Last month, WWE began their residency inside The Amway Center, launching the state-of-the-art WWE ThunderDome. The immersive fan experience has added a new dimension to empty arena shows during the pandemic.
WWE Chief Technology Officer Rajan Mehta recently spoke with SportTechie on how the company is taking calculated risks to navigate through these unprecedented times.
Mehta says virtual fan experience has surpassed similar offerings from other sports leagues. WWE has received over 85,000 requests to join the WWE ThunderDome since its launch.
How WWE Is Taking Calculated Risks
Broadly at WWE, we’ve always had a willingness to reimagine, disrupt, take calculated risks and stay relevant. It’s about treating every day as if it’s your first day on the job and staying slightly ahead of the curve. We have that in our DNA.
We’ve always taken those calculated risks. We were ahead of the game in terms of distribution of content. In 2014, we launched WWE Network, direct-to-consumer. A lot of properties were thinking about doing it, but we went ahead and did it—and it was a huge success for us.
Being Innovative During The Pandemic
We take pride in how we’ve operated through COVID-19; we tried to innovate every portion of our organization. It’s important to create a diversion in these hard times and we took that to heart: we never stopped producing content and our weekly shows. We were really excited about that.
Back in March, we moved content creation to Orlando without fans, central personnel only. And most recently with the Thunderdome at Amway, we are able to have 1,000 fans in attendance at any given time. When I look at what we did, at our technology and production capabilities, I feel like we set the bar.
The ability to try and bring fans to our environment and give the energy of what WWE is—it feels great to watch. Part of what we do is create this energy at WWE and it ties into our overall production value.
What The Future Holds For WWE
I always like to quote Yogi Berra when people ask me about predictions. He said: “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.’ But if you look at what we’ve done over the last several months from a content perspective, I can see some of that continuing into the future from a production standpoint. From a technology standpoint, we’ve gained a lot of information from a remote working and production/editing perspective, and some of that could live on.
We’re living in a world where things have changed so much. Right now, this virtual audience we’ve built out has been really impactful. There’s been a desire to watch sports, and part of that is the interaction you can have with fans, and I think what we’ve done with the Thunderdome has been phenomenal.
A few years ago, direct-to-consumer technologies helped broaden the sports and entertainment world. The evolution of sports production will continue. That video quality and immersion will continue to grow. And with the 5G rollout, that evolutionary stuff is going to take another leap forward.