September 27, 2005

I have several examples I'm going to post today of some interesting things relating to branding and promotion. The first comes with the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment)'s switch from Spike TV to USA. For those who don't know, which may be all of you, WWE was on USA network from the early 1980s on and grew up with the cable industry in a lot of ways.

Five years ago, Viacom gave the WWE a better deal, so they switched their show to TNN, once The Nashville Network and then The National Network.

Eventually, the executives decided that, with RAW as their highest-rated show, they should focus their whole network around the young male demographic, so they created Spike TV.

The WWE's deal was recently up, though, and they had soured somewhat on Spike, so they are now returning "home" to USA.

This Monday's live RAW broadcast was the final one on Spike TV. WWE has been promoting next week's homecoming show for several weeks but have not mentioned that it would be on the USA Network. This being the last, week, though, WWE decided to formally announce that they were moving to USA.

Vince McMahon, the WWE's owner, came out at the beginning of the program and said that the WWE and Spike TV had been good tag team partners and had grown up together and thanked them for their time together but that it was time to go home. At that point, Spike TV cut RAW's audio feed.

An infuriated McMahon had his announcers go off on Spike TV in subtle jabs throughout the night, slipping in several references to USA, with Spike trying to mute the audio at every chance it got.

Starting next week, Spike TV will counter USA's RAW with UFC and another wrestling group called TNA. But I thought Monday night's show was a surreal battle between content producers and the network and shows the power Spike TV believed even mentioning the other network would have.