Fox’s ‘Friday Night SmackDown’ Sheds a Quarter of Its Debut Audience in Week 2

Wrestling series was still primetime’s highest-rated show in key demo

Bayley on "Friday Night SmackDown"

Episode 2 of Fox’s “Friday Night SmackDown” landed 2.899 million total viewers, which means it lost one-quarter of its debut audience, according to preliminary Nielsen numbers.

The weekly professional wrestling show’s 1.0 rating in the key adults 18-49 demographic represented an even worse week-to-week decline on a percentage basis, but “SmackDown” was still primetime’s highest-rated show.

Out of nine primetime shows on the Big 4 broadcast networks (CBS, NBC, Fox and ABC) Friday, “SmackDown” had the seventh-largest audience. The two-hour wrestling series only beat the total-viewer tallies for sitcom “Fresh Off the Boat” and news-magazine show “20/20,” both on ABC.

We do not yet have Fox’s internal streaming numbers, nor the viewership on Fox Deportes. Last week’s broadcast premiere experienced a 2.9% bump in the overall audience when those figures came in.

Highlights from Friday included the first night of the WWE “Raw” and “SmackDown” rosters draft. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt showed up in dramatic fashion, and a new-look Bayley won her SmackDown Women’s Championship back as part of her character’s heel (the professional wrestling term for a villain) turn.

The prior week’s “Friday Night SmackDown” debut on Fox drew 3.888 million total viewers, according to Nielsen. That grew to 3.999 million with the modest additions of Fox Deportes and Fox’s streaming platforms.

Last Friday’s “SmackDown” episode posted a 1.4 rating in the important 18-49 demo, which doubled its closest broadcast primetime competition. This week’s “SmackDown” did +30% better than second-place shows “Hawaii Five-0” and “Blue Bloods.”

This past Monday’s “Raw” received 2.334 million total viewers on USA Network. “SmackDown” performed 24% better.

“SmackDown” moved to Fox broadcast Friday as part of a billion-dollar deal between Fox Sports and WWE. TheWrap first reported Fox’s acquisition and the company’s intention to shift the weekly wrestling show from Tuesdays to Fridays. We also exclusively reported that the two-hour series would remain live.