Vince McMahon’s latest scandals jeopardize WWE’s media expansion

That former WWE CEO and Chairman Vince McMahon faces his biggest test since the feds indicted him on conspiracy to distribute steroids in the early 1990s is undeniable.

McMahon has announced his retirement after temporarily stepping down from two of his top three roles (he is also responsible for creating WWE) following a scandal broke by the Wall Street Journal, which revealed that he had a sexual relationship with a WWE paralegal and later paid him an NDA of $3 million.

The WSJ found that this was just the latest in a series of NDAs related to sexual behavior. McMahon had previously taken time off from his role as Chairman and CEO, with his daughter Stephanie McMahon stepping in on an interim basis after recently taking time off as Chief Brand Officer, with that role being added to WWE Chairman Nick’s office. Khan.

Since joining WWE in 2020, Khan has used his connections to the entertainment industry to significantly expand WWE’s presence on television and streaming. The rights to WWE Network went to Peacock in the United States in 2021, with Disney+ Hotstar in Indonesia, the first international sale of those rights in January 2022. The Peacock deal also included rights to new exclusive shows, the first being “WWE Evil”, which also aired in the United States.

WWE has significantly strengthened its partnership with A+E Networks, which began in 2019 with the commissioning of eight “Biography” specials on WWE legends, which in 2021 became A&E’s most-watched series. .

Things grew in 2020 with the commissioning of “WWE’s Most Wanted Treasures”, also launching in 2021. 2022 saw this deal grow, with the two companies teaming up for 130 hours of new programming across the two rated series as well as another new brand extension. in “WWE Rivals”.

Then there’s Netflix. Khan announced on the Q3 2020 earnings call that WWE and Netflix are teaming up on a multi-part documentary about Vince McMahon that would be one of the streamer’s most expensive documentaries.

This was followed in 2021 by two on-air product placement deals with Netflix: when “Army of the Dead” zombies attacked wrestlers at a special event; and a mini-scenario featuring elements of “Red Notice”.

All of this has led to an increase in media revenue in recent years. Yet this is now under threat due to recent revelations. Netflix is ​​rumored to have dropped its McMahon documentary, which was in post-production, and effectively canceled millions of dollars in investment. It’s unclear at this time if this will impact future product placements or ties to Netflix Originals, but smart money would at least be temporarily discontinued.

The final season of “WWE Biography” on A&E Network premiered two days after the latest WSJ revelations. Just like season 1, the first episode focused on one of the star stars of the late 90s, but saw a massive drop in viewership, with total viewership down -45% and the 18-49 demo down -63%. In all honesty, it was a summer start versus an April for the first season, but the numbers won’t go unnoticed on the network.

Netflix’s reaction may cause consternation among top WWE officials, as streaming replay rights for “WWE Raw” and “WWE Smackdown” expire this year. Aside from Netflix, it’s unclear how other media companies, especially those with existing relationships with WWE, will react to McMahon maintaining a firm hand at the helm even though he’s no longer chairman- general director.

This is due to two reasons. One is that by retaining his role as chief creative officer — a role VIP+ questioned its suitability for — McMahon continues to shape the overall direction of the weekly television product, and therefore the business.

The second is the extent of the voting power held by McMahon, with about four out of five votes in his hands. Even among the most powerful positions in the company, he is still able to determine the key decisions she makes.

Reporters working on the story for the WSJ recently said they were continuing to investigate and believed there was more to find out. McMahon’s behavior has already jeopardized WWE’s high profile relationship with Netflix.

With the possibility of further revelations emerging and sponsors and media partners being forced into action, the pressure was on him to make a clean break from the company in terms of day-to-day roles.

Given his recent appearances on WWE programming and his choice to continue as creative helm, McMahon was likely forced out of the top positions at a company he rose from. a regional wrestling company to a world power (he remains the main shareholder, however). But times have changed, and while he was once able to outrun the feds, it may be a scandal Vince McMahon is unable to dodge.

Note: This comment was updated July 22 to reflect his retirement announcement.