WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon has reportedly been a big steward of the connection between WWE and NBCUniversal/USA Network.
A new report by Fightful Select notes that NBCU Chairman Mark Lazarus personally invited McMahon to join him this past summer for a 1-on-1 discussion with the Paley Center for Media, which was held at the NBC Sports Studios. Furthermore, NBCU Chairman of Global Advertising & Partnerships Linda Yaccarino discussed plans for WrestleMania 38 and WrestleMania 39 while dining with McMahon in New York City recently.
It’s been reported that WWE officials have been working with reps from FOX and the USA Network in regards to top picks in the 2021 WWE Draft. Word is that USA Network sources enjoy the unique rosters that are provided by a brand split, and that the prevailing thought is that they want the split to continue. There has been a lot of talk about what network gets which Superstars, but a WWE source compared the situation to the NFL balancing all of their broadcast partners. The specific comparison drawn was that ideally, every network would want top Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, but they won’t get him every week.
We previously noted how officials at FOX weren’t exactly thrilled with NBCU’s Peacock streaming service being promoted on their WWE programming as Peacock competes with their own streaming platforms. Fightful notes that USA Network sources have expressed counter-concerns at FOX being under the impression that their platform was used to promote Peacock so heavily. A USA source pointed to the Hell In a Cell matches that both aired on FOX and USA Network surrounding the Hell In a Cell pay-per-view as a look at some of the posturing between the networks, and WWE doing their best to work with both partners.
Regarding the WWE – USA relationship, sources at USA pointed to the fact that the company’s relationships together go back to well before many of the current employees were even born, but most are very familiar with the long-term connection the two sides have.
USA sources dismissed any idea of “not caring” about the quality of WWE programming, and noted that they’re well aware of viewership trends. They also acknowledged the decline in RAW viewership. USA sources also said that the decline in viewership vs. compared to what it was at the start of the deal, when the competition hasn’t waned to that degree, is something they’d like to see addressed by WWE, starting with the consistent quality of RAW being better. The same source said there were several people at USA who grew tired of “scapegoats and shortcuts” in the two years before the COVID-19 pandemic, and they wanted that to change now that live fans have returned. Among the examples given include multiple drafts and shake-ups in the same year, turning out the lights on the third hour of the show, brand switching rules such as the quarterly Brand-To-Brand Invitational, RAW Underground, not running commercials during matches leading to re-starts, and 2 of 3 Falls matches, among other things. It should be noted that while a USA rep said they aren’t opposed to these kinds of innovations, they don’t want WWE to use them as crutches or scapegoats.
Regarding WWE NXT, Andrew Zarian of Mat Men noted to Fightful for their story that the USA Network has reportedly responded favorably to the recent NXT 2.0 revamp, and many of the changes put forward. Another USA source pointed to the increase in viewership for NXT 2.0, as well as the leap in production values being something that made people very happy. USA Network sources were also high up on the NXT 2.0 opening segment and match with Bron Breakker, the night he defeated LA Knight, the show-closing wedding of Indi Hartwell and Dexter Lumis, and the Fatal 4 Way for the vacant NXT Title, which Tommaso Ciampa won. Any idea of USA not keeping taps on NXT happenings is incorrect as sources mentioned familiarity with Ciampa.
USA Network sources are said to be “elated” with the direction of NXT 2.0. When asked if there was any concern over sponsor pushback due to the creative changes, sources noted that many of the other USA Network shows have some of the same elements that pro wrestling does, and that it should be more accepted within sports entertainment.
You can click here for a recent similar report on WWE’s relationship with FOX.
Stay tuned for more.