You’re Rupert Murdoch. You have $53 billion, more or less, in your pocket after selling off most of 21st Century Fox to Disney (pending government approval, yeah right). What’s a lad to do with all that money?
Let me digress for a minute.
Over my career there were three occasions when I almost got involved in what many of you who read my stuff know is one of my passions: professional wrestling. All occurred when I was at NBC.
I was in audience research in 1985, when Dick Ebersol made a deal with the World Wrestling Federation to carry Saturday late-night wrestling on weeks when “Saturday Night Live” would take a break. I got to know the head of syndication for the WWF. He would call to discuss the ratings, and we developed a friendship. When he was leaving the company, he called and offered me his job. I would have taken it but for the traveling, as the Masked Daughter had just been born.
A year or so later, I was approached by Turner about a creative job on the West Coast. I met with Brad Siegel and said I would consider it if part of my responsibility was overseeing World Championship Wrestling (Ted Turner’s answer to the WWF). That was a no go, so I turned down the gig.
The third occasion was in 1997 and it’s what got me thinking about how Rupert should spend his money. We lost the AFC Sunday football package to CBS (which had lost the NFC package a few years earlier to FOX), and I was thinking about how we could fill the void on Sunday afternoons.
I thought about how much money we spent on the NFL and how, for a small piece of that, we could create a professional wrestling organization and put on matches every Sunday afternoon as an alternative to football. We could try to lure a few of the name talent and then scout the independent scene to fill out the roster. I thought about the merchandizing possibilities and did some research on the “Monday Night Raw” ratings vs. “Monday Night Football,” which at the time was on ABC.
I went in to see my boss, Warren Littlefield, and we decided to go up to Don Ohlmeyer and pitch him on the idea. Don was intrigued but a few days later told us it was a no go. I think Dick Ebersol may have put the kibosh on it, given his relationship with WWF head Vince McMahon.
Anyway, a few days ago there were rumblings that Vince McMahon was thinking about reviving the XFL, which was a disaster for him and NBC. There’s a really good ESPN “30 for 30” on it. I follow the wrestling business, and I read some articles about Vince thinking of cashing out a la Dana White and the UFC. My Spidey Senses started to tingle.
What if Rupert Murdoch bought the WWE? I looked up the market cap for the WWE. It’s a bit over $2 billion. That may be lying in the crevices of Rupert’s couch. It would give him two nights (minimum) of programming and a promotion base for FOX’s more male-skewing entertainment shows (assuming they stay in the scripted game), as well as their sports programming.
WWE is also in the entertainment field, and they could develop some scripted shows featuring past and current WWE Superstars. They would also get a streaming channel in the WWE Network. Merchandise and house shows generate revenue as well.
Given that FOX Sports remains part of the family, this would fit in just fine. ESPN has made a big push in pro wrestling coverage over the past few years. It is no longer the bastard child. Think about it, Rupert. It’s some free advice, and you may actually lure me out of retirement in the process.
Questions? Go to firstname.lastname@example.org or @maskedscheduler on Twitter.