The formal rebranding of World Wrestling Entertainment into simply WWE, reported here five days ago by my colleague David Bixenspan, was made official today in a press release by the company about the name change. The renaming isn't merely a superficial whim, but marks an aggressive, ambitious and risky change in their business strategy, wanting to expand their entertainment enterprises, while continuing to cultivate their core wrestling revenue streams:
Two key components to WWE’s brand expansion will be the active pursuit to acquire entertainment content companies and the outsourcing of WWE’s core competencies – television and film production, live event production and licensing. As part of the new business model, the company will also focus on the development of new television products including scripted, non-scripted and animated programs, as well as the launch of a new WWE network in the next 12-18 months.
Wanting to make sure that everyone knows that WWE is not just some lowly rasslin' promotion anymore, a mistake that TV Week sadly made recently when they reported that WWE had a Pro Wrestling Hall Of Fame, an ad campaign entitled "Bigger, Badder, Better" is being started to push these brand changes. To allow Vince McMahon to concentrate on these entertainment aspirations, Triple H, obviously aided by his wife Stephanie, is being given more power on the wrestling side of things, as he's been put in charge of a new talent development department:
In addition to focusing on the expansion of the company, the company will bolster its core business with the launch a new talent development department headed by Paul "Triple H®" Levesque. The new department will put a greater emphasis on worldwide recruitment, training and character development to identify future WWE Superstars and Divas. The first recruit acquired under Levesque’s new department was the signing last month of future WWE Superstar, Sin Cara™, formerly known worldwide as Mistico.
Vince McMahon promoted the WWE makeover in a rare media interview with the LA Times. From the article we can deduce that these changes are motivated by Vince wanting to get people to think more positively about his company and that he's willing to take on a ton of debt to acquire the right companies. He says he has learnt from his past high profile failures like the XFL and the restaurant in Times Square deciding to stick to what he knows best the entertainment business (yes he did say that), yet his bullish arrogance was still on display:
No one does television production better than we do, it's damn near the Olympics. We know more about live event touring than anyone in the United States.
Given that his film division has been far from a roaring success, maybe Vince McMahon is setting himself up for another embarrassing fall. In an ominous sign a major WWE stockholder is already questioning Vince's vanity venture away from his bread and butter business:
"I think that the most important thing right now is the return of the health of the core business," said Jay Kaplan, portfolio manager for Royce & Associates, which holds about 9% of WWE stock. "One of the market's big concerns is are they losing market share to real fighting," Kaplan added, referring to mixed martial arts and ultimate fighting.
Speaking of Ultimate Fighting, I'm sure Dana White will be looking on with interest at how Vince fares with his entertainment expansion, given that he's attempting an even more aggressive global expansion of his sport around the world and also has ambitions of owning his own UFC TV network. The success and failure of these expansions over the next few years will help determine who ends up remembered as the better promoter, Vince or Dana. Even as a wrestling fan, my money is on Dana, because he actually does stick to what he knows best.