ESPN and WWE are expanding their relationship with a new weekly “top five moments” segment that will air on Tuesday night’s episode of SportsCenter at 9 PM ET. The expanded partnership was introduced this past Tuesday night with Jonathan Coachman interviewing WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins in a segment we recapped at this link.
Critics — especially sports fans that have no interest in professional wrestling — will be quick to dismiss WWE as scripted entertainment and will likely brush aside the fact the very name ESPN was originally an acronym for Entertainment and Sports Programming Network. Professional wrestling has always had ties to sports and while 9 out of 10 people know WWE is scripted entertainment compared to a legitimate sporting event, most appreciate the coverage.
In our initial coverage of the WWE-ESPN expanded partnership announcement, we noted how BleacherReport.com, owned by Turner, has covered WWE for as long as they’ve owned the property. WWE and ESPN will both look to benefit from this expanded partnership, with B/R proving there is interest from sports fans in WWE.
WWE’s viewership numbers are lagging this fall to all-time low levels for their flagship program of Monday Night Raw and ESPN is seeing their own struggles in declining subscriber numbers and dipping ad revenue. This is a way to help WWE gain more mainstream exposure for their product, while also providing wrestling fans that watch ESPN with something they’ve wanted for years.
As of my personal thoughts, I believe the partnership is win-win as long as it is done the right way. The only thing I didn’t like about Coachman’s initial segment was the “play-by-play” of John Cena vs. Dolph Ziggler because I think it's silly to pretend matches are a shoot, however, the ESPN banter intertwined with the WWE product was fun.
ESPN will look to utilize WWE to increase interest to their network and web properties, while WWE will look to bring back lapsed fans and maybe even make some new ones. If you find the partnership offensive, you should probably lighten up and understand at its core, sports is all about entertainment.
The question that now stands to be answered is -- how far will the partnership go? Will ESPN look to get more involved, possibly covering promotions outside of WWE or will they develop studio shows meant to provide analysis for WWE events? Will WrestlingNewsWorld.com be asked to participate in one of these shows? It will be interesting to follow but we're having a hard time seeing anything negative about it.