SBD/Issue 235/Sports Media

King Of The Ring: McMahon Looking To Launch WWE Cable Network

McMahon Wants To Launch
Channel In Next Two Years
WWE Chair Vince McMahon indicated that the organization "wants to start its own cable network," according to Joe Flint of the L.A. TIMES. McMahon said that he "wants to launch the channel within the next two years and that he will pitch it as a network for a basic tier." Though this "may not seem like the most ideal time to try to get a network off the ground," WWE has a "pretty strong track record that cable and satellite operators will find hard to ignore." WWE does manage to "attract a big audience," as "Monday Night Raw" on USA Network averages 5.5 million viewers each week and "all of the WWE's shows on broadcast and cable combined average 16 million viewers per week." McMahon noted that he has "no plans to take 'Raw' off USA or move any of his other properties." McMahon: "It's good for "Raw' to be on USA." But he added, "Having your own network allows you a lot of leverage" (LATIMES.com, 8/24). In N.Y., Peter Lauria notes WWE's "programming strategy is expected to hew closely to that of other single sport-specific channels like the NFL Network, Golf Channel or Tennis Channel, in which the main events from those sports are typically licensed to other networks" (N.Y. POST, 8/25).

BETTER WITH AGE? The L.A. TIMES' Flint reported McMahon now is "hawking a kinder, gentler, wrestling show." Gone is "much of the sexual innuendo, over-the-top trash talk, blood-spattering bouts and scantily clad female wrestlers that fueled the WWE's 'Attitude Era' of 10 years ago when the company was locked in a death match" with Ted Turner's World Championship Wrestling, which McMahon eventually acquired. While the new direction has "generated a certain measure of controversy," the strategy has "proven effective." After toning down the content, McMahon "went to his network partners and asked them to reconsider the ratings assigned to the show." As a result, the "milder programming, which now usually garners a TV-PG rating from WWE's TV partners, has cleared the way for more blue-chip advertisers to come aboard, including Pepsico, AT&T and Procter & Gamble" (L.A. TIMES, 8/24).

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