WWE Studios, Wellness Policy & TV Ratings Plans

WWE Films Division is being rebranded as WWE Studios in keeping with the company’s overhaul of its productions, which are being expanded to include comedy and drama shows for TV. The studio is aiming to make 2 theatrically released movies per year at a budget of $10-20 million each, plus up to 6 direct-to-DVD movies at a cost of $5 million each. The first of these lower-budget movies will be Behind Enemy Lines 3, starring Ken Kennedy, and The Marine 2, starring John Cena, is also being planned. Another movie in production is Suckerpunch, which will star The Big Show as a bare-knuckle street-fighter. Morgan Lake, the new head of the division, has stated that their TV shows will use retired wrestlers like Ric Flair, Mick Foley, Dusty Rhodes, Roddy Piper and Steve Austin, since any shows that are picked up will require several months of filming and they cannot take current stars off the road for that length of time. The goal with the new productions is to make them less violent and more suitable for younger viewers, with PG ratings.

Furthermore, all WWE programming is now to be rated PG. Smackdown already was but Raw and ECW had been getting TV-14 ratings instead. The plan is to focus more on characters and storylines than on attention-seeking stunts in order to make the shows more kid-friendly. This is because more and more kids are attending live events at a time when the adult audience is more reluctant to do so, even though the TV demographic is stable. Vince McMahon is also hoping to change the overall image of WWE in order to appeal to major advertisers with less risque programming. The lack of major auto company sponsorship has been a particular irritation for Vince, even though most such companies are scaling down their advertising budgets at present. Still, the hope is that more big companies will see WWE delivering large numbers of guaranteed viewers at low-cost rates and view them as a tempting bargain to reach more people per dollar spent than most other primetime shows.

Meanwhile, WWE has added new names to its Wellness Policy. Dr. Jospeh Marroon, team physician for the Pittsburgh Steelers, is their new Medical Director. Dr. Martha Dodson, who has worked in boxing, football and hockey in the past, is the new brand physician for Smackdown and ECW. Dr. Christopher Amann, former team physician for the U.S. women’s soccer team, is the new doctor for the Raw brand. Wrestlers have to go through their respective company doctor to get prescription medication whilst on the road under the policy guidelines. New trainers Chris Brannon, Larry Heck and Jason Crivello have also been hired. Other names joining the team are Dr. James Andrews, now officially appointed the company’s consultant and surgeon after years of unofficially performing the role; Dr. Mark Lovell heading up the company’s neurocognitive testing program to scan for concussions; Dr. Frederick Feurbach heading up the heart monitoring program, which involves heart stress tests every six months for all contracted wrestlers.

Credit: Wrestling Observer Newsletter, 29 July 2008 (subscribe here)

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