×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

WWE, NBCU Team Up To Grapple With Madison Avenue

NBCUniversal and WWE are tag-teaming, in a sense, to get a tighter hold on advertising dollars.

WWE programs  like “Raw” and  “SmackDown” have run on NBCU’s USA for about a decade and on Syfy for a little under five years. Yet during that time, NBCU supervised the sales of TV advertising around the two properties while WWE handled a lot of digital and social marketing, as well as the task of linking marketers to events and its popular wrestlers like John Cena or Brock Lesnar. More often than not, executives said, those efforts took place separately. In 2015, the two promise to take on all comers with a broader marketing plan.

“It really is a significant strategic shift in how we are going to market,” said Michelle Wilson, WWE’s chief marketing and revenue officer, during an interview held in WWE’s headquarters in Stamford, Conn. The two companies renewed a TV deal in 2014 that keeps “Raw,” “SmackDown” and the reality series “Total Divas” on NBCU outlets in exchange for about $200 million in annual licensing fees for the next several years.

In the first marketing pact made under the new arrangement, Viacom’s Paramount has signed up with NBCU and WWE to promote its new “Terminator: Genisys” film, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, starting in the WWE’s annual “WrestleMania” event in March and on NBCU and in WWE properties through the movie’s July release. In “WrestleMania,” wrestler Triple H (actually Paul Levesque, WWE’s executive vice president of talent), will make a grand entrance using imagery from the movie, and video outtakes from “WrestleMania” will be released digitally and socially in service of promoting the release, said Wilson.

“They get ad units, and they get integration in ‘Raw’ and ‘SmackDown,’ pulsing it from now until the film release,” she said. “I don’t think we would have gotten a deal like this done without this new collaboration, this new strategy.”

NBCU and WWE move closer together just as Madison Avenue is starting to focus more intently on the annual upfront market, when U.S. TV networks try to sell the bulk of their ad inventory for the coming year. NBCUniversal has in the last few years placed more of an emphasis on getting advertisers to buy a greater amount of commercial inventory across the company’s portfolio, not just at a single broadcast of cable network. Getting better access to ad packages around WWE properties could lend the media company an edge as negotiations begin to heat up.

Other media and entertainment outlets are making similar maneuvers. 21st Century Fox has placed all its general-entertainment cable outlets under a single ad-sales executive, and Viacom is now selling all its properties save BET under one ad-sales proposition.

WWE will continue to supervise sales on WWE.com and on the company’s over-the-top network and NBC will run TV ad sales, said Dan Lovinger, an executive vice president at NBCU who oversees ad sales for NBC, USA, Syfy and WWE content,  but advertisers don’t want to feel as if they have to cobble together a package by doing multiple negotiations, say, for TV commercials and a tie-in with a particular personality.

“They want to talk about the brand and hear about the depth of what we have to offer,” Lovinger explained. “In order to do that, we need a cohesive voice.”

The WWE properties may take on greater luster as TV networks find new power in live events and sports-themed content. The three-hour live “Raw” and the two-hour live-to-tape “SmackDown” are largely watched live, WWE executives said. “Raw” brings in an average weekly audience of around 4.5 million, while “SmackDown” draws an average of just under 3 million, according to the company.

NBCU and WWE will burnish four “tentpole” efforts that aim to provide advertisers something they can align their pitches with each quarter: a monthlong build-up to the WWE’s annual “WrestleMania” event; the “Slammys” award program, which will move from the fourth quarter to the first quarter to be more a part of awards season; a focus on fathers; and a theme centered on young fans.

The two sides said WWE events traditionally bring in advertising from movie studios, makers of videogames, fast-food chains and some marketers of consumer-packaged goods. WWE’s Wilson wants to do more with auto marketers, as well as makers of consumer electronics and mobile devices.

The companies also want to lure more advertisers seeking a broad family audience. NBCU has produced a WWE promo that is slated to debut Monday and will air on two broadcast networks, 17 cable networks and more than 50 digital outlets as well as on WWE-owned properties. The vignette will not only show WWE stars in action but highlight many of their charitable works. “It’s a big part of what we do,” said Wilson. “We need to tell the world that we are not just ‘rasslin.'”

More TV

  • The-Daily-Show-With-Trevor-Noah

    Viacom Inks Deal With FuboTV Streaming Service

    Viacom reached a distribution deal with FuboTV, which will soon add an array of the conglomerate’s networks — including Comedy Central, BET, MTV and Nickelodeon — to its live TV internet streaming service. Viacom is now on four “virtual pay-TV” platforms: Dish Network’s Sling TV, AT&T’s DirecTV Now, Philo and FuboTV. Viacom remains absent from [...]

  • Weather Channel Taps NBCUniversal, Nexstar Alum

    Weather Channel Taps NBCUniversal, Nexstar Alum Tom O'Brien as President

    Byron Allen has turned to NBCUniversal and Nexstar alum Tom O’Brien to serve as president of the Weather Channel, the cable stalwart that Allen’s Entertainment Studios acquired for $300 million last March. O’Brien replaces Dave Shull, who left the company in October after serving as president-CEO of the Atlanta-based company since 2016. O’Brien will oversee [...]

  • George Stephanopoulos

    ABC News Renews George Stephanopoulos for 4-Year Deal

    ABC News has signed its chief anchor, George Stephanopoulos, to a new four-year deal  believed to be valued at between $15 million to $17 million a year, ensuring he will stay at the Walt Disney-owned news outlet well beyond the 2020 election. A person familiar with the matter confirmed a report on the New York [...]

  • Isabela Moner Marcel Ruiz Rosa Salazar

    Variety Announces 10 Latinxs to Watch 2019

    Variety has announced this year’s 10 Latinxs to Watch, and has also selected the Miami Film Festival as a partner for the annual celebration of promising talent in the Latino community that will include a panel and film screenings. This year’s honorees are Isabela Moner (“Dora the Explorer”), Rosa Salazar (“Alita: Battle Angel,” “Bird Box”), [...]

  • This Giant Beast That Is the

    TV Review: 'This Giant Beast That Is the Global Economy'

    “This Giant Beast That Is the Global Economy” auditions its audience with its title — a double-barreled burst of affectation that one will either find promisingly offbeat or reaching a bit too hard to impress. The Amazon docuseries, hosted by Kal Penn but defined by the voice of executive producer Adam McKay, is likely to [...]

  • New Regency Launches U.K.-Based International TV

    New Regency Launches International TV Division With Scott Free Alum Ed Rubin

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” co-producer New Regency has launched a London-based international TV division, recruiting former Scott Free exec Ed Rubin to run the new operation and hiring Emma Broughton from The Ink Factory (“The Night Manager”) as head of scripted. New Regency produced “The Revenant,” “12 Years a Slave” and “Birdman.” It recently opened up shop [...]

  • Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney of

    Chris Stapleton, Dan + Shay, Kacey Musgraves Top ACM Awards Nominations

    Chris Stapleton and Dan +Shay emerged as the top nominees as the contenders for the 2019 Academy of Country Music Awards were announced Wednesday, with six nods each. Kacey Musgraves followed closely behind with five, and Dierks Bentley, Brothers Osborne, Florida Georgia Line and Bebe Rexha all claimed four nominations apiece. The ACMs telecast takes [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content