Eric Bischoffs New Entire Blog – Great Read

by on 1st August 2008

Or am I?

It’s almost hard to remember what life was like before cell phones and pda’s. One has to look far and wide to find a pay phone, as the proliferation of the cell phone and the fast paced evolution of digital technology make them almost obsolete.

Remember the mid-70’s? Back then I launched my first real business, and the hot technology at the time was a one-way pager. This little diddy promised the businessperson on the move more freedom as one could travel around town while staying “in-touch” with the office.

The problem was that being “in-touch” meant that anytime that pager went off, more often than not you had to pull off the road, or leave a meeting or whatever else your new found freedom allowed you to do outside the office, and find a pay-phone to call the person paging you. As time went on and the newness wore off, I found myself leaving my pager in my office and going back to checking in to the office when it was convenient for ME. That was freedom!

Fast-forward a couple of years (1983 for me) and the first mobile phones were made widely available (notice I didn’t say affordable?). Mine was an 18-pound beauty from Radio Shack. It looked just like the mobile radios that the infantry used to use on the front lines in WWII. The only difference was that my version didn’t have a hand crank to charge the batteries. Free at last!

But not really.

At $2.00 a minute, it wasn’t long before I realized that I could not afford this cost of freedom. Not to mention, that I was paying upwards of $1,000.00 per month to make it easy for other people to call me whenever THEY wanted. WTF?

Then the 90’s change the world forever. The Internet, laptops, truly affordable cell phone technology. Life was getting good when it came to the ease of communication.

As we close out the last half of 2008, Blackberry can provide instant email messaging directly to your hip pocket anywhere in the civilized world. 12 year-old kids can text message each other on their cell phones at a rate that would impress a court reporter. I just watched a commercial for a new pda device that provides its users the “freedom” of its vast digital network.

And I have 68 un-read messages on my Blackberry since I checked it last night (at 11:28pm.It’s now 9:15am). Now I’m not complaining. It’s nice to be wanted. I know the feeling when no ones calling/e-mailing and texting for information. Not good.

But as people become more reliant on pda’s, I’ve noticed that emails are getting longer and longer. What was once a convenience is quickly becoming a real pain in the ass when someone on the other end decides to send a message via email has more words than the Magna Carta. Increasingly, I find myself reading/responding to urgent emails (according to the sender) while I’m walking, eating, driving (I know), trying to watch a movie, and sometimes even more awkward moments.

So for those of you that have my Blackberry address…if it’s more than: yes/no/maybe or f-off, call me.

I’d much rather talk to you!

Now on to the wrestling stuff: Two hot topics seem to be in the wrestling universe: WWE going with a PG rating across the board, and the casting of Mike Adamle in the G.M role on RAW. Being that I have significant first hand experience in both of these subjects, I will take a whack at sharing my thoughts here.

First, the PG rating strategy. WWE is a television company. No one reading this blog will find himself or herself enlightened by this statement. Without a meaningful television platform, WWE would dry up and blow away. Fast. Pay-Per-Views, (a substantial percentage of the companies revenues) would disappear. Live events, arena merchandise, and licensing would follow shortly thereafter. Without a substantial television platform, wrestling, as we know it would be dead in very short order. This isn’t earth shattering inside knowledge.

But now replace the word “television” with “advertising”. Because without a profitable advertising schedule within a given program, networks cancel said program. This means that WWE, and more accurately, USA Network are in the advertising business. Last I heard USA Network controls the inventory of the commercial schedule within WWE programming. That means their ad sales people are out in an extremely competitive market place, trying to sell the ratings and demos delivered by WWE.

Admittedly, I do not have access to current WWE rating and demo information, but while WWE delivers substantial ratings against the 18-49 male demo, advertisers don’t pay top dollars for them (referred to as cpms or “cost per thousands”). The reason? The 18-49 male demo is easily reached by so many other programs, that the value of that demo in the market place is reduced as a result of a kind of supply and demand.

Kids (6-11) and women…..now that’s another story!

From what I remember, WWE delivers some pretty significant numbers in the kids/women demo. But advertisers are reluctant to spend dollars targeted towards this demo inside of programming with a rating that warns parents about letting their children watch it.

By changing the rating to PG in WWE programming, my guess is that it will be easier for USA Network ad sales to maximize its efforts selling against the ratings that WWE programming provides.

Healthier ad sales, makes a happier network and a healthier WWE. But there is a down side.

If history repeats itself as it so often does, a move to a PG rating and the content restrictions that will manifest as a result, will, in my opinion, reduce the over all ratings. Go back and look at what WWF was delivering in terms of content and ratings in the early 90s before NITRO forced WWF to abandon their “family entertainment” strategy and adapt the “Attitude” strategy. 18-49 year old men who are looking for the “Nitro Moments” or “Attitude Era” rush are going to get a softer, kinder, gentler and more cartoonish presentation.

In the hardcover edition of my book, there is a section that begins on page 288 entitled “The Beginning of the End”. I go into some detail regarding the decision by Turner ad sales (who had complete control of WCW’s advertising) in August of 98, to take a product that was dominating cable in the 18-49 male demo, and make it “family friendly” so they could sell to women and children.

For those of you who think I am predicting the end of WWE, you’re mistaken. Things are much different now than they were when NITRO and RAW were battling it out for audience, talent, arenas and advertisers. With no competition, the audience will not simply change a channel and shift loyalty. But cable television is much more fragmented now than it was in 98. If the core audience (which is still 18-49 men) loses interest in the product as a result of an ad sales strategy that forces creative to soften up the product to which the audience is accustomed, the gross number (total people watching) will drop over time.

And if that happens, ppv, live events, merchandising etc will be impacted.

OK. Now, to the casting of Mike Adamle as the new RAW G.M.: I have never met Adamle. Truth is I have not tuned into WWE programming in such a long time that I can’t comment on his performance as a play by play announcer (which in my opinion is one of the toughest jobs in professional wrestling) and he certainly hasn’t been in the role of G.M. long enough for anyone to get too emotional about this one way or the other.

I do know that the role of G.M. is a tough one.

When I “joined the nWo” in 1996 and used my real life position as the head of WCW to create the evil boss character (which Vince McMahon did AFTER seeing the impact of my character on NITRO) I had already been in an on-camera role for almost 7 or 8 years. The majority of the audience knew that I really was the head of the company and the transition into the “Evil Eric” nWo character had a good foundation as a result. The same was true for Vince when he followed my lead and played into the same basic character on RAW.

Adamle doesn’t have that advantage. He has only been in the business long enough for his coffee to get cold, and based on what I’m hearing, the “heat” that he may have isn’t the kind of heat that one can build a character around.

I wish Mike well. Even though I don’t know him, it takes a set of stones to step into a situation like he is in.

Have to respect him for that.

Thanks to Eric Bischoff

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