Posted by Jack Patterson
Being employed in the media gives me a different look at the WWE nowadays. While I used to not give a flip who watched (besides me), now I realize that ratings are what matter the most. That plays a huge role in creative and talent management. Today, with the dissolve of the brand extension imminent, we are going to take a look at WWE’s relationships with TV, and give you the bottom line on what you need to know.
First, and most importantly, WWE has a major partnership with NBCUniversal (NBCU). Monday Night RAW and Friday Night SmackDown are both on NBCU-owned networks (USA Network and Syfy). NBCU has a long history with the WWE, dating back to the WWF days. Saturday Night’s Main Event had it’s original run (with the exception of two shows on FOX in 1992) on NBC, with a 3 year revival for 2006-08, also on NBC. But WWE has made it’s true home with the USA Network, and RAW was NOT the first WWE program on USA’s airwaves. In fact, there were several programs to call USA home. WWE has had programs on USA spanning 4 decades, including “Tuesday Night Titans”, “Sunday Night Heat”, “Prime Time Wrestling” (which was the predecessor to RAW), among so many others. You could legit call USA, “America’s Home for Pro Wrestling.”
In addition to the USA Network, Syfy has become WWE’s second home. At the time (2006), the Sci Fi channel picked up the WWE relaunch of ECW, and the show became an immediate network hit. Often times, ECW would be Sci Fi’s highest rated show (which is a lot, seeing that ECW was WWE’s #3 brand). It played pivotal roles in the launch of superstars careers, such as Kofi Kingston, CM Punk and Sheamus. In 2010, ECW was dropped in favor of launching NXT, which was the search to find the next great superstar (similar to Tough Enough). NXT had 3 “seasons” on Syfy, helping launch the Nexus (all of the Season 1 stars, of which Wade Barrett, Daniel Bryan and Ryback were apart of; Bryan was kicked out after debut) in the summer of 2010. NXT was dropped in favor of bringing on SmackDown, fresh off it’s contract with MyNetworkTV. While SmackDown has done very well on Syfy, NXT, revamped from it’s original format, has yet to find a TV home in the U.S..
WWE partnering with Non-NBCU networks
Currently, WWE only has one show not on a NBCU network, which is Main Event on ION Television, although NBCU has previously held a stake in the company. However, there was a long period of time which WWE was not on any NBCU network. Starting on September 25, 2000, RAW left USA to go to TNN (which is now known as Spike). Sunday Night Heat left USA as well to go to MTV on October 1 of the same year. Heat would later move to Spike in 2003 and become RAW-branded. WWE would also create a SmackDown-branded weekend show, Velocity, which debuted in 2002 and came on Saturday nights on Spike. In addition to Velocity, WWE debuted “Confidential,” which showed an inside look to the superstars and divas’ lives. The show was hosted by “Mean” Gene Okerlund and aired after Velocity on Saturdays. Then lastly, we move to WWE Superstars, which debuted on WGN America on April 16, 2009. After two years of lower-than-expected ratings, WGN did not renew it’s contract and much like NXT, could not find a TV home. Both are syndicated via Hulu Plus.
The Future Lies Ahead
With WWE actively looking to launch the WWE Network some time this or next year, this time frame proves extremely critical for the success of the network. The first issue that they will face will be to find programming BESIDES pure wrestling to keep viewers tuned in. There are already two shows “in the works”: WWE Legends House and a yet to be named Divas show. In addition to that, I think a great move on WWE’s part would be to bring back WWE Confidential. I know “Mean” Gene would probably not be able to host, but I think that would be a role perfect for Michael Cole. That was a brilliant show on Spike in a horrible timeslot (11:00pm ET on a Saturday Night). Also (going without saying) NXT and Superstars would be on the network. But if WWE can figure out how to keep fans tuned in all seven days a week and keep ratings decent for the first few months while carriage continues to rise, it would be absolutely a perfect storm. Another route to go would be to see about acquiring a current network. NBCU had G4 as a promising prospect, but that will now be taken over by Esquire Magazine and will be named after the magazine.
Long story short, when you are watching WWE programming and reading info (such as ratings) on WNW, realize that in the next two years, that will have a bigger impact than you know.
Download - iPhone | Android | iPad