WWE's decision-makers wisely postponed the creation of a WWE cable network, originally scheduled (well, penciled in) for April 1, to coincide with WrestleMania.
This was the only realistic decision available to them, as they were neither prepared to get the network running on their own, nor able to woo outside help to do the job for them.
However, on January 31, WWE changed its YouTube channel, adding nine shows over the coming weeks.
They relocated Zack Ryder's hit show, Z! True Long Island Story, from its own channel, and added new content in interview shows WWE Inbox and Backstage Fallout, comedy clip shows WWE Download and Are You Serious?, special segment shows WWE Presents, Superstar Toyz and Outside the Ring and Santino Marella's walking-around interview/comedy show, Foreign Exchange.
(Shameless Plug: I gave my impressions of the nine shows and ranked them here.)
I began to wonder if the decision to create a crop of YouTube shows was somehow connected to the embryonic network. Was it an attempt to placate or hold over an audience that had been promised something that could not happen? Was it a method of testing show ideas and production methods?
I may never know if that was the intent, but there is certainly the possibility that the WWE could learn some valuable lessons and gain critical insight through this medium.
Some of the shows have already failed to offer new episodes weekly. (Not every show is given a weekly release day, but most are.) Learning how difficult it may be to conceptualize and shoot a six minute episode may help them understand the undertaking a 22 minute show might be.
Superstars such as Zack Ryder, Santino Marella and Dolph Ziggler will get valuable time speaking in front of the camera, and their production teams will benefit from having a steady influx of material.
At the same time, YouTube will provide them with demographics that can help them understand what their YouTube savvy viewer base is. That may not directly help them in launching this network, but it can't hurt to have some idea how strong their Internet following is, and they will be judge the relative popularity of various concepts by comparing the viewership of the various products.
As it stands, it would take roughly three of these episodes (either of one show or multiple shows combined into a larger production with separate segments, like a VH1 program) to make a full-length "half-hour" TV show.
If the WWE is going to have a network of its own and deliver even an hour of original programming a night, they're going to need to do much more than just what they're offering on YouTube.
But if producing these Internet shows can help them to understand that, it can only help them to realize what is currently looking like a pipe dream.