WWE: Program Suggestions for the WWE Network
Last week, we learned that WWE’s reality program Total Divas will be featured in the upcoming season’s lineup for E!
Today, word began to circulate that the company is shopping NXT to cable networks as a weekly television program.
Meanwhile, in quarterly phone conferences and other business forums, Vince McMahon continues to discuss openly the WWE’s intention of launching a network in the not-too-distant future.
TV licensing is a major revenue stream for the WWE, so producing the two previously mentioned shows for sale makes sense. However, with the question remaining as to what would be included on a WWE Network, it leaves you wondering why these programs wouldn’t be saved for the network’s launch.
The following list suggests several programming options for the WWE, were they to launch their own network. These thoughts vary dramatically to appeal to many audiences in order to bring in the greatest overall revenue.
Considering I wrote this quickly, don’t judge me on the name of the programs. This is WWE’s version of an ESPN SportsCenter flagship broadcast. A news-style program that features Scott Stanford as the lead anchor, HQ is filmed daily at the WWE’s unofficial new headquarters in Orlando.
With the plans for the extensive developmental training facility in place, WWE can add to the construction to create a TV studio space. This can also add to the WWE’s partnership with Full Sail University.
The program is written from within the WWE Universe. While occasionally breaking kayfabe to see heels interact with soldiers and Make-a-Wish participants, it’s predominantly within character and storyline. WWE masterfully crafts hype packages, and these would be on full display. Jim Ross, JBL and Michael Hayes can provide regular analysis of stars, storylines, etc.
Imagine segments where Stanford can sit down and play ESPN-style “Hot Seat” games with Jim Ross. Asking questions like, “Is Dolph Ziggler ready to carry the World Title?”; “How long can Kane and Daniel Bryan last before imploding?”; and “What will it take to stop The Shield?”
These segments can be cut together and included on regular programming to promote storylines, too. This show could be taped in the morning and played several times throughout the day.
I’m a big fan of Scott Stanford, and the prospect of him being the face of the WWE Network would give great legitimacy to the product.
Wild World of WWE
In elementary school, I would always eat breakfast while watching Power Rangers, Pokemon or some other mind-numbing program that was either a cartoon or cartoonish in nature. This here is WWE’s entry into that market.
A one-hour program, Wild World of WWE is a behind-the-scenes exploration into the wacky characters and misadventures of the company. Your host, Santino Marella, is his goofy, lovable self and appeals directly to kids.
It’s a variety show that includes Saturday Morning Slam-type segments. Santino interviews other wrestlers in character. Viewers are taught the names of moves and the learn history of the company. Other educational segments are also slipped in so Mom doesn’t get too upset.
Each show also includes a match of some sort as the main event, which can be odd-ball comedic matches the likes of which you've seen on Saturday mornings.
This is the program that pulls back the curtain. I’m a full believer in using NXT to create programming, but it should be done in a way that protects the wrestlers.
NXT is a place for experimentation. A number of members of the roster have worked a long time to develop a character or even reinvent themselves as a new character while in the developmental system.
It’s a place to try new moves, different pacing, interview skills, etc. This safe space for learning is critical in a talent’s development.
Once again tapping into the new training facility, WWE Network gives an all-access look into what it takes to become a WWE Superstar. While not a competition show, this is a reality-based, documentary-style show that introduces you to a handful of the WWE’s developmental talents.
This show breaks kayfabe and shows what goes into becoming a character, learning the moves and putting together a match. We hear from trainers, doctors, producers and writers. With Dusty Rhodes and William Regal at the helm, we get an intimate look at the process.
Main roster guys, legends and Hall of Famers, plus other WWE personnel come through and offer their thoughts, praise, criticism, etc. This show always runs as the lead-in to the next show...
I stand by my belief that WWE should not and will not have success shopping its developmental program for anything near its value to the company.
TV and ad executives will ask whether or not John Cena, CM Punk or Triple H are going to appear on the show. They will be looking for immediate ratings, which this show would not provide.
To the die-hard WWE fan, though, this show is of great value. It’s the type of program that could push one to spend the extra money each month to purchase the network, because it won’t be seen anywhere else.
With the previous show as a lead-in, NXT becomes a talent showcase for new stars. Once the audience feels a connection to the performers, they’ll tune in to see them on NXT. And with the look behind the scenes, they’ll understand why some guys change or shift style or persona.
Everything wouldn’t be seen on Up NXT. There would still be surprises set aside, such as face/heel turns, match results and character debuts. In the same way fans love to watch American Idol, Dancing with the Stars or any of the designer/model shows, the look at how the performer grows, learns, faces adversity and overcomes it is as important as the performance itself.
Major events on NXT, such as title changes, etc., would be included on WWE HQ, but it would mostly be left out of the coverage.
WWE Active Today
An interactive program that picks up on queues from the successful ESPN alternative program SportsNation features two young, energetic, opinionated hosts who bounce around social media to gain audience participation.
WWE has invested heavily in social media, partnering with YouTube, investing in Tout and promoting its WWE Active smartphone app. Through Facebook, Twitter and the app, a few producers and the two hosts could spend each day soliciting comments, feedback and contributions in the form of polls in order to create a one-hour program.
Superstars can make guest appearances, check in from the road and even continue storylines through the show. If Kofi Kingston is being interviewed about his recent title defense, Wade Barrett can call in and verbally spar with Kofi in character while on air. It’s an opportunity to shine a light on lesser feuds that don’t receive extensive time on Raw.
Legends of Wrestling with Jim Ross
Historical recountings of the wrestling industry will always draw a core audience.
In a revamped format from the OnDemand/DVD Legends Roundtables, we get Jim Ross with one or two legends to discuss a specific topic.
Since I saw him at a show during WrestleMania weekend, I’ll use Ricky Morton of the legendary Rock n' Roll Express as an example. For a brief time, Morton broke off for a singles run that culminated in a failed show at the NWA Title against Ric Flair in a steel cage.
On this show, we’d see some tape of the feud and highlights from the match itself. Meanwhile, JR and Morton would discuss the storyline, his career and the match. This type of insight would be addictive to longtime fans and possesses limitless possibilities for discussion.
Obviously, this wouldn't take up the entire set of programming.
WWE would utilize its extensive film library to show full episodes of WWE Raw, SmackDown, ECW and the numerous territory shows on file. We'd get specials that pull from the DVD documentaries. There are many options.
So what would compel you to pay the monthly fee for a subscription to the WWE Network, were there to be one in the next few years?