Hype (or, more accurately, over-hype) is an integral part of the business of professional wrestling. Perhaps a nod to its carnival roots, the overzealous promotion of the next top talent, important card, or story development is the lifeblood of the industry.
So, when the WWE proclaimed a few weeks ago that a “major” announcement would “change the WWE forever,” you can forgive me if my expectations were, uh, measured.
But the announcement delivered exactly what was promised. And then some.
Technology has already fundamentally transformed the music industry in less than a generation, technology is in the process of quietly killing the movie industry (or at least the movie theater industry), and technology’s revolutionary impact on the television industry is inevitable.
It’s that latter point that has caused me to wonder for the past several years what the next “version” of television is going to look like. It is a foregone conclusion that TV is about to change on a fundamental level. But what will that change look like? What will rise from the ashes of the broadcast / cable model that has existed in some form since the 1970s?
Last week may have provided our first glimpse of it.
My argument has been that television as we know it will cease to exist inside of a decade or so. Why? Because instant, on-demand content is now a cultural expectation of the generation that will make up the bulk of the core entertainment demo for the foreseeable future.
The internet, DVR, and Netflix have all conspired to alter the desires of consumers irrevocably, such that antiquated notions like “lead-ins,” “network cross-overs,” or even “commercials” start to seem obsolete.
The exception to that rule is live television. Live events (particularly sports programming) still command large audiences. Those audiences don’t have the ability to fast-forward through advertising so long as they’re watching live. As such, my contention for the last several years has been that everything that isn’t news or live programming will shift to an on-demand model, and all that will remain for traditional television would be live programming.
What I didn’t know was who would be the first network or entity to commit fully to such a model. To do so would require a loyal fanbase that would be dedicated enough to accept programming in a new format, probably via a new delivery system.
It turns out that trailblazer will be World Wrestling Entertainment.