Between the fake blood and theatrics, it’s easy to forget that wrestling is big business. But World Wrestling Entertainment pulls in some $400 million a year in revenue, and with an eye to making that business even bigger — break out the steel cages and folding chairs — it’s bulking up its online video efforts.
While the WWE has offered clips from matches and other content on its site for a while, it was just in the past year that the company has turned its attention to online video. First it launched a number of online original shows, like The Dirt Sheet and Cryme Tyme. Then in October, the WWE switched its media player from the Windows Media-formatted videos being pushed out at 300 Kbps to Flash, with stream quality to 600-700 Kbps (with the occasional bump to 1.4 MB for unique content).
“We have a multifold video strategy,” said Brian Kalinowski, WWE senior vice president and general manager of digital content, “We want to make sure that what is happening on TV we can augment online.”
Kalinowski says the WWE video strategy consists of three parts: Covering what’s on TV (clips and highlights); adding to TV with the original online shows, which carry storylines and engage users in between TV episodes; and leveraging the more than 100,000 hours of footage the WWE has amassed over its history (that’s a lot of Leaping Lanny Poffo).
So far, the strategy seems to be paying off. According to Kalinowski, the WWE.com gets 16 million unique visitors a month and served up 25 million streams in November, with visitors spending 6-7 minutes on the site. As a point of comparison, the Olympics did 22 million streams over the course of two weeks.
The WWE offers HD streams sparingly at this point, just for webcasts of their pay-per-view events. “We’re looking at HD, but the key is the economics,” said Kalinowski. “Who can accept HD and actually view it?”
Though it offers live webcasts of its 14 pay-per-view events throughout the year, the WWE won’t be expanding its live-streaming to its regularly scheduled programs because of very strict contracts with its television partners.
All this video work is helping to lay the foundation for early next year, when the WWE officially launches its WWE Universe social network, which has already signed up 250,000 members. The WWE plans to expand the video options for these registered to finally allow video embeds — allowing them to piledrive their way onto the rest of the web.
Update: This article originally attributed quotes to Mike Tedsco, which was incorrect. The post has been updated with the correct contact.