Let me say from the outset that ever since I can remember, I have been a fan or professional wrestling (more commonly termed “sports entertainment” these days). Hardly a weekend of my childhood went by without me watching World Championship Wrestling and cheering the good guys and booing the baddies.
Times have changed, but there are still some basic “rules” of wrestling that remain – good guys don’t always win, and the referees tend to miss the “blinding obvious” foul tactics.
Given the number of sports that now rely on the third umpire to adjudicate close calls, its probably a good thing that wrestling is more “entertainment” rather than “sport”.
One of the most exciting media events I was invited to at this year’s CES was the launch of the WWE Network – scheduled to go live in the US on 24 February 2014 and to be rolled out to Australia, UK, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong and other regions in late 2014.
WWE at CES?
What made this such a sort after event at CES, the annual platform for many high tech consumer announcements? Why would a group of grown men and women in wild costumes and makeup throwing each other around a ring attract so many waiting media groups? The answer is in the numbers – the business that sits behind the showmanship.
WWE Inc has more than 250 million social media followers and is an integrated media organisation. They are a recognised leader in global entertainment and deliver original content 52 weeks a year to a global audience. This includes family friendly television programmes, pay-per-view, digital media and publishing platforms.
Their programmes are broadcast into more than 150 countries and in 30 languages, and reach over 650 million homes worldwide. Not bad for a company that syndicated content to 30 television stations in 1979!
WWE also delivers their fans a revolutionary second screen experience during its flagship programmes (RAW and SmackDown) via the WWE App – this includes live match continuation during TV ad breaks, backstage content, live polls, photos and exclusive information about the WWE Superstars and Divas. As Michelle Wilson (Chief Revenue and Marketing Officer for WWE) said at the launch – their challenge and goal was to “re-imagine content delivery.”
So now this announcement is starting to fit in well with CES – it is all about content, airtime and accessibility.
How will this content get to devices?
WWE have partnered with Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM) to build the solution to deliver 24/7 WWE content. MLBAM has been at the forefront of streaming technology for over 10 years, managing live video content for more than 25,000 events, covering 8,000 hours of broadcast programming across its sports and entertainment partners last year.
As you would expect from the WWE, the exclusive, invitation only press event at the Wynn Casino Encore Theatre was top class entertainment, complete with a meet and greet session before the announcement (yes the wrestlers really are big!), on-stage presentations by Vince McMahon (WWE CEO and on-screen personality), Stefanie McMahon (Vince’s daughter, Chief Brand Officer), wrestlers John Cena, Tripple H (aka Paul Levesque, Executive VP, Talent & Live Events and Stephanie McMahon’s husband), Shaun Michaels (aka the Heartbreak Kid), Stone Cold Steve Austin, and announcer Michael Cole; through to the post presentation press interviews and refreshments.
Some comedy, some solid information and lots of excitement surrounding what will definitely revolutionise the delivery of content to our mobile devices.
I will definitely be a subscriber when it hits our shores later this year – hopefully the WWE will accelerate their release dates and give local fans access sooner rather than later.
Me with the Big Show (actual size!):