Tony Maglio sets the record straight on TV Ratings & why FOX is not looking to cancel Smackdown

May 18, 2019 - by Steve Gerweck

Tony Maglio is the TV Entertainment Editor of the Hollywood trade magazine known as TheWrap & he wants you to know a little something about the TV Industry. In this exclusive interview hear Tony detail how he broke the story about why ESPN and WWE couldn’t agree on a deal for airing Smackdown Live, why traditional Nielsen Ratings isn’t the most accurate measure of how many people are watching TV Programs and why WWE is NOT in danger of Smackdown Live being canceled by FOX. (20:17 Mark):

What Is TheWrap (22:28)
TheWrap is one of 4 Hollywood Trade Magazines that compete with eachother for tv and movie news. I’m the TV Editor which means I run the TV Team and ostensibly the tv coverage on TheWrap websites.

Breaking the ESPN Failed Negotiation for WWE Smackdown Live (25:10)
We were at the Disney Up Front and while we were there for ESPN and I asked Burke Magnus, EVP of Programming at ESPN, if WWE had any real talks about airing Smackdown Live on ESPN and if so why did it fall through. His answer to me was basically yea they had those talks but the reason it couldn’t work was the nature of Smackdown Live’s schedule, which is live 52 Weeks a year. That would require two hours of prime-time programming each week dedicated like clockwork every single week to Smackdown Live. I was wondering if it was more of a money thing since ESPN gave UFC $1.5 Billion, but it sounds like it was more of a scheduling thing. Sounds like they just didn’t have the schedule open enough to accommodate what WWE wanted.

How the TV Industry Views The Nielsen Rating (32:49)
It’s funny; People who get good Nielsen Ratings say it’s the best thing in the world, and people who don’t say it’s antiquated and not important. I think the general consensus is Nielsen and their ratings are not keeping up with Industry Trends especially streaming, Netflix etc. Nielsen doesn’t measure anything that provides internal data to the company that owns it for the most part, but they’re still considered the main currency for anything on TV that’s head to head. HBO, for example, doesn’t care at all about Nielsen ratings. They may get 12Million viewers per Nielsen for Game Of Thrones, but then they add another 5 or 6 million per HBO Go and HBO Now. Nielsen can’t measure those. All of that is a long way of saying Nielsen Ratings is still what we go with because it’s all we got but it’s still not the most accurate measure and if you ask Netflix it’s an absolute garbage measurement!

The Value of WWE Programming to Networks (35:44)
In terms of justifying Billion Dollar Spends; even though RAW and Smackdown ratings are down, they still do really good when you compare them to their competition. Yea they’re a shell of their former selves, but everything else is much more a shell of their former selves. The Walking Dead is an example I use all of the time when people ask me about ratings. It’s true The Walking Dead ratings are way way down, but it’s still the number 1 show on cable. There really almost isn’t a right answer because there is an answer to prove either side. Anyone that wants to say The Walking Dead is dying because they’re losing double digit ratings each year they’re right. But anyone at AMC would say yea but we’re still the number 1 show on cable and the number 2 drama on tv other than This Is Us. To bring it back to the WWE; to stand out you have to have great product and great drama. I believe RAW and Smackdown have both. The reason why Networks justify giving WWE one Billion Dollars is because RAW and Smackdown have this built in audience and brand loyalty. Even if they aren’t doing as well as they were doing 10 years ago or 5 years ago, they’re still doing so much better in a fragmented environment than whatever the competition is airing. So FOX, by virtue of having Smackdown on Fridays, is guaranteeing being competitive on a night where it just didn’t exist practically. They did have shows but nothing that could compete for the year. Now that they have Smackdown 52 weeks a year and live, they’ll be able to draw eyeballs. That is still the most important thing for these advertisers because live eyeballs can’t fast forward through commercials. There will be a built in audience that will come every week 8PM to 10PM and see the commercials airing during WWE programming.

Will FOX Cancel Smackdown Live (46:21)
In terms of demanding a rating the answer is NO, FOX is not in a position to demand anything. Someone already asked me if FOX is going to cancel Smackdown Live if they don’t get a certain rating. NO they aren’t going to cancel something they invested One Billion Dollars in. I don’t think it’s a matter of you do this or you don’t do this. FOX is in it for the long haul because Smackdown is not some new start up. It’s been around for a long time and WWE has been around longer. The reality of it is right now they are selling their ads for this fall and they have no real barometer to point to. Obviously they feel it’s worth the money they paid. These sports rights command these large sums of money and the Networks are in it; they’re in it to their neck. FOX did it’s due diligence and you tend to do that when you give up One Billion Dollars! I’m on Twitter @TonyMaglio and I’m happy to have a dialogue with anybody about this.

Hear the rest of this interview plus an exclusive with Ring of Honor Wrestling TV Champion Shane Taylor & more on the latest edition of the Duke Loves Rasslin Podcast on Soundcloud, Itunes, Youtube and other leading Podcast Apps!


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