WWE Preps Switch to HD

May 17, 2007  •  Post A Comment

World Wrestling Entertainment, which produces “RAW,” “Smackdown!” and “ECW,” announced it plans to produce the weekly shows in high definition beginning some time in 2008.
WWE has been testing HD for a while, but it delayed switching to the format due to production costs and technical issues, company chairman Vince McMahon said at an investors meeting last week.
The company also wanted to mesh its introduction of HD with high-def projects by its broadcast and cable partners. Now that The CW is already broadcasting a significant amount of programming in high-def, and USA is planning to launch an HD channel before the end of 2007, the timing seems right, he said.
“With new technology, you don’t want to lag behind, but you also don’t want to be too far ahead,” said WWE’s Gary Davis, vice president of corporate communications. “There are always costs to new technologies, so we wanted to make sure it is a good investment.”
With an increasing number of networks and programming being offered in HD, WWE becomes one of many to experiment in the emerging market.
However, HD programming might not immediately benefit WWE’s fan base, said Bruce Leichtman, principal and president of Leichtman Research.
Unlike some offerings that appeal to an upscale HD audience, WWE has more of a downscale appeal, Mr. Leichtman said. As a result, its viewers are less likely to own HD sets.
He also doesn’t believe that the majority of current HDTV owners will suddenly begin watching WWE programming simply because the picture quality is better.
“Either you watch it or you don’t,” he said. “As HD sets become more mainstream, this programming will be there for the already existing audience.”
The WWE countered that logic, saying its fans include doctors, lawyers and accountants as well as construction workers. Research cited by WWE indicates typical viewers are actually more likely to purchase an HDTV than the average U.S. adult, Mr. Davis said.

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