WWE unveils social networking site

Venture already has over 200,000 members

World Wrestling Entertainment has gotten into the social-networking biz.

Company has launched WWE Universe, an online destination for its millions of fans to gather and discuss all things related to its weekly TV shows, pay-per-view events and athletes.

WWE has quietly tested the venture since April and has already signed up more than 200,000 members without spending any coin on advertising.

Site’s seen as a way to keep WWE fans in one place and capitalize on it, rather than watch them click onto, say, MySpace, Facebook or YouTube.

The company will be able to collect more revenue from online ads and merchandise sales. It also creates a community to which it can promote upcoming projects, including its slate of films that start rolling out early next year, beginning with the Renny Harlin-helmed actioner “12 Rounds,” starring John Cena.

WWE Universe includes the requisite profile pages, message boards, discussion groups, live chats and blogs but also includes active participation by more than 80 of the company’s high-profile wrestlers.

Site attracts mostly men 18-35. But it’s also proved popular among women, who account for 40% of its members.

“People are looking less for a passive experience and more for an interactive experience,” said Brian Kalinowski, WWE general manager of digital media.

Company also found that its audience wanted more video and less focus on text.

“They want more interaction with talent and richer media,” Kalinowski said. “We’ll be making the transition to a site that’s more image- and video-heavy.”

As part of that effort, WWE.com launched an enhanced video player last month that already has boosted viewership of original programming by 77% and increased ad impressions by 95% through pre-roll ads that play in front of content.

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