A few days ago I talked about how the standard of WWE shows can be improved by re-launching the titles and making them the focal point of the programming. I also suggested that we revamp the PPV calendar and bring back King of the Ring amongst other changes.
I think the next way that Vince can get more subscribers is by having more exclusive adult content on the network. And I don’t mean making available the uncut and uncensored footage of Mark “Sexual Chocolate” Henry doing unspeakable things to the elderly Mae Young. Or putting Chyna's "adult art" movies alongside John Cena and Hulk Hogan specials in the DVD archive.
WWE programming is now PG and people still clamouring for this to change may as well give it up as it is not going to happen. Ratings were well on the slide before the change so using ratings from the late 90's as an argument 'for' edgier content isn't going to hold much weight. With the launch of the network and WWE shares being traded on the New York stock exchange the WWE is heavily dependent on its commercial partnerships that would be severely impacted should the product become unsuitable for children. The below from the company website reads as an obituary for TV-14 :
“Our worldwide licensing program builds partnerships with companies around the globe....For the third consecutive year, 2013 saw WWE ranked as the #2 Action Figure Brand in the US......WWE video games have sold more than 60 million units since 1999, generating more than $1.8 billion in revenues.......WWE’s publishing slate includes Superstars bios; historical guides; children’s books; sticker books; coloring books, comic books; graphic novels and many others.”
So I'm not suggesting Mr McMahon makes the change back to TV-14 in general programming, I get it. What I am suggesting is more adult content be made available on the network and there are adult controls in place to stop it being viewed by minors so this shouldn't be a concern. I’d like to see a regular late night talk show featuring ex-superstars as guests in front of a studio audience with no topic off limits. The studio guests would answer questions from the audience on the latest events in WWE as well as questions about their time in the company. It would need a controversial host not afraid to speak his mind and ask some potentially uncomfortable questions. Think Stone Cold Podcast meets Colt Cabana Podcast meets Jerry Springer meets Howard Stern.
Even if all 12 PPV events are to remain PG there is no reason why there can't be an additional adult-rated special event every six months or even just once a year. That way the fans that miss the days of bloodied faces, backs covered in thumb tacks and limbs on fire can still get their fix every now and again with the "WWE Extreme" events. I'm sure it could be arranged in a way so not to harm any existing commercial deals by using different branding etc.
Mr McMahon also needs to remember the world that exists outside the USA more too. The UK population is only 64 million, so realistically we are not going to double network subscriptions overnight, but there is certainly potential to increase his current one million subscriptions by 5-10% if Vince shows the UK some more love. Yes we get the European tours but we've not had anything really meaningful since SummerSlam 1992 which was almost 23 years ago. That day 80,355 people attended the old Wembley which was the third biggest (some dispute that and say it is the second biggest) crowd at a WWE event ever.
There is a relatively huge market here and I don't know why it isn't utilised more effectively. And please don't bring up the mediocre and mostly meaningless PPV events from the late 90's/early 00's that were in reality just glorified house shows. WWE only needs to look at the tremendous success the NFL has had in the last couple of years to see how much the UK embraces all things American. Despite there being no WWE coverage on terrestrial TV the UK still has a lot of love for WWE, more now than ever before in my opinion, but the network has been "launched" here with little more than a whimper and it needs far more promotion.
Which brings me on to my final and probably most important point, WWE's relationship with the mainstream media. Now I can appreciate Mr McMahon being slightly cautious when it comes to the media for obvious reasons, but for WWE Network to move away from something that is just purchased by the wrestling obsessive and gets more casual buyers, then he needs to embrace the media and use it to his advantage.
I think the only time I have read or watched anything in the UK media about WWE it has been about drugs, Owen Hart, Chris Benoit or another death and I imagine given the companies stance with the media it is pretty much the same in the USA. Now drug scandal and celebrity deaths will of course always make the news as they are highly newsworthy, but surely WWE can get some positive news stories out there and influence the public perception. Again taken from the company website:
"WWE also extends a Professional Development Program to former WWE Talent, and in some cases, their family members.....WWE has partnered with Money Management International (MMI), the largest non-profit credit counseling agency in the country, to provide free Financial Education to former WWE Talent and their immediate family members.....WWE offers financial scholarships to former WWE Talent in the amount of $5,000 per calendar year to be used for obtaining a college degree or completing a certificate program."
On paper this sounds fantastic and in addition to the above the WWE does a tremendous amount of charity work, but if you only read about these things on the WWE site then it is never going to change the wider public perception. Rather than pushing them away and treating them like the enemy, by welcoming journalists into the WWE and showing them all the great things WWE does could have a massive impact. Parents who know little about wrestling apart from the negative things they hear may be less opposed to their little angel watching the programming if they knew about the wonderful things WWE does for their community.
Triple H made his disdain for the media clear in the recent Stone Cold Podcast but the company needs to realise that there are plenty of journalists with integrity and there are plenty WWE fans in the media, they don't need to take Austin's "D.T.A." mantra literally. If the rumours are true that investors such as Lemelson Capital are pondering a WWE without Mr McMahon, then these are all things he needs to consider. Giving the product away for a month once a year is not going to dramatically affect buy rates so different methods need to be trialled. If nothing changes, then I'm afraid in terms of trebling or quadrupling buyers Vinnie Mac has got "no chance in hell".