How Much of a Ratings Upgrade Is the World Series Over Wrestling?
23rd October 2020

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Why Fox Is Bumping WWE ‘SmackDown’ to Cable Despite Record-Low World Series Ratings

“SmackDown” moves to FS1 tonight to make way for Fall Classic on Fox, just like last year

Yes, the 2020 World Series is on pace to be the least-watched of all time, but these games are still quite an upgrade from some of Fox’s other programming. Hence the “WWE SmackDown” move to Fox Sports cable channel FS1 again tonight, just like last year.

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On Tuesday, Game 1 of the 2020 World Series earned 9.195 million total viewers on Fox — at the time a record low for any World Series game in record (television) history, though the mark would fall again just the following night.

Still, the start to the Los Angeles Dodgers-Tampa Bay Rays best-of-seven-games series for the Commissioner’s Trophy was quite an upgrade over Fox’s week-ago Nielsen numbers.

Last Tuesday, “Cosmos: Possible Worlds” managed just 1.231 million viewers and “Next” got 1.538 million viewers for a primetime average of 1.385 million viewers, according to Nielsen’s final Live + Same Day ratings averages.

We’ll do the math for you: According to the same data set, Game 1 of the 2020 World Series brought in an audience nearly seven times larger than those shows.

It was a win for the Dodgers, and a kinda-sorta win for Fox. (Hey, these are still very expensive sports rights: The network currently pays $525 million each year for MLB broadcasts, including the World Series, an amount that will grow to $728 million annually from 2022-28.)

On Wednesday, Game 2 of the Fall Classic, when the Rays bats woke up and evened the series, drew 8.950 million viewers on Fox.

A week prior, “The Masked Singer” landed 6.496 million viewers and “I Can See Your Voice” received 4.066 million viewers for an average of 5.281 million viewers. Those are pretty good numbers for entertainment programming in 2020, but the audience for Game 2 — despite being the least-watched World Series game of all time (yes, again) — was still 69% larger.

We’ll find out soon if tonight’s Game 3 is the latest record-breaker (in the wrong direction). Do people still go out on Fridays nights? Probably not.

Regardless of how low tonight goes (and it will, barring a miracle), Game 3 will feel like a home run when compared with Fox’s usual primetime Friday offering, “SmackDown.”

Last Friday’s “WWE SmackDown” drew 2.128 million viewers from 8-10 p.m. on Fox. (Professional wrestling performs comparatively better in the key adults 18-49 demographic than on a total-viewer basis.)

The first two games of the World Series have averaged 9.073 million total viewers. If that keeps pace tonight, Game 3 will attract a crowd more than four times larger than what the pro-wrestling property would. It’s possible this week’s “SmackDown” would have gotten a ratings bump leading into Sunday’s “Hell in a Cell” pay-per-view event, but that’s not going to happen on hard-to-find cable channel FS1.

First pitch tonight is 8:08 p.m. ET on Fox. “SmackDown” begins at 8 on FS1.

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