More Than One Net Shift for WWE

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As it geared up for the ring return of its Raw franchise to USA Network tonight [Oct. 3] from Spike TV, World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. was busy last week buttressing its stable of distribution platforms.

Starting Sept. 30, WWE began offering two series that had been distributed by Spike TV on a free video-on-demand basis. It also pinned a subscription VOD pact with Verizon Communications Inc.’s FiOS TV.

Spike’s WWE Sunday Night Heat series, as well as its Saturday-night WWE Velocity show, are now being offered weekly on Fridays and Saturdays, respectively, via the grappling group’s Web site (www.wwe.com), according to WWE senior vice president of interactive media Chris Chambers.

Along with original matches, each show will also have unique content that’s never been seen before on the programs.

Spike’s carriage agreement for the two series, as well as WWE Monday Night Raw, expired at the end of the month.

As for Raw, Chambers said the Web site will stream a free, exclusive 30-minute pre-show event from inside the arena prior to USA’s telecasts. The site will also provide a live community chat during Raw airings, where fans can discuss the show.

Further, the Web site will pick up Raw’s feed during USA’s commercial breaks. “If there’s a match that’s interrupted for a commercial break, it’ll still be going on the Web site, or we could just take shots of the fans to see who has the craziest sign,” Chambers said. “We want it to be more interactive and get to the point where our technologies are working together.”

The Heat and Velocity additions, along with the Raw enhancements, figure to draw more users to the WWE’s already popular Web site, which Chambers said generates more than 30 million video streams per month.

Along with Web-exclusive interviews and shows like Byte This!, the site also distributes the company’s live monthly pay-per-view events simultaneously with their TV distribution.

As for the deal with FiOS, WWE 24/7, the group’s SVOD service, is now available in Keller, Texas, where the regional Bell operating company launched its video service last month. The companies said the SVOD package will also be available in future FiOS TV markets.

Meanwhile, Spike’s five-year TV partnership with WWE ended with a whimper and a few on-air edits.

The Sept. 26 Spike finale of Monday Night Raw averaged a 3.19 household rating, according to Nielsen Media Research data, slightly above the skein’s 3.0 year-to-date mark. But the show only drew 4 million viewers, the 11th-lowest mark for Raw on Spike, according to the network.

On-air, Spike rebuffed WWE president Vince McMahon’s attempt to promote the franchise’s television migration. After praising its relationship with Spike, McMahon began to say, “Next week, Monday Night Raw returns,” at which point the network muted his speech before he could say, “to USA Network.” Spike eventually let a few USA references slip through during the show.

A Spike executive would only say, “We had a good five years with the WWE and we wish them well.”

USA was scheduled to come out of the gate with a three-hour live show tonight.

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