Eric Bischoff tells wrestling journalist All Elite Wrestling should focus on streaming; OTT, not television

Eric Bischoff tells wrestling journalist All Elite Wrestling should focus on streaming; OTT, not television - March 2019


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by Greg Tingle

Eric Bischoff has been one of the most polarizing figures in professional wrestling for two decades. Love him or hate him, he is the man who largely lead the late WCW (World Championship Wrestling) to victory in what became known as the 'Monday Night Wars' (which is available for streaming on the WWE Network)!

The wrestling and producer mastermind spoke with Wrestlezone’s Kevin Kellam ahead of his live appearance at C2E2 After Dark in Chicago.

Bischoff went on to join Tony Schiavone and Conrad Thompson on stage for ‘C2E2 After Dark Presents: What Happened in 83 Weeks’.

Bischoff spoke about how the wrestling industry and landscape has changed over the past number of months, saying he can see the similarities in All Elite Wrestling and when he took over WCW before the Monday Night Wars. He advised here are more opportunities for AEW to succeed than there might have been a few years ago, however their success doesn’t necessarily depend on a television contract.

Eric Bischoff:

“It really is. As all of the stuff was happening, WWE signing their deal with FOX and USA, that was a major, billion dollar licensing deal, crazy stuff. When I read about AEW and the Khan family investing $100 million over the course of three years to build this company, I went ‘wow, that does sound familiar.’

It’s so exciting, it’s fun to watch. It’s very satisfying to me to see a genre, an industry, a business like professional wrestling—which is kind of a weird, little world unto itself—to see it grow and be successful and continue for generations of fans, it’s so exciting. For a company like AEW to come along and take advantage of all of the opportunities that technology provides today—streaming—even five years ago, if somebody came to me and said ‘I’ve got $100 million and I want to get into the wrestling business. How do I do it?’ The first thing you would have to do is find a home on an established, competitive cable outlet. Today that is not the case. Today with the access to and the affordability of great quality streaming, you don’t need a television platform. There are other ways to get your product out there into the global marketplace that don’t require television. In fact, I would probably say to somebody that is investing in any form of entertainment today to pursue anything other than traditional television. Television, in my opinion, five years from now, we won’t recognize it. It’ll be like the ‘Blockbuster’ video stores of entertainment. It’ll still be here, but you won’t recognize it.”

When quizzed what he would do if you're All Elite Wrestling at present Bischoff said he would move focus towards creating a new streaming platform for the company, and not focus on television. Bischoff pointed to cable television's decline and streaming’s rise, saying cable networks could ruin a promotion’s chances by dropping them at any time, but an OTT service will provide more stability.

Eric Bischoff:

“I would seriously think about building my own streaming platform. I’d go the OTT route, similar to what WWE has done with the WWE Network. I would program my own over-the-top network and not be dependent on a cable outlet, because those relationships come and go, they evolve, they have a shelf life. You might build your entire company and brand and do a great job of it, but at some point you’ve got a network executive saying ‘yeah… we don’t really want to do this anymore. We want to do that instead.’ It has nothing to do with the success or the failure of the product that you put on the network, but if a network decides that they are going to change their brand—they want to become a comedy network instead of a male sports network—you’re out of business. And rather than be dependent on that relationship with a television network or outlet, I would want to be in control of my own destiny and I would build my own streaming platform.”

Media Man:

Eric Bischoff does make some valid points. I worked in, sold and promoted subscriber television, including PPV's in Australia, for 5 years. This was from 1996 when pay television enjoyed what I call its "glory days" in the Australian market. I headed up the Optus PPV retention section with a group I started: Pay Per View Liaison (Boxing, Wrestling and Concerts, as well as Ethic Channel upselling and retention). I was part of the peak, and I also know first hand why people ala customers, started to turn off, churn, and head to the internet in droves. As far as wrestling on the internet way back when, WWE actually had a product entitled WWF 24/7, but in many ways it was ahead of its time. Data was still fairly expensive and speeds were variable. Fast forward to the present.... I have WWE Network and also watch a considerable amount of wrestling (sports entertainment) via YouTube and Facebook. I used to have Stan but I canned it, after getting mixed customer service and programming, and I also enquired about potentially working for Stan, but that went nowhere, so I became further disillusioned by the Stan operation. I then got Netflix which I've had for over a year. I recently had a break from Netflix, as I don't have enough time for streaming to justify it at present. When Netflix Australian NZ didn't get any more GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling) after waiting so many months for the new season, that was a trigger point to pull the pin for the time-being (but we will be back). We also have Kayo Sports (from Fox Sports Australia) for a few months, but as I expected, I don't have the spare time to justify keeping it on for a minimum of $25 a month (which is a fair price). We've kept WWE Network on for a few years now, and are very happy with its service. I don't watch much regular (digital) television, and hardly ever watch DVD's or Blu-Ray. That's part of my viewing story, so with that in mind, Mr Bishoff makes a valid point. I am still watching wrestling / sports entertainment (niche programming), and its via a streaming service. So, perhaps AEW would do well to get on Netflix, Paramount Network or even Stan (for Australia), or even start their own, riding off some technology platform, and rebranding it AEW Streaming, or whatever other name the powers that be want to run with.

Steaming or Television? - it depends upon the deal. Streaming is everywhere, thanks to the internet, and its always available / on. Television is a traditional medium with decades of being established, but the world has changed. Most Australians and Americans have smartphones, with YouTube, Facebook and a multitude of apps and so on attached. Streaming in many ways is the right area to focus on. If a television station / network offered the right deal - the right contact and dollars, that will be up to the AEW powers that be to make the decision. It's a positive for AWE and other wrestling promotions, as well as all content providers, that there are a range of platforms available these days, rather than to be restricted to a handful of network or subscriber / cable television options. AEW has the power and the upper hand. When the deal and offer is right, pounce and get AWE to the masses... AEW.. what the world will be watching!



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