WWE is poised for a massive management shakeup as longtime executives George Barrios and Michelle Wilson have been forced out of their roles as co-presidents and from the company’s board of directors.
Frank A. Riddick III, who has been a WWE board member for 11 years, has been named interim Chief Financial Officer, reporting to WWE chairman & CEO Vince McMahon. WWE said it would begin a search for a permanent Chief Financial Officer and Chief Revenue Officer.
McMahon said the shakeup was sparked by conflicting strategic visions for the company. WWE has seen its stock price fall sharply in recent months amid concerns about soft ratings for its flagship TV shows and rising competition from upstart wrestling organizations like All Elite Wrestling (AEW) on TNT.
“I would like to thank George and Michelle for their 10-plus years of service and contributions to the organization,” said McMahon. “I am grateful for all that was accomplished during their tenure, but the Board and I decided a change was necessary as we have different views on how best to achieve our strategic priorities moving forward.”
A Variety analysis in July 2019 found that ratings for WWE’s two main shows — “Monday Night Raw” and “SmackDown Live” — had fallen around 20% each compared to the beginning of 2018, although “Raw” remains one of cable’s top shows. “SmackDown” moved to Friday nights on Fox in October 2019, the beginning of a five-year deal between the network and the sports entertainment brand valued at $1 billion. The show doubled its audience in adults 18-49 in the Nielsen Live+Same Day ratings on its initial outing on the broadcaster compared to its last airing on USA Network. That first Fox show featured a special appearance by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and a championship match between Kofi Kingston and Brock Lesnar. Since then, the show’s ratings have fallen in line with where they were on cable, with the most recent episode earning a 0.7 rating and 2.5 million viewers over its two-hour broadcast.
WWE also currently operates WWE Network, a standalone streaming service with a vast library of wrestling content and original programming. NXT, which serves as WWE’s developmental brand, previously aired on WWE Network before the company moved the show to Wednesday nights on USA in September, just weeks ahead of the launch of AEW on TNT at the beginning of October. Another analysis conducted at the beginning of January found that AEW’s Wednesday night show, “Dynamite,” currently enjoys a solid ratings edge over NXT in both Live+Same Day and delayed viewing.
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