Stephanie McMahon Talks WWE Network Criticism, How Much Twitter Guidance WWE Gives Talents, More

Mar 24, 2015 - by Marc Middleton

– Stephanie McMahon recently spoke with FastCompany.com to promote WWE’s WrestleMania 31. Below are some highlights:

I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but I read somewhere that your TV character has the hardest, meanest slap in the business. What’s the secret to doling out a good slap?

[Laughs] I’m aware that there is a perception about the strength of my slap. But let me just say, [WWE diva] Brie Bella can certainly give it back. It’s just all in the technique. I can’t give away my secret.

On an episode of Raw in January, you and your husband (WWE superstar Triple H) were caught on social media breaking character to console a young fan who started crying ringside. It was a powerful moment, I think. The story was picked up as this heartwarming thing by the media, eventually making it all the way to Good Morning America. What was going on in your mind when you made the decision to break character?

It’s not an unusual thing in terms of the little reactions that happens with fans ringside. There are any number of times that I’ll wink at somebody who’s really special in the crowd, or I’ll squeeze their hand as I walk by.

What happened was my husband was in character having a conversation with this little boy. He got scared and he started to cry. We felt so bad that we both just went right over to him. It was real quick and it wasn’t part of the show. But I think that WWE superstars and divas, the way we engage with our fans is to make them feel great about our show and to entertain them. When there’s a little kid in the audience who needs a little extra attention, we’re happy to give it.

I love that your Twitter bio says you play a bad guy on TV, because the WWE is now this crazy multi-platform thing: There’s the website, all the athletes on Twitter, Instagram. How much guidance does WWE give its athletes with it comes to navigating their own social accounts? How much leeway are they typically afforded?

It’s really important that our superstars and divas use media in their own voice. They need to be authentic and real. We offer them guidelines—anything you put out on social media, you should assume it has the reach of a national television program. My number one rule that I think is important for everyone is don’t drink and tweet.

Obviously, Raw and Smackdown are still ratings monsters. But the WWE Network (the company’s subscription-based platform that launched in 2014), has drawn its share of criticism for reportedly underperforming. Where can the WWE grow next?

We established the WWE Network because our fans wanted it. We evaluated a number of different models, and when we found that our fans consume five times the U.S. average of digital video content, we realized that there was a significant opportunity in the direct to consumer space. So we created the WWE Network.

We reached over a million subscribers in just 11 months after our launch. That’s a significant achievement. We actually became the fastest digital subscription service. In terms of our fans who watch the network, we constantly do research because we listen to our fanbase. We have a 90% satisfaction rate on the WWE Network. They are enjoying the content.

What they were not happy about, and what we listened to, was the six-month [subscription] commitment. Many of them cited that as a barrier to entry for them. So we changed that model. Now it’s $9.99 a month, cancel anytime.

It’s important to give our fans what they want. Given our subscriber base now, I would say that has been very successful.

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