With edgier, more mature themes and characters, as well as
a more aggressive commitment to marketing and promotion, TitanSports Inc.'s World
Wrestling Federation has recently risen from the ashes in an attempt to retake its
pay-per-view wrestling crown from the fledgling World Championship Wrestling.
After dominating the PPV-wrestling business in the late
1980s and early 1990s, the WWF lost much of its market share to WCW. With deep-pocketed
Turner Broadcasting System Inc. and Time Warner Inc. behind it, Turner was able to promote
and market WCW more effectively than the WWF for basically the same audience.
"We had to find a way to compete in a different way
because you can't compete checkbook-to-checkbook," said Vince McMahon, chairman
of the WWF. "So we had to build a better mousetrap."
The result has been a new look and new attitude for the
organization. Gone are the popcorn characters that typified the early WWF days.
They've been replaced with grittier and edgier characters and story lines.
TitanSports has capitalized on the appeal of its rebel-like
"De-Generation X" story line, featuring current champion Shawn Michaels.
"No matter how successful we've been, it was important to reinvent
ourselves," McMahon said. "We've now come back with a new attitude and
While McMahon denied that the company will employ more
violence and sexual themes,
he did say that the WWF will feature action and themes that
are common among good action-adventure movies.
"We have the right to entertain audiences as Hollywood
does and as Broadway does, so we should be allowed to use the same techniques to entertain
our fans," McMahon said. "You won't see anything that you wouldn't see
in a good Schwarzenegger film."
Nevertheless, Michael Klein, senior vice president of
programming for Viewer's Choice, said the WWF's May event will, for the first
time, carry a TV-14 rating to alert viewers of potentially mature themes.
"They are definitely using more mature themes and less
of the kiddy story lines," said Deborah Barackman, vice president of programming for
Also new is a more aggressive approach toward marketing and
promoting PPV events, McMahon said. The WWF's recent affiliation with
marketing-consultant company Team Services Inc. has already yielded a steady increase in
PPV buy-rates over the past few months.
In January, the organization reported over 350,000 buys for
its Royal Rumble PPV event, representing a 56 percent increase over last
"The WWF and Team Services are doing a much better job
with affiliate relations and marketing," said Nicole Sherman, marketing coordinator
for Harron Communications' Utica, N.Y., system. "It's easier to promote WWF
events, and my buy-rates have gone up."
"What we're witnessing is an increase in
marketing and promotion," added Klein. "The more you promote and market, the
better you're going to do."
The WWF has committed significant financial resources
toward the marketing of WrestleMania XIV, which will feature former heavyweight
champion Mike Tyson, as well as baseball great Pete Rose and Gennifer Flowers, who claims
to have had a long-term affair with President Clinton.
The WWF, through the marketing expertise of Team Services,
has provided operators with materials to create radio tie-ins, local events, newspaper ad
slicks and other marketing tactics.
The marketing plan also encouraged early orders by offering
subscribers a free WWF phone card with 10 minutes of long-distance calls, the network