With more of its viewers holding a smartphone or tablet during broadcasts of its shows, WWE is the latest producer to chase viewers to the second screen as it tries to keep audiences engaged with its programming.
But in launching “WWE Active” as part of the main WWE app two months ago, the company has developed a powerful new tool to connect with its core fanbase, giving them a voice in its weekly shows while providing them with new content.
Since bowing in December, “WWE Active,” customized for episodes of “Monday Night Raw,” on USA Network, “SmackDown,” on Syfy, and “WWE Main Event,” on Ion Television, has delivered the continuation of live matches, backstage content, live polls, photos, trivia and exclusive information on the company’s wrestlers.
Users can also order tickets to local events, watch and purchase pay-per-views and buy merchandise from the WWEShop.com, turning the app into a source of revenue for the company.
But WWE is also eager to use the app as a tool to give its very vocal fanbase a voice — especially as 80% of viewers hold a mobile device while watching TV, it believes.
“WWE Active” enables viewers to determine which match will take place during its three-hour “Raw” through voting.
“The votes are critical,” said Perkins Miller, executive VP of digital media and former chief operating officer of Universal Sports Network. “They invite our fans to participate. Our fans want to interact. They want to help change the outcome.”
Company recently used the app to let viewers vote for winners of its 2012 “Slammy Awards,” that aired on USA Network in December.
Episode generated the second biggest single day of downloads for the WWE app since its launch with more than 151,000 downloads, helping the company tally more than 583,000 “Slammy” votes. To date, the primary WWE app has been downloaded more than 3.5 million times in 215 countries four months after its launch.
In addition to the votes, streaming live video through the app “enables our fans to stay completely connected to the show and stay glued to the couch throughout our commercial breaks through the entire show,” Miller said. “It’s a really powerful tool to sustain a rating.”
But WWE stresses, it’s not using the second screen just to collect more advertising dollars.
“It’s our business to produce content,” Miller said. “We live and breath this all day long so being able offer it was easy. We have created a parallel plan for the second screen that’s tied to the storylines in the show. Everything that airs has a second screen storyline.”
In order to launch the app, WWE had to deal with the technical issues come with a slew of devices on the market. Company developed a synchronized platform to deal with smartphones and tablets that operate on Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android devices, for example.
“It took six weeks of testing before we felt comfortable it would work in real time,” Miller said.
WWE plans to expand the app through its PPV events, streaming English and Spanish language feeds of April’s “WrestleMania XXIX,” in New Jersey, which it already offered with the “TLC” PPV last month.
It also wants to add more social elements to the software, and make sure the commerce experience is more seamless, Miller said. “You can do that today, but you’ll be able to do it more tomorrow,” he said.
He also foresees being able to earn points for playing games while watching broadcasts, or even enabling sponsors to have a place in the app. In order to do that, though, “it has to be the right experience,” Miller said. “If it’s done well, it’s a good opportunity.”
The point is for WWE to continue engaging with the 120 million people it already connects with through various social media platforms.
WWE chief Vince McMahon “is so content-focused, he’s even said that the content on the second screen can be as good as you can see on television,” Miller said.