Details on WWE TV Network Plans

Some more details have started to emerge about the WWE cable TV channel mentioned by Vince McMahon during the quarterly investors’ conference call on February 11th. McMahon is hopeful that the network would be up and running in 18 months time and offer something different from the current WWE 24/7 Classics-on-Demand service.

One source noted that McMahon wants it to be a pop-culture network launched off the back of airing first-run wrestling shows and old footage transferred to HD. It would also produce original programming, however, as well as airing the various WWE movie projects. The sitcom with Santino Marella, Vladimir Kozlov and Beth Phoenix is the first such original project. McMahon is keen on the project as it may be his final opportunity to succeed at something outside the wrestling genre, which has been his goal since at least his feud with Ted Turner started. Some of his failed ventures include concert promotion, a minor league hockey franchise, the WBF, boxing promotion, the XFL, the Stephanie Music record label, the Shane Productions movie company, the WWF New York restaurant and night club, as well as an intended hotel and casino that never got off the ground after buying the property. WWE Films may have not produced any critically acclaimed movies yet but it has not lost money.

The original programming would also be sold overseas as a back-up measure in case WWE experiences future difficulties in getting a larger network to continue carrying their shows, which has been the case in recent years when the rights for Raw and Smackdown have come up for renewal. Spike TV pulling out of the bidding war for Raw in 2005, despite it being a strong cable TV property, left no other interested parties besides the USA Network, which meant WWE was forced to give up all advertisement revenue to secure the deal. McMahon told people at that point that he was going to create his own network in the future.

There has also been some talk of them selling the actual network overseas, similar to how the likes of CNN, ESPN and the BBC have international broadcast versions of their channels.

The targeted start date at the moment is September 2011, although it may be pushed back to the second quarter of 2012. Converting the old footage to HD will be an expensive and prolonged process. It may also prove difficult to get sponsorship deals in place before launch. There is also concern about the channel getting clearance as even the NFL’s network is not carried by all the major cable systems.

McMahon stated that he would like Raw to remain on the USA Network and Smackdown on an independent broadcast platform, be that MyNetwork or elsewhere. At present Smackdown is essentially the only show broadcast on MyNetwork to get any sort of ratings and there are deals being negotiated with alternative stations. Some expressed concerns that this network could harm WWE’s relationship with other networks as they would effectively be competing with them. McMahon said, “We are unique in that what’s good for WWE is good for all of our television partners as far as promotion and things of that nature. And we are a little bit different. We promote, you promote Syfy on MyNet, or USA will promote MyNet. So there are things like that in which we are set up a little differently. Obviously we will be promoting our own network as well, much like the NFL does during the Super Bowl, they will mention their own networks and things of that nature and programs that are on the network. And quite frankly, our own network in terms of programming can enhance Raw, can enhance Smackdown. So it really would be a win-win for all our television partners across the board, as well as us.”

There are also concerns about how this will affect the current creative team, which is already overworked trying to produce up to nine hours of first-run television each week. The crew is already burdened and reliant on younger, less experienced staff members after several high salaried workers were made redundant to save costs.

Credit: Wrestling Observer

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