Digital Dealmakers: Tom Barreca

Nov 27, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The player: Tom Barreca, executive VP of WWE Digital, the new products and new distribution arm of World Wrestling Entertainment

The play: Mr. Barreca’s task is to wring revenue from the tens of thousands of hours of big-time wrestling video the company is sitting on. He has more than 90,000 hours of content to sell to cable operators, cellular carriers and online services. WWE Digital currently handles online, mobile and video-on-demand ventures for WWE. Wrestling content has been available on a subscription VOD basis since 2004 and is now on cable systems run by Insight, Mediacom, Comcast, Cox and Rogers, reaching about two-thirds of the 25-million-home VOD universe. WWE Digital offers about 75 clips each week for mobile phones and sends fresh video shorts daily to Cingular phones internationally. Mr. Barreca plans to extend the reach of WWE by inking pacts with online portals such as Google Video, Amazon and iTunes.

The pitch: Later this month, WWE plans to relaunch WWE.com as an entertainment destination as opposed to a promotional site. Web traffic has nearly doubled over the past year to about 16 million unique visitors per month. The site currently serves about 40 million to 50 million streams each month. Mr. Barreca hopes to grow that number with the launch of a new broadband player that lets users bookmark videos and create playlists. “We will present video with interstitials, tune-ins, promos,” he said. The site will also include made-for-broadband shows that range from 90 seconds to about 20 minutes.

Pros: WWE owns all of its content, which makes new product launches simple, Mr. Barreca said. “We have no encumbrances to music, to publishing, no seasonality for our linear shows,” he said. The programmer produces four shows each week for USA, Sci Fi Channel, The CW and MSG Network.

Cons: One of the biggest hurdles WWE Digital faces is common to the online video business-finding sales staff with experience selling online video. “Finding that middle ground of people who understand your product and can work with clients is challenging,” he said.

In the mix: The Web site counts about 40 to 50 advertisers, up from about 20 a year ago. Ad categories include video games, movies, DVDs, quick service restaurants and auto products suppliers.

The money guys: WWE has been a public company since 1999. For the fiscal quarter ending July 28, 2006, the company reported revenues of $93.3 million, flat compared with the same period a year ago. The cost of new ventures is marginal, Mr. Barreca said. “I don’t have to chase 27 approvals and deals with someone’s estate or some company, and I don’t have to send letters in triplicate and say, `Can we do this?’ We can turn on a dime and get stuff up on the Web in an hour.”

Backstory: Mr. Barreca, 42, was born and raised in Syracuse, N.Y. He is married with two children and lives in Connecticut. He joined the company from AMC Digital Ventures in 2003. Mr. Barreca began his career as a labor negotiator with the General Electric Co. after earning a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and an MBA from Columbia Business School.

Who knew?

Mr. Barreca works as football referee in Fairfield County, Conn., on weekends, overseeing games from the third grade to high school level. “The fall means football,” he said.