The WWE held their annual Business Partner Summit over WrestleMania Weekend in Brooklyn, New York with as deep a look into the company’s key initiatives in the short and long-term.
The annual event features a makeup of the key corporate officers outlining their departments’ advances over the past year along with mission statements and goals for the forthcoming year.
Speakers at the events included WWE co-presidents George Barrios and Michelle Wilson, Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon-Levesque, Chief Marketing Officer & Communications officer Brian Flinn, EVP of Advanced Media Jayar Donlan, and Paul Levesque.
To call this a WWE victory lap would be an understatement, it is treated as the promotion’s unofficial Upfronts shining a light on any and all achievements and positioning the company as a global media leader.
Highlights of the 90-minute presentation included:
If there is one takeaway, this was it. It was a key element of last year’s Business Partner Summit with WWE further solidifying this as both a short-term initiative and their goal of worldwide Performance Centers, NXT satellite groups, and local stars to engage those fanbases. Of the countries that were specifically mentioned, it appears China and India are at the top of the list while also mentioning Japan and Australia.
It is interesting to look at how the company assesses its ability to create stars in a specific region. The company went all in with Jinder Mahal in 2017 and today he is no further ahead than he was prior to his enormous push. In the instances of Indian star Kavita Devi and China’s Xia Li, they trumpeted their social media following as a key indicator of their ability to connect to those fanbases.
Paul Levesque outlined the possibility of one-day having a global tournament akin to the Olympics among WWE’s international hubs and going so far as to put up a theoretical bracket.
Other initiatives in this direction include the localized versions of WWE Now they are producing using local hosts in other countries as well as the multiple languages they are making the WWE Network available in.
By the end of the presentation, this subject felt like the top priority among their list of projects.
WWE NETWORK RE-LAUNCH
Last year, Barrios and Wilson introduced “WWE Network 2.0”, which was a name they promised wouldn’t be used and wasn’t referred to as in this presentation.
With their partnership with Endeavor Streaming and Massive, this re-launch of the network has set the bar high with expectations of a service that has been the status quo since the launch in February 2014.
There were concrete items listed for the re-launch: Better search, download to go, customization & personalization, new content, and multiple tiers, more languages
The download to go feature follows the trend of other streaming platforms, such as Netflix and seems overdue for the WWE Network to incorporate. Multiple tiers are not a surprise and translate into “optional price increase” if you want to have access to premium content. The search function on the WWE Network needs serious work. It’s a system that relies on the user to know what they are looking for to track down a specific match or event. They have not installed any technology designed to keep the user on the platform by way of suggested videos (ie: watching a TLC match and having a sidebar of additional TLC matches to watch).
I’m expecting big changes to the WWE Network because there haven’t been many by way of technological improvements. It’s been a content hub for the company and it’s in need of a few coats of fresh paint.
CATERING TO DIFFERENT AGE DEMOGRAPHICS
Brian Flinn outlined their findings in studying their fanbase. They found that kids aged 6-13 are more likely to drawn into characters through role-playing and influenced by their friends. They singled out Finn Balor, Braun Strowman, and Sasha Banks when talking about these characters. They will be aggressively marketing content towards kids, understanding how popular YouTube is to that age group. This will include more WWE YouTube content specifically aimed at kids. They have also partnered with the 3D gaming platform Roblox to market towards children.
The teenage audience is driven heavily by gaming and social media, and the adult audience is broken into two subsets “Larger than Life fans” and “Action fans”.
Larger than life fans were described by Flinn as those that want great storylines, are strong with social media, like to “flex their knowledge” and be “the expert in the room” while also getting behind the story of the underdog, which they used Becky Lynch and Kofi Kingston as examples. The action fans were equated to regular sports fans who enjoy athletic matches and care about the outcome of a match.
It was also announced that a forthcoming announcement regarding a partnership with a podcast platform would be made in the coming week as WWE tries to enter that space.
Since its launch, this has been a struggling division of the company that has been changes made at the top. Last summer, Michael Luisi left his position as head of WWE Studios with the recent announcement that Susan Levison is now overseeing it.
They talked about the strategy to rely less on theatrical releases and cited the A&E Biography series they will work with, the Andre the Giant documentary on HBO last year, and in talks with Netflix, Sony, and Quibi among others while also being committed to their reality programming.
Stephanie McMahon outlined the strides made over the past three years with a 50% increase in global sponsorship and 220 clients they have in partnership with NBC Universal.
It’s been a hidden aspect of the NBC Universal relationship with the push to improve WWE’s image with the advertising community and eliminate the gap in the disparity between WWE’s television numbers and the advertising rates they attract. This push goes back to WWE’s renewal with NBC Universal in 2014.
In this speech, McMahon touted major brands like Coca-Cola, Cricket Wireless, and Skittles (through the Mars Corporation) being on board.
“The women are moonsaulting right over that glass ceiling” – George Barrios
“We are a media company, fundamentally different from 10 years ago” – Michelle Wilson
“Audiences don’t mind being marketed to or promoted to as long as it’s done in an entertaining way deepening their level of engagement” – Stephanie McMahon
“We didn’t crack the code, we wrote the code” – Barrios and Wilson
“Welcome to the evolution” – Michelle Wilson
“Listen to the fans, learn from the fans, live like a fan” – Brian Flinn
“I’m not kidding, that’s why we changed it” – Paul Levesque after referencing Fergal Devitt
“It’s exceedingly important that your community strategy aligns with your corporate values” – Stephanie McMahon