of this post.