Three weeks ago, I wrote an article about the upcoming WWE Network, asserting:
"The TV network of 10 years from now is what the WWE-driven channel needs to be today.
"The company is probably going to have invent technology to achieve what WWE [programs] on this station ultimately should be, which is an extrapolation of the interactive fan experience that set professional wrestling apart from every other sport and entertainment to begin with."
On Wednesday of this week, two top WWE officials announced that such steps are exactly what the entertainment provider is planning for its current programming and web presence.
WWE issued a press release announcing "an investment in and strategic partnership with Tout Industries, Inc. that will leverage WWE’s vast array of assets, including television, live events, digital, print and more than 100 million social media followers to expand Tout’s platform for real-time video status updates, creating a new dynamic social experience for WWE fans."
One of the more eye-opening aspects of the declaration was that "during the historic 1,000th episode of Monday Night Raw, WWE fans will have the chance to be seen and heard via Tout as real-time video updates will be featured during WWE television programming, on WWE.com, throughout WWE’s social media presence and on in-arena video displays." WWE Superstars will also have the chance to interact with fans prior to the July 23 broadcast via the same platform, or fans can wait until "Tout Tuesdays" to discuss the previous evening's Raw.
WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon is quoted as saying, “Tout’s real-time video technology will become a critical component of fan interactivity in our weekly television programming and will be utilized to connect WWE directly with our fans in new ways.”
That same day, Connie Loizos of PEHub reported more details of the partnership, including thoughts from Stephanie McMahon. The WWE Executive Vice President said that the Tout deal is the company's first experience investing in Silicon Valley startups, and that investing in more is “something we’re exploring.”
Ever since Zack Ryder's YouTube Channel devotees became vocal in arenas, WWE has made an aggressive push to be THE dominant social media presence among entertainment providers. To my knowledge, they are the first entertainment program, wrestling or otherwise, to synergize the live broadcast with what is "trending worldwide on Twitter."
Not since Vince and Linda McMahon purchased the promotion from his father's group in the spring of 1983 has the company focused so intently on technology to expand their empire.
While WWE did not invent syndication, home video, closed circuit, cable and pay-per-view, the McMahons and their associates—not unlike Apple co-founder Steve Jobs—understood how to utilize technology to create product awareness and consumer need.
The benefit of social media is that it is tailor made for the unique form of the wrestling industry, which was interactive before the word was invented. As I've written time upon time here at Bleacher Report, professional wrestling is the only sport or entertainment where fan input creates change.
For instance, Mick Foley does not have the looks Central Casting would pick to play a world champion. That didn't stop fans from admiring the man and becoming involved in his story.
When he finally achieved his dream of becoming WWE Champion, fans flocked to WWE and changed the Monday Night Wars, and ultimately wrestling history, forever.
Professional wrestling is a living organism, not a passively-viewed spectator sport.
In this regard, WWE has a distinct advantage over others trying to make a social media connection; and, just like the 1980's, the Stamford-based corporation is already far ahead of the Hollywood curve when it comes to introducing audiences to emerging tech.
A Final Thought
In our cyber-saturated world, information has lost all currency.
We exist now to be bombarded with advertising, chatter and personalized this-or-thats. Technology made the world smaller, made it the size of your latest screen.
We, as a race, fail our imaginations when the best applications for technology we can muster are to sell soap and flash circuses before numb eyes. We talk, but at a disconnect.
While I look forward to the exciting e-marvels WWE will unleash, I look to the past and recall walking up concrete steps and into a cavernous arena, seeing that bright blue mat of a WWE ring for the first time, witnessing the thrilled faces of excited fans, and feeling the reverberation in my shoes of our collective roar.
All of the things these startups are developing for the company are just the same as what I'm doing now—walking through a virtual daydream to express my feelings about this great American art form. I'm glad I know what I hope will become apparent to generations raised with computers.
The heart and soul of WWE, like life, is in being there.