AEW’s .44 Beats All Y’All’s Expectations (But It Needs to Grow)

CAUTION, very NSFW:

The Worldwide Reader loves puns in headlines, but admittedly that one is a stretch. Back to the lecture at hand

The ratings are in for the third week of the Wednesday Night Wars, and we are starting to see some settle. AEW’s Dynamite and WWE’s NXT were each down two hundreths of a point in the all-important 18-49 year-old demographic, to 0.44 and 0.20, respectively.

As with weeks one and two, it was a convincing win for AEW. As with last week, the numbers are well below the season premiere.

The stakes are much higher for AEW, of course. WWE has longer term TV deals, other time slots, and more Wednesday night bullets in the chamber. We haven’t seen NXT in a real arena. Raw and Smackdown hold a few midcard talents that might move the needle for the yellow & black.

From the Worldwide Reader’s perspective, AEW’s mild drop from last week’s 0.46 to this week’s 0.44 was troubling, because there was no significant sports television competition. The big event — the Yankees vs. Astros baseball playoff game — was cancelled due to rain. In the Reader’s eyes, the baseball cancellation, combined with the hot ending to Dynamite last week, should have led to a ratings bump (albeit a small one).

The ratings drop, small though it was, makes the Reader wonder if AEW has a larger concern: flat product. Yes the crowds are hot, but are they as hot as the first two weeks? Yes the in-ring is solid, but was anything spectacular? Yes, Chris Jericho has personality, but is it enough to overcome his age, height, and current roly-polyness?

Booking and executing weekly pro wrestling is not easy. It says here that Tony & company have done a stellar job thus far; beating expectations by a mile.

NBA season is just around the corner, and that means weekly head to head battles with the most powerful cable network on the planet, with a sport that draws an awfully similar slice of people to AEW’s core young, male, urban/suburban demographic.

AEW has been ahead of the game every step of the way. For their sake, hopefully that’s the case for the coming weeks. 0.44 is great for now, but ultimately that number needs to grow.

Night Owls (and Seahawks and Chargers and Rams)

Why the NFL’s future may include west coast primetime games.

In a tradition as banal as butter on toast, Roger Goodell held a press conference today at the NFL owner’s meetings in Fort Lauderdale.

There wasn’t a whole lot of news for the league’s semi-beloved Commissioner to chat about. The league’s finances are great. The formerly chronic stadium issues of the California teams have been resolved. Players are relatively pleased with the ever-rising salary cap. Ho hum. Business as usual.

Of course, for any ambitious business (and most NFL clubs certainly qualify as those), business as usual causes some degree of consternation. “You’re either growin’ or you’re dyin’, there ain’t no third direction,” was the wisened view of Brian Dennehy’s Big Tom character in ‘Tommy Boy’, and he’s more right than wrong. Businesses that try to hold on to what they got tend to end up like Radio Shack

The NFL has one idea for growin’ that was batted around at this week’s owner’s meetings: a 17-game regular season schedule.

Eighteen games, which makes all the sense in the world for all sorts of reasons — revenue, television, scheduling, and more — has been poo-poohed by the media and a handful of activist players, which more or less kills it dead in this day and age. NFL union honcho DeMaurice Smith views today’s mainstream media as a major ally of the players. Maintaining that alliance is essential for keeping Mr. Smith employed in his highly paid, high profile position. (Plus he wants to be a Democratic Senator some day. Fawning media coverage is required for ascension to such positions.)

Things that make sense tend to happen eventually, and the Worldwide Reader’s money is on an eighteen game future. That is a deep future, however, and thus we have seventeen games.

One of the major questions surrounding the seventeen game schedule is fairness, and the NFL’s solution — a sensible one, in the Worldwide Reader’s eyes — is neutral site games. Every team would have eight home games, eight road games, and one neutral site game.

Neutral site games have been a prickly subject among some fans. For example, yours truly is a Los Angeles based Chargers fan (rare, I know) who would have to hop a big, beautiful wall (or book a flight to Meh-he-coh day-effe) to witness the most attractive game of the home schedule: the Chiefs game on November 18th.

A seventeen game schedule could lessen the blow of the Shield’s efforts to globalize the game by getting every team to a foreign land (or college campus, perhaps) once a year, while preserving local eight tailgating opportunities per annum.

Of course, sixteen neutral site games is a big jump from five, and that’s what Goodell & company would require if the seventeen game season becomes a thing.

The math starts to get tricky after a while. London has a purpose-built NFL stadium, which maybe could host four to six games on its own. Azteca in D.F. could do two, perhaps more. Toronto wasn’t exactly a resounding success, but they were stuck with the Bills. Hawaii? Berlin? The pickins’ start to get awfully slim awfully quick.

Part of the problem (and we’re finally getting to the point of this scribble) is time zones. 6 pm in London works. 7 pm in Mexico City works. 9 am in Tokyo doesn’t. 11 am in Melbourne really doesn’t either, nor does 8 am in LeBron’s favorite city, Beijing. And those last three are the times that coincide with 8 pm Eastern time. Try to play an afternoon game in Asia/Oceania, and it gets even uglier.

What if a few NFL games kick off three hours after 8 pm Eastern time? What if the NFL opens up a television window at 8 pm Pacific time for a few weeks each season. Then things get interesting.

An NFL game at 11:30 am or 2:30 pm could potentially work. The schedule would be a mite tricky, as 8:30 pm Pacific time on a Sunday would be 2:30 Melbourne time on a Monday. The Worldwide Reader would hate to see the NFL stomp on the Pac 12’s ownership of that late night Saturday timeslot (sarcasm!), but it says here that large swaths of the Seattle metro area would find a way to handle a Saturday 8:30 pm Seahawks game in crystal clear 4K.

Fox’s current contract for Thursday nights in East Coast primetime guarantees the league an average of $660 million in exchange for the rights to eleven games per year. $60 million per game ain’t happenin’ for Saturdays in West Coast primetime. Thursdays are more valuable than Saturdays because movie studios and car companies want to prep the masses for a spendy weekend, and an 11:30 pm east coast start time would ding viewership for half the country.

Six international games airing on Saturday nights at 8:30 on the west coast (say, two each in Japan, China and Australia) might be able to bag $250 million for the league, just on the domestic TV side. Throw in the benefits of giving three billion or so Asians the option to watch NFL football at a reasonable time of day (NFL timeslots are currently 10:30 pm, 1:55 am, and 5:50 am in Mumbai; this would add a 9 am game on Sunday mornings). It becomes an idea that could very well happen, if the NFL moves to a seventeen game regular season.

Welcome to the Worldwide Reader

Welcome to the Worldwide Reader in Sports and Entertainment…

Hello, I am Ben Miller. Some readers may know me from my time writing for the Wrestling Observer. Some may know me from my time on the periphery of Hollywood. Perhaps a few may know me from my Twitter feed (@benmillersb), which is the inspiration for the Worldwide Reader.

The Worldwide Reader in Sports and Entertainment is a blog where I — and, hopefully in the future, others — provide insight and analysis into the business side of sports and entertainment. For several years I have been tweeting about ticket sales, TV ratings, stadium financing, and just about anything else that comes from the business realm of sports or entertainment. My good pal The Fight Oracle (@fightoracle on Twitter) texted me a few days ago suggesting that I create a blog about it, and here we are.

Subscribe and Share, as the kids say, and give feedback. My goal is to create something interesting and informative, for those who follow the business side of the fascinating worlds of sports and entertainment.