Vince McMahon is putting his own money — in addition to his mouth — behind an effort to drive new and returning viewers to WWE’s Monday Night Raw on USA Network.
McMahon, the WWE chairman, last week kicked off a $1 million a week watch-and-win promotion, with the money coming from his own pocket.
To qualify, wrestling fans must register in advance of the telecasts at WWE.com.
Fans already watching appear to be responding. After McMahon teased the promotion on the June 2 USA Network telecast of Monday Night Raw, contest facilitator ePrize saw 300,000 registrations in the 15 subsequent hours, said ePrize executive vice president and general counsel Gabe Karp.
McMahon staged a press conference at the Staples Center here on June 3 that was populated by fans alerted by WWE on the Internet. He said he’d continue the stunt “as long as I like.”
The giveaway could be to one fan per telecast, or to four winners of $250,000. Viewers will have to tune in to see how he will disseminate the money, he said, and be near their phones when he calls out during the live telecasts.
USA’s executive vice president of marketing and digital brand media Chris McCumber said the promotion — plus the recent debut of new USA series In Plain Sight — provides a powerful one-two punch for the cable network.
USA traditionally takes advantage of the summer months, when broadcast series finish up, to debut new product. The network is moving ahead of the promotion now, although McCumber notes the contest will face stiff competition from the NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics.
“When [McMahon] called us [with the promotion], we said 'We’re 100% behind you,’ ” McCumber said of someone else’s plans to spend money promoting a USA series.
USA will support the promotion with the “biggest asset we own: USA’s own airtime,” he added, as well as with spots on other NBC Universal cable and broadcast networks. USA also plans to reach out via the Internet, though McCumber did not get specific, and will help McMahon get booked on entertainment shows.
McMahon said he’s counting on some free promotion. “I think the world media will be interested in a crazy millionaire giving away $1 million,” he said.
The promotion was announced a week after Monday Night Raw earned the lowest rating of the year, a 2.9 rating on May 26. By comparison, the show’s highest rating was a 4.0 on Feb. 18. McCumber said the series is still strong in the key 25-to-54-year-old demographic, and that numbers for that segment are stronger than they were at this time a year ago.
EPrize, which has conducted interactive promotions from such companies as Subway sandwich shops and Sony, boosted server capacity for this contest, allowing for up to a million registrants per hour.
“We expect this to [generate] the largest registration in interactive history,” Karp said.
By June 2, it had already generated 1,000 page views per second. That’s 14 times more traffic than any of the 4,000 promotions ePrize has facilitated in the past, he added.