Monday, June 05, 2017

WWE Demographics - Female/Male split

WWE demographics is a subject that seems to come up regularly. And the outstanding question: who is WWE targeting for their shows?

Since WWE became a publicly traded company in 1999, they have released a lot more information about their revenue streams and viewership. However, since audience demographics is not a generally accepted accounting principle, they are very inconsistent about how, when and why that information is released.

In general, we’ve seen the audience always been at least 60% male. Sometimes the female audience grows (in recent years), which I partially credit towards a greater emphasis on “serious” women’s wrestling on WWE programming along with the addition of several reality shows (Total Divas, Total Bellas) on female-centric E! network. When WWE is reporting demographic splits, they usually include all programming, or at least all programming they can use which will paint a picture of a more diverse demographic.

There has been talk lately about how a diminishing fanbase of young men has resulted in a larger proportion of female fans in the WWE Raw audience (not necessarily a larger female audience, just a larger proportion of female fans due to the attrition in men).

Here’s what I can tell you from the data I’ve seen:

(See my earlier post on this from July 2014.)

Today, WWE’s corporate webpage has a FAQ that asks, “Who watches WWE programming?” with the answer “WWE is watched by 11 million fans each week in the United State alone. Our diverse audience spans generations of fans. Approximately 36% of WWE’s audience is female and 17% are under the age of 18.”

Covering period of November 2014 to September 2015, WWE broke out their audience as such:
· 63% Male / 37% Female
· 38% (50+) / 21% (35-49) / 23% (18-34) / 18% (2-17)
(Source: December 2015 WWE Investor Presentation)

For the full year 2014, WWE listed their demographics as:
· 62% Male / 38% Female
· 37% (50+) / 22% (35-49) / 22% (18-34) / 19% (2-17)
(Source: March 2015 WWE Investor Presentation)

An earlier profile from September 2012 put the demographic split as:
· 65% Male / 35% Female
· 28% (50+) / 25% (35-49) / 23% (18-34) / 24% (2-17)
· 66% White / 19% Black-AfricanAmerican / 21% Hispanic / 16% Other
(Source 2012 WWE Investor Presentation)

A January 2013 Wrestling Observer Newsletter noted that the Christmas Eve 2012 episode of Raw skewed “64% male”.

An earlier 2011 investor document lists the gender distribution as:
· 66% Male / 34% Female
· 29% (50+) / 25% (35-49) – 22% (18-34) / 24% (
(Source 2011 WWE Investor Presentation)

In terms of independent research, Scarsborough Research published research in 2013 covering “more than 200,000 US residents age 18 and older living in 77 of the country’s biggest markets” and looking at gender, age and education level for fans of Boxing, UFC and WWE. The results were summarized in the 4/22/13 issue of Sports Business Daily:

US Pop.

According to a June 25, 2007 article called “Wrestling Marketing Muscle” in Broadcasting & Cable, in 2006, a Wake Forest University Medical Center survey found that “teens who watched wrestling, particularly females, were more prone to instigate violence when they date.”

In 2005, WWE released a “primer” about the company which summarized Nielsen Media Research as:
• 71% male/29% female
• 73% are 18 or older / 37% are between the ages of 12 and 34 / 23% are between the ages of 18 and 34 / 50% are 34 or younger / 14% are younger than age 12

Dave Meltzer notes in the Feb 18, 2002 issue of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter that the Stephanie/HHH “wedding angle” on Raw on 2/11/02 (against the Olympics) caused a large increase in female viewers while there was a huge decrease among male viewers who were likely switching to watch the Olympics. There was an interesting ratings change where the bikini contest (Stacy/Torrie) on Raw actually lost 125,000 viewers from the previous segment which Dave attributed to the greater composition of female viewers on that night.

In March 10-20, 2000, WCW commissioned a likability study of the WCW e-mail database list which was administered by LA’s Grace Market Research. They collected 1,400 completed surveys – it was 92% male / 8% female with 83% Adult / 17% non-adult. This is a similar thing that occurred with many other online surveys of wrestling fans which appear to get disproportionate response from male fans.

In 2000, according to a April 10, 2000 Advertising Age article “Wrestling has a chokehold on cable fans”, Ray Giacopelli, VP-research for USA Networks, “says WWF broadcasts skew 70/30 male-female, and Jim Rotshchild, WWF’s senior VP-sales, says females are the WWF’s fastest-growing audience segment”.

A June 1999 article in “Discount Merchandiser” quotes WWF’s Jim Bell (SVP of Licensing & Merchandising at WWF) that “WWF's wrestlers target a more pin-pointed audience, namely, young males and some females in their mid-teens and up. Rather than focusing on superheroes, WWF shows have their feet planted firmly in a reality that evokes strong emotions. In the 1980s, however, WWF went after a more varied "family" audience. "When it was family entertainment, it was a softer show" he says. "We were trying to be everything to everybody." Most changes have taken place over the last 18 to 24 months. “

In April 1991, Skip Desjardin, the “manager of PPV marketing for Titan’s World Wrestling Federation” claimed in an article with Multichannel News that, We're going after more family-oriented demographics," he said. "Whereas boxing, I believe, attracts a male demographic, we've found that 52 percent of our viewers are female." (I would strongly challenge the validity of this number.)

In the March 4, 1991 Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Dave Meltzer had an interview in Nye Lavalle who is a manager at SMG (The Sports Marketing Group) who designed a survey in November 1989 for 2,060 men & women, all 18+ from 175 key areas. It equated WWF with “pro wrestling” throughout the article. It noted that “pro wrestling as the most disliked sport of the 114 different sports listed in the survey”. Lavalle noted to Meltzer that: “WWF wrestling is twice as popular among males as it is among females, which as far as sports goes, is not a bad ratio. In comparison, boxing is four times as popular among males, as is auto racing, while boat racing is nearly five times as popular among males and NFL football, which was the most popular sport in the United States, was three times as popular among males. The two-to-one ratio pro wrestling has is very similar to the male-female ratio of the NBA and Major League Baseball. Sports like gymnastics and figure skating, both of which did surprisingly well in the survey, both have a two-to-one popularity in favor of women; while Pro. Beach Volleyball was the closest sport to having a 50-50 ratio.”

In 1989, Steve Beverly, editor of the then pro-wrestling newsletter Matwatch, wrote a thesis at Auburn University about pro-wrestling called, “A HISTORY OF PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING AS TELEVISION PROGRAMMING FROM: 1941-1989”. He talks a lot of female viewership of pro-wrestling talking about announce Castleman talking to housewives in the audience in the 1948 DuMont programming and the female audience attention that showman Gorgeous George received (similar to Liberace’s popularity) garnered.

This is something I'll continue to dig into and document over time.

-Chris Harrington, Wrestlenomics Radio.