When Vince McMahon guaranteed that the WWE would be in a better place during a stockholder’s meeting people thought he was losing his mind. Well he was right as the WWE announced Thursday that Monday Night RAW would be expanding to three hours on the USA Network.
John Cena broke the news on Thursday through Twitter. Cena sent out the following tweet to the world on Thursday announcing the big move and when you have over two million followers, word travels fast.
“STARTING Monday Night July 23 @USA_NETWORK WILL BE ADDING A 3RD HOUR TO @WWE MONDAY NIGHT RAW – PERMANENTLY. #3hourRaw”
The WWE followed up the announcement with an official press release touting the extra hour and the big move to an 8 PM/EST start. Here are some highlights from the presser.
“WWE Superstar John Cena® announced via Twitter today that WWE Monday Night Raw will expand to a three-hour event 52 weeks a year. The extended telecast will kick-off July 23 at 8/7C on USA Network and marks the 1000th episode of the WWE Raw franchise and a television record – no other series has ever reached this milestone. The announcement was tweeted today by Cena (the No. 1 most influential male athlete on Twitter last month) during USA’s upfront presentation in New York City. The move firmly put WWE’s stake in the ground as one of the most powerful social brands in the world and an integral part of USA Network’s social media initiative.”
“WWE is proud to celebrate this historic milestone with our partners at USA Network,” said WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon. “Our new three-hour Raw represents the next generation in interactive television where our fans won’t just watch the show, they will help create it.”
The extra hour signifies a change in the business strategy at Titan Towers. The WWE are in the television rights fees game. The new hour could bring the WWE somewhere around $15 million extra dollars a year and at little cost. The crew is already there, the building is booked, and tickets have already been sold. All they have to do is write one more hour of content which is easier said than done.
The first thing I thought of when I heard the news is when WCW Nitro expanded to three hours. It immediately watered down the show and burnt me and millions of viewers out. It should also be noted how much hotter WCW and pro wrestling in general were at the time of the move. To me, this is a huge reach and a gamble that could really hurt the company over the next several years.
I don’t know about you but I find about 75% Monday Night RAW intolerable as it is. I either find myself tuning out of a lot of segments or watching just for the sheer “car wreck” effect. Quite frankly the best moments are when guys are brought back that haven’t appeared on TV or in the WWE for awhile such as The Rock, The Undertaker, Steve Austin, and Brock Lesnar. The roster of stars have been so poorly booked that after awhile the show becomes two hours of parity and an overrun segment that I either really like or really hate. The RAW I have been watching for the last two years is not a RAW I need to see for an extra hour.
There are some positives that can come out of it. The extra hour allows for match time and maybe some of the guys will be able to have longer matches on RAW as opposed to the 5-10 minute kind. But if that is the case, what is the point of paying $50 to watch a pay per view when you are now getting 20-30 minute matches on Monday nights for free? If the end game here is to move all of the “B” shows off of pay per view to the upcoming network than that could work. People will still pay for the big four but everything else will take a hit in my opinion.
Where are the stars to fill three hours every week? RAW is John Cena and everyone else. As much as I dislike Cena at times, his segments are the only ones on RAW that consistently draw good ratings. I know there are a ton of CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, and Dolph Ziggler fans out there yet unfortunately none of them deliver great or even good ratings currently. I just don’t see the overall demand from RAW viewers to see more when they tune in and out of most of the show anyway.
If anything good does come out of this it will be a renewed effort to create more stars. Unfortunately it is too late with the guys they have. The fans are already conditioned to see them as stars, yet not at the level of guys like Cena and Triple H. The WWE will have to go back to basics and create some new stars for the future. What if Cena gets hurt? What if something comes out in his divorce proceedings that will greatly damage his public perception? They are on borrowed time with Cena and if he is out, you are going to have a tough time getting any momentum in three hours.
What about SmackDown? There is not enough talent to go around exclusively to both shows. The brand extension as we know it is officially over with the new hour. Will there even be a need for a “SmackDown” brand or will Friday Night SmackDown eventually just morph into two more hours of RAW?
The positive of doing this in July is that it will allow viewers to develop a pattern of tuning in at 8 a few months before Monday Night Football returns. RAW always sees a decrease in ratings when the NFL returns to Monday nights. Maybe they can hold on to some of those viewers if they give them a compelling open at 8? I doubt it but I am sure that the MNF competition played a big part in this.