Tony Maglio is the TV editor for The Wrap and formerly wrote for SNL's Weekend Update. He joined today's edition of The Wrestling Inc. Daily podcast where he talked about just how important ratings are for pro wrestling and in general.
"The way Nielsen calculates things is very flawed. It is so imperfect that it's the first thing critics jump on immediately. But in the decades they've been doing this, no one has been able to do it better," said Maglio. "So, it's what we have and what advertisers and TV networks accept. When we say 1.2 million people watched – did 1.2 million people exactly? No, they're not counting every single person. On average, it's the best we have and it's considered accurate enough that it's basically been a monopoly for decades and decades. So, the value has to be there – whether you like what they produce or not – because the monetary value is there in advertising income. That's measured by Nielsen ratings. So, they are very important and valuable but also imperfect."
He noted that USA Network doesn't air Monday Night RAW because they like wrestling, they air it because x number of people watch it so they can get x number of dollars. He also pointed out that YouTube viewers and other social media outlets are not rolled into a Nielsen ratings.
"The big thing in the TV business is we talk about live and same-day ratings are obsolete. Nobody watches TV that way… but when you're talking about sports, nobody watches it outside of a couple of days later because it would be so obsolete at that point. These live or same-day ratings we report are still incredibly more valuable and accurate for wrestling than for This Is Us," stated Maglio who added that football ratings are usually spot on because no one watches games after they are live.
"We read a lot of stories about The Walking Dead crapping the bed with a ratings decline. That's true but it's still the No. 1 cable drama on TV," said Maglio. "So, when we talk about ratings decline, they're kinda across the board. Some are more dramatic than others but you're still comparing what USA has that night to what TNT has that night."
Maglio noted that RAW did have a nice surge recently with the Lana - Bobby Lashley segments. He conceded that while RAW is nowhere near to the viewership it had a few years ago, it's still a top five show.
"We're all so distracted with Disney+ and Netflix and hundreds of other options. Of course, USA wants their ratings to be higher, as does FOX, but they're also generally okay with them because they are outranking their chief competition... They want them higher but they are still better than everything not called 90 Day Fiancé," said Maglio.
He also met with several FOX executives before SmackDown launched late last year and talked more about their feelings on the numbers.
"It launched really high and they were super stoked about it. Then it settled down," Maglio said of SmackDown's ratings. "If it gets a 0.8 among adults 18-49 which is a key demographic and basically what it's been getting over the last couple of weeks, they're okay with that but not over the moon about it.
"Maybe the billion dollars or whatever it cost them [to get SmackDown] was overpaying but they're not really looking at what it gets on a given day. They're interested in what it gets over 52 weeks because there's gonna be a long span when the competition is in re-runs and FOX is easily winning. All of that stuff drives up averages and that is a win for them."
FOX paid over $1 billion to land SmackDown in 2018 and their five-year deal runs through 2024. Maglio said that USA will take note that FOX likely overpaid for SmackDown and they'll keep that in mind when RAW comes up for renewal.
"The price tag for WWE for FOX was probably a bit too much," admitted Maglio. "USA is going through a similar thought process and they have to look at ratings and where they are at now and where they might be as more streaming services come into play. They've gotta see if it's worth the money…
"The next renewal cycle, to me, is probably going to be more interesting than this past one."
Tony Maglio is the TV Editor for TheWrap.com. You can follow him on Twitter @TonyMaglio. Maglio's full interview with Wrestling Inc. aired as part of today's episode of our podcast, The Wrestling Inc. Daily. Subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as it's released Monday - Friday afternoon: by clicking here. The full interview can be heard via the embedded audio player below: