Smackdown Going Live Again?

Discussion in 'SmackDown' started by Lockard 23, Dec 17, 2013.

  1. Show Spoiler
    If USA Network wants to retain its biggest hit, “Monday Night Raw,” it’s gonna have to pay.

    Next month, for the first time, WWE will shop the rights to “Raw” and all of its shows at the same time — a list of weekly series that includes Syfy’s “Friday Night SmackDown,” “Main Event” on ION Television, the CW’s “Saturday Morning Slam” and reality show “Total Divas” on E!

    The goal is to significantly increase the $139.5 million in TV licensing fees WWE earns each year for its shows, and attempt to get closer to the rich network deals that sports organizations like the NBA, NHL NASCAR, as well as soccer command.

    In the past, deals for WWE’s series were brokered individually on a staggered timeline, usually every three to four years or so. But WWE has spent nearly two years quietly lining up rights to expire simultaneously in an effort to secure higher fees and appease shareholders who have grown increasingly frustrated that the company’s TV deals are not worth more at a time when live “event” programming is more valuable than ever.

    By offering up all its shows at once, “We’re letting the marketplace determine if it’s interested in all or pieces,” says Michelle Wilson, WWE’s chief revenue and marketing officer. The company also is tackling a self-inflicted perception problem. For years, it’s touted its over-the-top characters and soap opera storylines ahead of the live aspect of the year-round action in the ring.

    “We’ve had to evolve our thinking,” Wilson says. “We are clearly entertainment-based, but if you think about the characteristics of our brand, it’s live action, and that’s sports. We want to be compensated for a live audience, since live content is getting a very significant premium in the marketplace.”

    The company cites Nascar’s impressive dealmaking this summer as an example. The racing league secured a new 10-year deal with NBC and Fox worth $820 million a year. And that increase came in the face of declining ratings for many of its races. WWE argues that “Raw” and “SmackDown” alone are just as attractive, with a rabid fanbase that’s helped build networks, and its series are diverse in ethnicity and age.

    Combined, the shows air 156 episodes a year that average a 2.2 household rating. Nascar airs 154 races and averages a 1.38 household rating among viewers, who are 92% white and over 50. WWE’s audience is far more diverse and broken out fairly evenly among age groups. A selling point is that 44% of them are under 34.

    That’s helped boost gross ratings points, something Madison Avenue keeps a close eye on. Another plus for WWE: 90% of “Raw’s” and “SmackDown’s” viewers watch the shows live or within the next day, making the shows DVR proof. (Think NBC’s latest stunt with “The Sound of Music”.)

    “The value of live content has gone from becoming important to essential,” says George Barrios, WWE’s chief strategy and financial officer. “As a network, if you don’t have live must-see content your existence comes into question.”

    To make its show more attractive, WWE is considering a live version of its two-hour “SmackDown,” which currently is taped on Tuesday before its Friday airing. To do that, costs to produce the series would increase, due to scheduling, and the show would likely need to move to a new night. But WWE would be willing to make the switch in return for a better fee for the series.

    WWE added a third hour to “Raw” last year (starting with its 1,000th episode) in an effort to expand storylines, increase exposure for its stars, but also enable USA to generate more advertising revenue after three-hour specials performed well.

    The Stamford, Conn.-based company ideally would like to partner with a conglomerate that owns a variety of channels the way NBCU currently airs many of WWE’s shows. Along with “Raw,” “SmackDown” and “Total Divas,” specials like “Tribute to the Troops” and a shortened version of its annual “WrestleMania” pay-per-view also air on NBC. WWE already has reached out to or held meetings with the expected list of players who own a variety of channels hungry for programming, including A&E, Disney, Viacom, 21st Century Fox and Discovery.

    Negotiations and bids can’t take place until Feb. 15, when NBCU accepts or rejects WWE’s final offer; other bids are due Feb. 28, with WWE set to select its media partners by March 4. Should a new deal with another conglom happen, WWE’s shows wouldn’t move to a new network until October.

    Yet even as WWE makes the rounds of media congloms, industry insiders say they believe there is no way that NBCUniversal will loosen its grip on WWE. “Monday Night Raw” is a huge contributor to USA’s bottom line and weekly ratings stats; without “Raw” on its schedule, USA Network would drop from first place to as low as No. 4 among basic entertainment networks, costing the company premium advertising dollars. Syfy would also lose a sizable audience without “SmackDown,” which has raised viewership by 35% for the network. “Divas” is a hit for E! but has perhaps has benefitted WWE more, given that it’s helped the company attract more women, which currently make up around 35% of its audience.

    The third hour of “Raw” is up 44% vs. programming that aired in the timeslot last year. “Saturday Morning Slam” is up 34% for the CW, “Main Event” is up 25% for ION and “Divas” has boosted ratings 166% for E!

    WWE’s pay-per-views, including annual juggernauts “WrestleMania” and “SummerSlam” won’t be part of the negotiations, since those will air on the company’s new subscription-based WWE Network, which will also include original series and access to the company’s VOD library. Launch plans for the channel, which WWE sees as its own NFL Network, have yet to be revealed. However, WWE maintains that it could break even on the venture if it can sign up 800,000 to 1 million subscribers willing to pay around $10 to $14 per month.

    Digital next-day rights to shows would also become part of any new licensing deal with a TV network, costing Hulu Plus the programming it currently airs. In the past, TV Everywhere wasn’t a hot topic for networks when WWE inked its current network deals.

    “Partners who pay licensing fees are now expecting to get the TV Everywhere distribution rights,” Barrios says.

    As it tries to land a better deal, WWE is ready to flex some of its marketing muscle, eager to show off how it’s been able to attract more high-profile advertisers to sponsor its PPVs and tie-in with its wrestlers, known as Superstars. Those now include General Motors, Ford Motor Co., Disney, Doritos, DreamWorks, Paramount, Kmart, Subway, Taco Bell, Colgate, Frito-Lay, Schick and Mattel — attractive to any network, since the channels are the entities that sell and earn the ad dollars. WWE controls PPV sponsorships, digital ad sales and talent appearances.

    Other revenue streams also must be taken into consideration. WWE’s social media teams also connect with millions of fans daily, while its magazine, websites, toy lines, YouTube channel (for which it produces 10 to 12 hours of original programming a year) and videogames are popular — and ratings rise for shows that feature WWE’s talent roster, including John Cena (see above), as guest stars.

    “WWE is a proven ratings juggernaut, making USA Network No. 1 for the past eight years and delivering more average viewers than every sports property, with the exception of the NFL,” said WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon in a statement to Variety. “Given the increasing demand for live, DVR-proof content, we believe the market will value our programming significantly above where we’ve been in the past.”

    Adds Wilson of the upcoming negotiations: “This is new territory we’re in. All of the things we’ve done over the last five years have helped raise the profile of our brand and there’s recognition from the marketplace of what we deliver. Now it’s up to the marketplace to tell us if we’re worth it.”

    - Variety

    A whole bunch of boring stuff about them negotiating TV deals and whatnot. I bolded and underlined the most interesting part, which is the prospect of taking Smackdown live again and even airing it on a different night (continuing to tape it on Tuesdays and airing it live that same night sounds fine to me.) Any thoughts about this? It might indeed be the first step to putting the effort into making the show feel worthy of watching again. I honestly forget (and I'm not joking here) that SD is even on most Fridays.
  2. Heard this myself today its an interesting idea. I kinda hope RAW gets cut to two hours as well during these negotiations.

    Live Smackdown I would probs watch on the assumption the quality of the program would improve to ensure ratings.
  3. Fascinating stuff, Lockard. Seriously. No sarcasm.

    The issue is as us NFL fans know, wrestling and sports are still completely different. Going live just doesn't mean much, imo. It didn't help TNA's ratings any, helped the production a little bit... but for the most part the show feels the same live as it does if you watch it later (arguably better since you get to cut out ads, thanks @Big Hoss Rambler, you're the best) while watching a NHL/Nascar/All those other examples event just doesn't feel nearly the same if you watch it taped.

    The one good thing is getting rid of all the canned heat, but that's just an internet fan complaint that doesn't mean much.
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  4. I've rarely been able to watch Smackdown on Friday because I'm usually busy, or I just simply forget about it, but from the parts I've seen recently it was pretty good. If they went through with making the show live, and aired the show on an earlier day I'd probably watch it more.
  5. I wouldn't mind if Smackdown went live. Perhaps the storylines and matches would be more intriguing if they went live. Also, I think it could give the midcard titles more importance if it's live and the audience could take more interest in what's happening outside of the WWE Championship.
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  6. like that's going to change anything.....
  7. Yeah, SD going live isn't really going to change much as far as show quality goes, or at least not necessarily. If they keep putting Raw leftovers, Raw recaps and even resort to old footage to fill time instead of actually developing different storylines, focusing on the midcard or something, it's still going to suck. But perhaps going live is going to force them to actually improve the show's quality, and in this case it'd be a good thing.
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  8. I agree that going live won't really impact the ratings. I could also refer to the Attitude Era and point out how the show's ratings improved then while it was still a taped show. I guess I'm jumping the gun a bit with expecting that a live show will increase the quality of the show (which is funny since I remember criticizing a similar notion last year when people thought Raw going three hours was gonna magically make the show more must-see) but on a personal level though, the show just feels more exciting when it's live. Bischoff once described the need to take Nitro live because he didn't believe you could create the spontaneous feeling that something big could happen at any moment in a taped environment, and I agree with him.

    I also change my mind about Tuesdays being a good night for it. I think Wednesday or Thursday (it's original time slot) are better days of the week. I wouldn't really want Raw and SD to air back-to-back and Fridays is just a boring day of the week IMO to watch a wrestling show for some reason.
  9. ^Totally agree on your sentiments with the Tuesday night issue. Raw and Smackdown back to back doesn't exactly pique our interest, but they understand their demographics more than we do. Maybe they're big in the "single guys" demographic, and therefore the Friday Nights work for them (plus there seems to be fewer big shows on against it) Can't see Wednesday night being good because of all the Bible Belt watchers (like people watch wrestling and go to church, but still). I'd love to see them on Thursday because a head to head Smackdown vs Impact battle would be fun to see, but not the probably not the best thing to do for business.

    As for the live vs taped, that probably just isn't something I can argue with you about... but with the IWC growing, the spoilers become a bigger issue.
  10. I'd like it to go live. I'd also like RAW to go back to two hours, so that storylines could progress on both shows. I don't care if they never go back to having two rosters, I just kind of want a reason to watch SmackDown again.
  11. I'd still rather see it live than taped, that's just me. I think that whole article was interesting, I'd like to see WWE on an even bigger stage even if I don't watch as much.
  12. I have it on good authority that WWE will drop their third hour of Raw sometime in the next year.
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  13. I wouldn't mind the live show. I might actually pay attention to it then since I wouldn't read the spoilers and ignore it. I think it would be better if it was on Wednesdays though, personally would be better for me if it was on Tuesdays due to not working, but for business I say put it on Wednesdays. Of course increasing the interest of the product, and maybe revolving the show around the Intercontinental and tag team divisions would make the product more interesting. It would also give it purpose aside from being Raw recap fridays.
  14. The only thing that will change is more advertising of the wwe app due to the fact they will be able to run voting polls for matches. :/
  15. Making SD live wont make it feel any less like Raw Jr.
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  16. Well duh, but at least it won't be like this anymore:

  17. Agree with Kevin. A live show just feels better, regardless of whether the actual product will improve. Do I think SmackDown will improve though? The optimistic side of me thinks it just might.
  18. Bleacher report had an article about how they can improve Smackdown. One idea that I liked was to have a title that only gets defended on Smackdown, not RAW or on PPVs. It could be a lower-card title defended every couple of weeks. Maybe they could use the US title, I don't know.
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  19. :yes:

    Best news I've heard since joining this site.
  20. If they go live on Tuesdays they need to go back to 3 hours. Being that there is no way that happens I prefer live on Thursdays. Doing 3 on Monday and then 2 on Tuesday would be extreme over kill.