WWE Names Dan Ventrelle EVP, Talent; Maurice Edelson EVP, Chief Legal Officer

The post-Vince McMahon era continues with more executive changes at World Wrestling Entertainment. The company Sept. 8 announced that Dan Ventrelle will join WWE as EVP of talent, and Maurice Edelson will join as EVP, chief legal officer.

Ventrelle was most recently with the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders, where he served as the team’s president. An integral part of the Raiders’ move from Oakland, Calif., to Las Vegas and the opening of the Allegiant Stadium, Ventrelle oversaw all business operations for the team, while also serving as lead negotiator for player and coach contracts and as the primary liaison with the NFL. He began his tenure with the Raiders as an attorney in 2004 before expanding into broader business roles.

Dan Ventrelle

Ventrelle holds a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School and a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame.

As EVP of talent, Ventrelle will oversee the company’s talent department and report to chief content officer Paul Levesque.

“Working with Dan during SummerSlam at Allegiant Stadium last year, we were impressed by his expertise across a number of business and personnel areas,” Levesque said in a statement.

Maurice Edelson

Edelson brings to WWE nearly 25 years of legal and business experience within the media, arts and entertainment industries. He joins the company from The Juilliard School, where he had served as general counsel since 2015. Previously, Edelson was EVP and general counsel of Time Inc., where he also directed corporate strategy and mergers and acquisitions during his 16-year tenure. Edelson has also held roles at Time Warner and Viacom. He began his law career at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, after receiving his J.D. from Columbia Law School, his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and his B.A. from Vassar College.

Edelson will report to chairwoman and co-CEO Stephanie McMahon.

“Maurice brings to WWE a tremendous legal and business acumen within the media, arts and entertainment sectors,” said McMahon in a statement. “We look forward to his contributions to the organization.”

WWE Elevates Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque to Chief Content Officer, Frank Riddick Promoted to CFO

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) continues to restructure internally following the sudden resignation of founder and CEO Vince McMahon in July.

The media company Sept. 6 announced the promotions of former wrestler Paul “Triple H” Levesque to chief content officer and Frank Riddick to president and CFO.

Levesque taking over creative for WWE has coincided with a 15% spike in “Monday Night Raw” viewership and double-digit increases in social media engagement, according to the company. As chief content officer, Levesque will oversee creative writing, talent relations, live events, talent development and creative services. He will report to co-CEO Nick Khan. Levesque is married to WWE chairwoman/co-CEO Stephanie McMahon.

Riddick joined WWE as interim CFO last year, after serving on the company’s board of directors for more than 13 years. During that time, WWE recorded annual and quarterly records for revenue and adjusted pre-tax earnings, according to the company. In his new role, Riddick will oversee financial planning and analysis, strategy, controllership, investor relations, tax, data analytics, technology, event travel and facilities. He will jointly report to Stephanie McMahon and Khan.

“We are excited to announce expanded roles for Paul and Frank, which will enhance WWE’s ability to create premium content for our partners around the world and, ultimately, drive our business forward,” McMahon and Khan said in a statement.

Vince McMahon had temporarily stepped down from his leadership position earlier this year following allegations he had paid millions to former female employees to suppress sexual misconduct and infidelity charges.

The WWE later disclosed in a regulatory filing that McMahon had made payments totaling $14.6 million to women from 2006 through 2022. As a result, the WWE said it would be revising fiscal statements for 2019, 2020, 2021 and the first quarter of 2022.

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WWE Founder/Chairman/CEO Vince McMahon Retires, Daughter Stephanie McMahon and Nick Khan Assume Co-CEO Positions

Vince McMahon, founder and CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, has formally retired after more than 40 years. His daughter Stephanie McMahon and Nick Khan have been named co-CEOs of the venerable professional wrestling promotional company.

The elder and married McMahon had temporarily stepped down from his leadership position following allegations he had paid millions to former female employees to suppress sexual misconduct and infidelity charges.

The WWE July 25 disclosed in a regulatory filing that McMahon made payments totaling $14.6 million to women from 2006 through 2022. As a result, the WWE said it would be revising its fiscal statements for 2019, 2020, 2021 and the first quarter of 2022.

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“As I approach 77 years old, I feel it’s time for me to retire as chairman and CEO of WWE,” McMahon said in a statement. “I would like to thank my family for mightily contributing to our success, and I would also like to thank all of our past and present Superstars and employees for their dedication and passion for our brand. Most importantly, I would like to thank our fans for allowing us into your homes every week and being your choice of entertainment.”

WWE, which broadcasts its content in more than 180 countries and 30 languages, recently licensed its WWE Network streaming platform to NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming platform, in a reported $1 billion deal for five years.

Stephanie McMahon Named Interim CEO of WWE as Board Investigates Her Father, Vince McMahon, for Alleged Misconduct

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and its board of directors June 17 announced that a special committee of the board is conducting an investigation into alleged misconduct by its chairman/CEO Vincent McMahon and John Laurinaitis, head of talent relations.

Effective immediately, McMahon has voluntarily stepped back from his responsibilities until the conclusion of the investigation. McMahon will retain his role and responsibilities related to WWE’s creative content during this period. WWE said McMahon will still appear on “SmackDown” tonight at 8 p.m. ET live on Fox.

The special committee has appointed longtime WWE executive Stephanie McMahon, daughter of Linda and Vince McMahon, to serve as interim CEO and interim chairwoman.

The move comes after media reports said a former WWE female employee was paid an alleged $3 million hush settlement to cover up an affair with Mr. McMahon.

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“I have pledged my complete cooperation to the investigation by the special committee, and I will do everything possible to support the investigation. I have also pledged to accept the findings and outcome of the investigation, whatever they are,” Mr. McMahon said in a statement.

In a statement, Stephanie McMahon said she was committed to working with the independent directors to strengthen the culture and WWE.

“It is extremely important to me that we have a safe and collaborative workplace,” she said. “I have committed to doing everything in my power to help the special committee complete its work, including marshaling the cooperation of the entire company to assist in the completion of the investigation and to implement its findings.”

In addition, the special committee and WWE will work with an independent third-party to conduct a comprehensive review of the company’s compliance program, HR function and overall culture.

In 2021, NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming platform acquired exclusive rights to the WWE Network in a five-year deal worth a reported $1 billion.

Peacock to Stream First WWE Original Series ‘WWE Evil,’ Hosted by John Cena, March 24

Peacock announced that its first WWE original series “WWE Evil” will begin streaming exclusively on the service March 24.

Created and hosted by John Cena, the eight-part docuseries is the latest expansion of WWE programming on Peacock, and the first-ever original from WWE Studios. It takes a look at the most diabolical antagonists in WWE history.

“As Peacock continues to expand its WWE programming, we are thrilled to bring the new original series ‘WWE Evil’ to the platform, working with the one and only John Cena,” Benny Reuven, VP of entertainment unscripted content at NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, said in a statement. “There is no one better to take viewers into the minds of WWE’s fiercest villains than Cena himself. We can’t wait for WWE fans to devour this series.”

Each one-hour episode dives into a single infamous heel, including each villain’s history, their key rivalries and career defining moments. Villains include “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan, The Miz, Sasha Banks, the Brothers of Destruction, Randy Orton, Stephanie McMahon, Ric Flair and Roman Reigns.

“WWE Evil” was created by executive producer John Cena.

Peacock is the exclusive streaming home in the United States for WWE, offering fans catalog content in addition to premium live events.

CES Panel: Opportunity Abounds With Entertainment-Related NFTs

Some of the hot terms at CES 2022 are crypto, blockchain and NFTs (non-fungible tokens or one-of-a-kind digital assets).

In the entertainment space, NFTs are digital collectibles stored on a blockchain that can be everything from artwork to GIFs to social experiences to video content such as movies.

Speakers Jan. 5 on the “Creator Economy in the Context of Crypto” panel at CES discussed the opportunities in the space.

“From a Fox perspective, we see this as the future of media, a future form of content distribution,” said Scott Greenberg, CEO of Blockchain Creative Labs. The business and creative unit was launched last year by Fox Entertainment and its animation arm Bento Box Entertainment (“Bob’s Burgers,” “The Great North”) to provide content creators, IP owners and advertising partners end-to-end blockchain computer ecosystem solutions to build, launch, manage and sell NFT content and experiences, and fungible tokens, as well as digital goods and assets. Blockchain Creative Labs launched NFTs with Fox’s popular show “The Masked Singer.”

Scott Greenberg

“We’re also looking at launching TV shows this way,” he said, noting the upcoming launch of “Krapopolis,” created by Dan Harmon (“Rick and Morty”), will be the first ever animated series curated entirely on the blockchain. The series will have a dedicated marketplace that will curate and sell digital goods, ranging from NFTs of one-of-a-kind character and background art and GIFs to tokens that provide exclusive social experiences to engage and reward superfans.

Scott Zanghellini

Also on the panel was Scott Zanghellini, head of new revenue at WWE, which has partnered with Blockchain Creative Labs. Last April, WWE launched its first NFT with drops (releases of unique digital products) around its star The Undertaker. WWE followed up this summer with a drop for star John Cena. He noted that the WWE knows what its fans like via engagement at events, on social media, on YouTube and at other contact points.

“In terms of … putting out NFTs, we also know what the fan wants,” he said.

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Zanghellini said the WWE is looking to use its talent, its “super sauce,” to educate consumers who may not be as sophisticated or familiar with NFTs as early adopters.

“We can have the superstars of WWE explain to their fans, the way John Madden explained football … how to buy an NFT, how to engage, why it’s a value,” Greenberg added.

Blockchain Creative Labs is looking at a wide range of distribution models.

“We think there’s a huge opportunity for television shows and movies to be financed and distributed using Web 3 and the blockchain,” he said.

Lionsgate Releasing ‘Biography: WWE Legends’ on DVD Sept. 21

Lionsgate will release the eight-part A&E Network documentary series “Biography: WWE Legends” in two volumes on DVD Sept. 21.

Helmed by some of the industry’s top directors and storytellers, the docuseries gives fans the ultimate ringside seat to the real-life stories behind the showbiz acrobatics, smack talk and larger-than-life alter-egos of several legends of professional wrestling. These collections pull back the curtain on the twists, turns and triumphs on the paths to fame and icon status for these WWE Legends.

Biography: WWE Legends Vol. 1 focuses on “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, “Macho Man” Randy Savage and “Booker T.” Biography: WWE Legends Vol. 2 presents profiles of Shawn Michaels, Ultimate Warrior, Mick Foley, and Bret “Hitman” Hart. The separate DVD sets are listed with an SRP of $19.98 each.

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WWE Partners with Discovery to Stream Pro Wrestling in Italy

WWE and Discovery June 24 announced a new multiyear agreement in Italy beginning July 1 that will make WWE’s weekly flagship programming available exclusively live and on-demand with original U.S. commentary on DPlay Plus, Discovery’s SVOD platform, along with versions featuring Italian commentary on DMAX (Channel 52).

Every week, Dplay Plus will air “Monday Night Raw” and “Friday Night SmackDown” live. NXT will be available on-demand via Dplay Plus every Thursday morning.

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WWE fans can also watch with Italian commentary by Luca Franchini and Michele Posa on Discovery’s free-to-air channel, DMAX. A two-hour version of Raw will premiere on Mondays starting July 13; SmackDown will air on Tuesdays and re-run on Sundays; NXT will air on Saturdays and re-run on Sundays.

“We are thrilled to embark on a new chapter for WWE in Italy as we bring our unique blend of action-packed, family-friendly sports entertainment to Discovery’s free-to-air and premium channels,” Stefan Kastenmüller, SVP, GM, WWE, said in a statement. “We are excited that our relationship with Discovery is enhancing the fan experience in Italy with both primetime and family-friendly timeslots.”

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Alessandro Araimo, managing director of Discovery Italy, said WWE has “conquered a very wide audience” and “we are confident that our channels and platforms can help to further expand the very large Italian fanbase.”

Raw, SmackDown and NXT with Italian commentary will also be available on-demand via Dplay. WWE’s two weekly recap series, “Bottom Line” and “Afterburn,” will be available with original commentary from Dplay Plus.

The agreement with WWE will make the Dplay Plus premium content offer even more exclusive with the platform subscription price unchanged at 3.99 euros ($4.50) per month.

WWE’s monthly pay-per-view events, including WrestleMania and SummerSlam, will stream exclusively on WWE Network in Italy.

WWE Q1 Surprise: Home Entertainment Revenue Surges

Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) reported $62.5 million in “other” media revenue for the first quarter (ended March 31) — a category that includes disc sales. That compared to $9.4 million in revenue during the previous-year period. The revenue surge was largely due to the favorable timing of the company’s large-scale international event “Super ShowDown,” in addition to theatrical and direct-to-home video DVDs sold at Walmart, Target, Best Buy and other big-box retailers.

Separately, WWE Network, the company’s subscription streaming video platform, saw average paid subscribers decrease 8% to about 1.46 million, consistent with company’s guidance. McMahon and senior management are attempting to restructure the $9.99 monthly SVOD, including expanding distribution internationally.

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McMahon said the quarter’s financial performance was largely unimpacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, but added the situation could change going forward.

“We are in the midst of unprecedented times, which require us to be especially nimble, creative and efficient in order to ensure the long-term value of WWE,” McMahon said in a statement.

Indeed, the executive earlier this month permanently shuttered his pet pro football project, the XFL, for the second time with no plans to bring the league back in 2021. Featuring former college football players and NFL rejects, the XFL lasted halfway through a 10-game season before being shut down due to concerns about COVID-19.

The WWE also relocated its annual Wrestlemania event, slated for late March, to its Orlando training center, holding matches without any crowds.

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Interim CFO Frank Riddick said that ongoing uncertainties of the potential impacts of COVID-19 on the business have resulted in reduced employee, talent and other costs and delayed approximately $140 million in capital spending related to the WWE’s new headquarters.

“This was done to strengthen our financial performance going forward and to ensure we have the resources necessary to execute our value creation strategy,” Riddick said.

Sony Pictures, WWE Partner for India Distribution

Sony Pictures Networks India Private Ltd. and WWE March 31 announced a five-year extension with an expanded broadcast/streaming agreement.

The deal will deliver WWE’s weekly flagship programming and localized content in India and the Indian subcontinent, making SPN the exclusive home to WWE in-ring content across its television and digital platforms.

After China, India, with more than 1.35 billion people, has a bigger population than the next five most populous nations — the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan and Nigeria — combined.

That’s why Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and, now, Sony Pictures and WWE, all place India high on their SVOD distribution lists.

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As part of the agreement, SPN will have the rights to air “Raw,” “SmackDown,” “NXT” as well as WWE pay-per-view specials live on its sports and digital platforms in English, Hindi and regional languages.

The expanded partnership also provides SPN the rights to WWE Network, which hosts thousands of hours of content to be made available to audiences in India through SonyLIV, SPN’s over-the-top video platform.

SPN will curate content from WWE’s extensive video library, which includes live events, classic matches, interviews with Legends, reality shows and documentaries, among other content, on its own platforms.

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“WWE has been consistently ranking in the top three properties across all sports networks in India, dominating the sports entertainment space,” Rajesh Kaul, head sports and chief revenue officer distribution at Sony Pictures Networks India, said in a statement.

James Rosenstock, EVP of WWE International, says India remains a strategically important market for WWE, adding that locally based SPN has been an “extraordinary” partner in helping to grow the pro wrestling fanbase in the region.

“The partnership gives our passionate fans new opportunities to engage with the WWE brand,” Rosenstock said

WWE is one of the most-watched sports properties in India, and India ranks #No. 1 for WWE YouTube consumption and No. 1 in WWE Facebook followers, according to the company.

While there remains a shutdown on live performance events, WWE has been actively recruiting Indian athletes and performers. Last year, WWE hosted its largest tryout in history, where more than 70 top athletes from India showcased their abilities in Mumbai. Four Indian recruits were selected to begin training at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Fla.