How WWE Helped Build the USA Network

Posted by Steve Carrier on Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

wwe logo 2012

Philly.com published an article on the USA Network’s Bonnie Hammer, one of WWE’s biggest allies. Here are some highlights.

How WWE helped build the USA Network: Her USA Network – built partly on the popularity of the World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. – has been the most-watched ad-supported cable channel for seven straight years and in 2012 earned more than $1 billion in profit.

“She doesn’t stand on ceremony as some executives do,” Vincent McMahon, the chief executive officer of World Wrestling Entertainment, said. “She wants to give the audience what it wants.”

Her advice to McMahon and World Wrestling Entertainment years ago was to develop story lines and characters, which they did.

In February, acknowledging USA’s momentum and her golden-eyed selection of hit cable shows, NBCUniversal head Steve Burke consolidated all the company’s entertainment cable channels under Hammer, 62, making her one of the most powerful women in entertainment and at Comcast.

Vanity Fair rates her No. 16 on its powerhitters list, and on the day of her interview, superagent Ari Emanuel called to chat up a project. Burke and Comcast CEO Brian Roberts are jointly Vanity Fair’s No. 2 powerhitters. In an e-mail on Friday, Burke wrote: “Bonnie is the whole package. She has great taste, judgment and business skills. She is an important part of our management team.”

Where WWE fits into Hammer’s equation of the USA Network’s success:

The network’s winning formula is based on one-third original series, one-third acquired shows, and one-third World Wrestling Entertainment.

A championship WWE belt, a gift from McMahon for Hammer’s 50th birthday, hangs above the low, cushy couch in her office.

Hammer is a big fan, saying WWE’s live Raw consistently draws five million viewers per episode 52 weeks a year. WWE also has a show on Syfy, Smackdown, and in July E! will launch Total Divas, a reality show featuring female wrestlers. “She is really in charge of the cash of the cash cow at NBCU,” McMahon said.

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