WWE Network: A Solution To The Problem

With every passing story I see about the fictitious World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Network I want to scratch my eyes out!  The way to get this thing launched seems simple to me, but really smart (and well paid) executives of WWE haven’t figured it out:  Join up with a more established entity!  I have just the partner… The National Broadcast Channel (NBC)!  Not really NBC, but NBC Sports… not really NBC Sports but, Versus… yes, Versus!

Outdoor Life Network (OLN) was started in 1995; their name was changed to Versus in 2006, and Versus became NBC Sports Network in 2011.  Right now, the name is locked away in TV purgatory with no real prospects of coming back to life, but the possibilities are endless for this venture.

Before I make WWE a ton of money and let everyone know how I would solve their network dilemma, I’ll expand on the current situation.  From what I can gather, this will be a network equipped with live events, movies, reality and scripted shows dedicated to the sports-entertainment community.  They previously said it would launch in 2012, but according to the Bleacher Report, recent deals with Yahoo! and E! might push a network debut even further into the future.

Why They Should Do It

WWE’s flagship show, Monday Night Raw, is already the highest rated show on the USA Network (a NBC owned channel).  A partnership between the two isn’t far out there.  I don’t think people realize how much power NBC has in the sports world.  They have their own sports network, The Golf Channel, the regionally-based Comcast SportsNet, and the aforementioned part ownership in the NHL Network.  Everything besides the NBC Sports Network is specialized.

I cannot believe that some executive at WWE hasn’t already taken this idea to NBC.  This has been happening with other sports-like companies over the past 10 years.  A lot of people believe that following the latest trend lacks originality, but in the TV business world, finding a buddy has proved to be prosperous.  Here are a few partnerships I found at Wikipedia.org:

  • The Big Ten Network is only 51% owned by the Big Ten Conference, 49% by the Fox Entertainment Group (owned by News Corporation).
  • NBA TV is owned by the National Basketball Association (NBA), but operated by Turner Sports (a division of Turner Broadcasting System).
  • MLB TV actually has 5 owners:  Major League Baseball (67%), DirecTV (16.67%), Comcast (5.44%), Time Warner Cable (5.44%), Cox Communications (5.44%).

That list doesn’t even include channels like the YES Network or the NBC part-owned NHL Network.  In 2011, WWE’S revenue was believed to be around $483 million.  Conversely, the NBA made almost five billion in the same year.  If a company ten times their size needs help in producing a successful network, then WWE could too.  They have experience in producing television, but they’ve never run an entire television network.  It’s okay to befriend someone who has.  Sometimes it seems as if the WWE is in a state of myopia that they don’t care to get out of.  I can envision them saying to themselves…

“We won’t say the word wrestling… that’ll fool em’, right?”

“Nobody knows who Katie Vick is… do they?”

“The XFL was actually a success… don’t you think?”

They don’t have a lot of self-awareness and they certainly don’t seem to care what their consumers want (or sometimes need).  They are not looked at as having the most credibility and their product is extremely niche, and perceived by many as being “for kids.”  They need something to take the pressure off and a reason for non-wrestling enthusiasts to give their product a second glance.  Unfortunately, simply putting their name out front will immediately turn some people off.

I love wrestling and WWE; I’ve been hooked since I first saw Hogan vs. Hercules on Primetime Wrestling as a seven year-old.  I’m going to spend my money on their product no matter what they do with their network.  They don’t want me.  They already have me.  They want the guy who spends 10% of his income and a lot of his television viewing on sports-related activities to give some of his time and energy to them.  I think I know how they can go about achieving that goal.

How They Should Do It

Give me a better name for a channel featuring wrestling than Versus!  I know we all remember Nick-At-Night (now called [email protected])?  What if WWE did something similar and ran the bulk of their programming from 11 p.m. until 7 a.m.?  They could still have monthly pay-per-view (PPV)-type shows, Smackdown! live on Friday nights, maybe the Main Event show on Wednesdays, but their main original programming would happen during the smartly named “WWE Heat,” (oh yeah, you read that right).

Inside this eight hour block would be different days with different programming.  In my dream scenario, new original shows (like the JBL and Cole Show) would run from 11-1 a.m. and after that retro stuff (Nitro, Raw, old PPVs) would begin.  In addition, WWE Studio movies and other films related with past and present sports entertainers could be shown.  Like I said before, the possibilities are endless.  The late timeframe isn’t much of a barrier with DVR, the internet, and other premium outlets available to show re-runs.

As for the other 16 hours of programming, NBC could use this new Versus channel as its de facto ESPN2 and ESPNews.  When the first game of a double-header is going a little long, NBC can put the second game on Versus until the first game is finished.  They could run blocks of news programming (covering all sports, similar to ESPNews) during the morning and midday.  Versus could become the home of all sports that aren’t a part of the big six (Football, Baseball, Basketball, Hockey, Golf and NASCAR).  NBC Sports has already run a few boxing events but a channel like Versus would probably be better for that type of product.

NBC, CBS, and FOX are all trying to get a piece of ESPN’s huge market share and the time to strike is apparently now.  NBC currently has a schizophrenic catalogue of sports channels that could use a little direction.  The WWE Network would be hidden inside a sports network that would be more appealing to the average sports fan.  The advertising and cross-promotion opportunities are endless.

In Conclusion

I believe that hiding behind the Versus name and leaning on the expertise of NBC Sports could double WWE’s revenue in five years (yes you read that right).  Of course, I have no idea what I’m talking about, so this idea could bankrupt the company in five years.  How could smart business executives not have already looked at this option and figured out if it works or not?  All I know is if they did go this route and it was successful, I want a big fat check.  Given WWE’s self-awareness issues, we probably should brace ourselves for the epic XFL-like future fail of The WWE Network.

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Jack Gotta

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