FOX Sports’ decision to cut back on production of shoulder programming, including WWE Backstage, had nothing to do with COVID-19.
Dave Meltzer reported in the latest Wrestling Observer Newsletter that the reason why Backstage was canceled was because of the feeling from FS1 that they were spending too much on the show and the low ratings were not justifying the money being put in. CM Punk was signed to do shows once a month but his presence on the show was not enough to get them over 200,000 viewers. Oftentimes, the show drew less than 100,000 viewers.
Meltzer noted that in addition to the on-air talent, they also let go a number of employees that worked in production. According to WWE officials, the old shows that have been airing in prime time will continue to air on FS1.
The problem with Backstage is the same as all other C-level WWE-related shows. Raw and SmackDown are considered the main shows but when WWE would attempt to introduce a new show, it would never draw close to the numbers of Raw and SmackDown.
Shows that have been brought back over the years to TV as C-level shows include WWE Superstars, WWE Main Event, WWE Velocity, WWE After Burn, WWE Confidential and many others. They all follow the same pattern by starting out with strong ratings and then fizzling out after a few weeks.
In this case, Backstage was not a WWE production and FOX was funding it, which is why Punk was able to appear on the show.