ESPN and the WWE


It’s seems like the WWE has developed a rather cozy relationship with ESPN (and to a smaller extent, Sports Illustrated) over the last three years or so. They’ve done multiple online and tv interviews with wrestlers, along with a couple of "30 for 30" episodes. Yet, as far as I know, ESPN has no plans to air any WWE programming on any of their channels. I know Coachman works there, but there has to be more to the relationship than that, I assume.

​It’s essentially a paid sponsorship that somehow circumvents the usual need to put "This is a paid advertisement for WWE" that you’d normally need on a serious news show, according to Dave. ​

  • Gary Wood

    I love how ESPN gets these breaking news stories when it’s good for WWE business.

    Nothing on Cody Rhodes.

    • Big D Wangston

      Everybody who cares about Cody Rhodes news passed away June 11, 2015

  • J. Frizz

    If this relationship happened 15 years ago it’d be a really, really big deal.

    Today, ESPN doesn’t hold a 20th of the power it used to hold. It’s glorified TMZ for sports. And they’re losing subscribers by the hundreds of thousands (that is not an exaggeration, check the numbers) by the month.

  • Kevin McCarthy

    Its call positioning. ESPN ratings and such are down, so they are getting in extremely good terms with WWE for Disney to make a play at Raw and Smackdown when the USA contract is up.

  • Jordan

    ESPN is also offering a fantasy league for the Bachelor. They’ve extended quite a bit into the “entertainment” part of their brand recently, probably in an effort to combat their business troubles. I wouldn’t read anything into other than ESPN trying to get a few extra eyeballs on their website.

    • Stan Ford

      This. ESPN’s hurting a bit after deciding to shift away from their previous format of a bunch of REALLY ANGRY, LOUD AND CONFIDENT ASSHOLES taking an hour at a time to deliver their OVEN FRESH HOT TAKES to you.

      They still haven’t found a new identity that’s getting any real traction, so they’re branching out to keep business steady while they figure out where to go from here.

      I’ll shit a masonry brick if ESPN ever airs actual WWE programming, like Raw, SD or even historical retrospective specials on the 80s/90s.

      ESPN72 up on channel 2043 on your channel guide is a different story.

      • Jordan

        I’m not sure the general public realizes how much trouble ESPN is actually in. The cord-cutting is destroying their business model since all the rights fees they pay were contingent on flat or moderate growth in the number of subs they have.

        According to Forbes Disney is under pressure from shareholders to divest the asset and they’ve at least sniffed around some out of the box ideas like unloading the whole thing on Netflix.

        • Stan Ford

          It makes sense.

          I mean, without live events and the original programming (like Skip & Stephen’s Stupid Shithead Hour) and the audience it brings, what else is there?

          SportsCenter has been flattening out for ages now and how many different documentaries can you make OR watch about the Music City Miracle or Douglas/Tyson?

          • Jordan

            Rumor has it the morning Sportscenter is going to be axed in favor of a Mike Greenberg hosted vehicle similar to Good Morning America.

          • Todd Wallace

            I always thought that was basically what Cold Pizza/First Take was when it was first created.

        • JLAJRC

          Basically, because all of the major sports leagues have their own channels now (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, etc), why do they need ESPN?

          • Jordan

            Those leagues all depend on the revenue generated by rights fees and ESPN paid top dollar for their NCAA, NBA, MLB and NFL packages. Essentially they were able to outbid everyone else because their revenue stream was based on subscriptions from cable and satellite subscription packages and wasn’t impacted by ratings or advertising. Little did they know that millennials would ditch cable and satellite tv in mass and crush their business model in the process.

            It’s not like they are going to default with a media conglomerate like Disney backing them, but I think you’re going to see additional bloodletting of on-air personalities and front office staff. I also think the rights fee bonanza era is coming to an end, but that’s a different discussion.

          • JLAJRC

            So if everyone is ditching cable, how are they getting their sports? None of the leagues seem eager to go online (I don’t see an online NFL Network coming soon). NFL ratings are down this year, so maybe this is going to start affecting all the leagues along with the networks.

          • Jordan

            Here’s the thing: ESPN gets paid a set fee for every single person with a cable or satellite package regardless of whether that person watches the channel or not. Last year the number of cable subscribers dropped from ~99 million to ~92 million. I think they get about $8 per subscriber across their various channels, so back of the envelope math shows a revenue decrease of $56 million last year alone. It’s irrelevant how many people “watch” sports since the universe of subscribers is shrinking. You can supplement with things like Sling, or consider an over-the-top service like HBO, but it’ll never replace the revenue they were getting. This is why so many industry people are worried about the potential end of bundling.

          • anotheraccount24get

            I believe the thinking is that sports coverage has become so highlight-driven that people can literally watch the amazing tackle/dunk/goal as a 7-second gif on Twitter, so there’s no need for anybody to actually tune into the broadcasts/subscribe to expensive cable sports packages now.

            I read this article in the paper the other day, it gives a pretty good overview of the problems and why they are coming up now:

            http://news.nationalpost.com/sports/as-youth-renounce-tv-and-subscribers-flee-from-espn-sports-cable-bubble-has-to-pop-eventually

          • Todd Wallace

            Actually their ratings are a bit more complicated than that. During the first half of the season when there was a ton of media coverage and debates and election stuff going on their ratings were struggling. However AFTER the election their ratings went up to the same average they have been. So more likely than not their ratings will float back up next year with this election cycle just dominating viewers, eyeballs and ratings in general. That and the World Series atleast took SOME of the dent out of their ratings even if game seven is the only one to actually beat the NFL I believe. Still thats pretty huge.

  • I work in PR & do this stuff for clients. Essentially, the WWE is “sponsoring” the content is associated with them, as opposed to paying for the content to appear.

    So technically, WWE is not paying Coach to interview a WWE wrestler each week – they are sponsoring a segment where Coach interviews a WWE wrestler each week. Same thing, different name. SportsCenter been doing this for ages where a company (like Dove) will sponsor a segment with an athlete or a coach.

  • If they ever did have to acknowledge it was really a paid announcement they should hire the snarky nWo voice guy to make the disclosure.

    • Derek Price

      With the grainy black & white film as well!

  • Adam Moore

    I was reading a Royal Rumble piece on there a few days ago. It had all former winners listed. For 2004, it was Eddy Guerrero. I know WWE desperately wants everyone to forget Chris Benoit ever existed, but come the fuck on.

  • Bones

    ESPN needs the money because they’re getting fucked by cord cutters and the expensive rights fees they pay.

    WWE will take/pay for any more exposure they can get while ratings are down a good deal from what they were.

  • RawisStoned

    You actually have to give John Cena a TON of credit for helping repair the WWE’s image, which was pretty much at rock bottom after the Beniot stuff. In my opinion, like him or not, Cena was the biggest reason.

    • Todd Wallace

      Meh I wouldn’t say their image was hurt all that much. Stock prices stayed the same, television ratings stayed the same, live attendance stayed the same. So if their “Image” was damaged it didn’t really matter in the first place. Who cares what your image is if it doesn’t affect business at all? Plus Cena was already two years into his superman push before this even happened. I don’t think Cena had anything to do with it. I think it was a hot news story for people like Nancy Grace, Larry King, etc but as quickly as it came it, it went right back out with virtually no affect on business. And its not like anybody viewed them as anything but trash tv at that point anyway after the Attitude era they were basically Jerry Springer where they get to fight. As far as the media was concerned. So its not like the media had this whole “oh WWE is whole some fun for the whole family” rep for them and then it turned into “they are monster murderers who roid rage”. People already thought they were trashy.

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