If the WWE isn’t happy with the performance of their Mixed Match Challenge then they have no one to blame but themselves. According to a report from Wrestling Observer, there are key people in the company who feel like the investment hasn’t been worth the payoff.
As of writing this, WWE is averaging roughly 1.7 million views each week, but has been on a steady decline from 1.9 million in week one to 1.6 million this past Tuesday. To WWE’s credit, they have pushed big names into the mix with Sasha Banks, Finn Balor, Alexa Bliss, Naomi, and Braun Strowman all competing. They’ve also given the concept reasonable promotion time on WWE’s Raw and Smackdown Live programming.
If WWE is considering looking at this as a loss, it’s only because they failed to market the product effectively and they’ve failed to see the bigger picture in this experiment.
Who is the Mixed Match Challenge For?
Any content company should be clear on two things when they release them to the public: Why are we doing this and who are we doing this for? With MMC, it’s a little hard to answer either question. The content itself should have been marketed with the intent of reaching an audience not currently captured on TV or the WWE Network (otherwise why ask your hardcore fan base to have to give you another 25 minutes a week). The idea is that you’re bringing in new eyeballs that might be interested in watching your weekly shows and eventually becoming a subscriber (which puts them in the most loyal audience and whose lifetime value is the greatest).
WWE released a product without a real appeal to the current fan base and without a hook for the casual or completely new user. The hook of a mixed tag team match for charity is only interesting to a very small section of people and those people are likely the ones who cared in the first place. If the goal is to reach new users, then the WWE has to create content that will get the non-fan interested. Where’s the hook in it’s current format? (It should also be pointed out that hardcore fans of the product are likely to believe that Asuka or Braun Strowman are going to win MMC making it even less interesting to watch).
Facebook Should Be A Marketing Tool
It appears that WWE has fallen into a trap that so many content creators and media companies have over the last few years. There’s an instinct to treat Facebook like a destination or another arm of your business. The flawed thinking is that since Facebook has some potential for virality, and an algorithm that likely can be manipulated by the company itself, that all WWE has to do is color within the lines and the reach they want will be there.
Facebook is, at its most helpful, a marketing tool. Rather than assume it will push your content viral or create the buzz you hope to create, more and more companies are going to have to accept the fact it’s simply a place where you can reach the most people possible in a hyper-targeted way. If WWE wanted to be smart about the MMC, they would have pushed paid promotion behind it. It’s a crowded market so WWE needs to be proactive about pushing their content if they feel like the value is high for the average user.
I do believe at some point Facebook will figure out how to leverage their audience through promotions for the programming they distribute, but we’re still in the early stages with the Watch tab so companies have to be willing to push themselves.
The Reaction from WWE Is Not Unique
Fans of the WWE will notice that the company goes hot and cold on a product quickly. If they weren’t contractually obligated to produce this show, would it shock a single fan if they abandoned it completely? WWE has never seemingly valued the long game. In their weekly product they have often valued the big moment and the one night payoff over telling a story over time. But, if WWE is going to make a successful go at building a bigger audience and driving audience engagement over the long haul, they have to be willing to be patient and invest money in exposing their product for new audiences.
- WWE should focus their Facebook Watch efforts on converting casual users into loyal users.
- The product they market to a wider audience needs more mass appeal (see “Total Divas”) and they should be open to paying for that exposure.
- Building a quality business takes patience and persistence.
NOW CHECK OUT THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: IT’S JUST BUSINESS: The pros and cons of WWE moving Raw and Smackdown to either Facebook or Amazon instead of a cable network