WWE Network: Filling out the 24-Hour Schedule: WWE Overhaul Part 5
Welcome back to another edition of WWE: Overhaul!
Check out the home of WWE: Overhaul here if you need help understanding what's going on.
WWE is trying to put together its own cable network, and in order to get viewers (and before that, cable providers to carry the network), it needs some major programs to air during prime time to be the "draw."
Of course, once you have a Prime Time Schedule created to draw in viewers, you still need to fill out the rest of the 24 hours of available time.
This doesn't have to be grade A stuff, this is the stuff that people who are bored at home on a Tuesday afternoon can sit down and get stuck into for a few hours. Not that there can't be some quality stuff in there.
Well, let's take a look at some of the options.
Or go back and check out previous entries in the series.
Part 2: Injuries and an Offseason
Part 3: Pitching Non-Wrestling Shows
Part 4: Scheduling Prime Time
This is the big one, because this is the premiere asset the WWE owns, beyond the names and brands of their various properties.
WWE owns the back catalogs of its progenitor, WWWF, the AWA, WCW and ECW.
It can (and I believe it intends to) eat up a lot of time with this archival footage.
It's already done this in several ways, whether it's "from the Vault" matches on old episodes of SmackDown, WWE Classics on Demand, DVDs, or Are You Serious?
And there are several ways it can use the footage.
It can air shows more or less unedited, either randomly or in sequential order, including recreating the Monday Night Wars by airing the corresponding RAW IS WAR and Nitro shows back to back or on consecutive days.
It can edit the footage into packages, either based on individual wrestlers, events, themes or other factors.
Or it can collect them into lists, either via Countdown, the theoretical program teased by WWE in its preview for the network, indicating that fans could vote on various lists that would then be collated and aired.
VH1 has operated similarly to this for years, airing numerous countdowns of videos that meet one criteria or another.
For better or worse, they exist, and WWE owns them, and has invested into their production. Most of them have failed to make money.
If the WWE can recoup even a little of that cost through advertising, and fill up some time with original programming that it doesn't have to pay another dime for, why not?
You're not going to see these in good time slots, but expect to see every WWE film to reappear off and on as long as a WWE Network exists.
Hopefully in time they'll be replaced by other, better products.
Like most other cable networks, a WWE Network can fill a significant amount of time by airing re-runs of its own material.
Specifically, for the weekly wrestling programs, they can be re-aired again that same night after a break of one or two hours, or in the wee hours of the next morning, or that afternoon, or all of these, to allow for people with different schedules (and no DVR) to see them.
This might cut slightly into the viewership and ratings of the original run, which will pay more per advertising minute, but will increase viewership overall and eat some time, which will be critical, especially in the opening months of the network.
For non-weekly shows that have defined seasons, like Tough Enough, WWE can do an initial re-run the same or following week (in the time slots just before or after the prime time shows), and once a season has been completed, all the episodes can be run together, marathon-style. These marathons of completed shows are a staple of some networks.
OPP (Other People's Products)
You down with OPP?
Once WWE has exhausted its own material, if it still needs to fill time, it may begin having to contemplate some tough decisions about the kind of network it wants to have and what its job is in creating and organizing that network.
If WWE brass decides they want to be the source of wrestling on television, they may want (or need) to consider airing other people's wrestling.
This is a ground-shaking decision, and not one I expect WWE to make, but the idea needs to be considered.
Possible targets for partnerships and airing (in non-prime time slots) of other wrestling shows include (besides FCW):
All Japan Pro Wrestling
New Japan Pro Wrestling
Ring of Honor
Lucha Libre USA, or any lucha libre production
OVW or other regional promotions
Another thing WWE can do to fill time, especially if it wants its network to be more entertainment-based and less wrestling-based, is to pay for the rights to air work made by other companies.
This could include movies that featured current or ex-WWE talent, including movies starring The Rock, Hulk Hogan, Mr. T, Roddy Piper, etc.
Alternatively, it could feature films or television shows that include wrestlers as characters or wrestling as a theme, including The Wrestler, Ready to Rumble, Mucha Lucha!, Nikki, etc.
Or they could get the rights to a series of cheap and terrible sci-fi or horror movies and have them hosted by a particular Superstar, Legend, or Diva (Elvira style).
My understanding is that Vince McMahon believes that MMA fighting is not directly in competition with the WWE.
If that is the case, and the WWE needs more material to fill out a schedule, then there is the possibility (however slim) that it could look to the MMA world to help it do that.
I can't speak to the logistical or financial specifics of such an arrangement.
But certainly if the WWE is intent on keeping its whole network in the TV PG/TV 14 realm, that the violence that some MMA matches exhibit would be problematic from that angle.
Since UFC is a PPV business, either WWE could repackage archival footage, air bouts from a smaller promotion, or create some programming that surrounds the world of MMA without airing the actual fights.
Basically, running advertisement for MMA in the form of programming.
And then of course, at last we come to the old standby.
When it comes right down to it, there is always the possibility of simply selling off the cheapest time slots (overnight and early morning) to the highest bidder.
I don't see the WWE of today running ads for Girls Gone Wild (is that still a thing?) or sexy chat lines (are they?) or whatever, but I'm sure they could get some Billy Blanks or Chuck Norris up in there.
(It's really evident that I haven't watched cable late at night in about 10 years, isn't it?)
It would be really hilarious if they made some deals with people to include WWE Superstars and Divas in these things.
In the end, you gotta make it all fit.
For the first few weeks, it won't be pretty.
But then, once you have whole seasons of shows in the can and can begin doing marathons, it will get a little better. Over time you add more new programs as well, possibly some cartoons or other kids' programming for Saturday mornings and weekday afternoons, that kind of thing.
Continue on to Part 6
Or head back to the home of WWE: Overhaul and check out the rest of the series.