WWE is expanding its reach into traditional TV shows — and yes, it’s about wrestling

World Wrestling Entertainment inc

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begins producing fictional TV shows as part of an effort to generate more revenue outside of the wrestling ring and capitalize on streaming services’ growing hunger for new content.

The company, which runs the world’s most famous wrestling league, said it has two scripted TV series in the works: a Spanish-language comedy about an aspiring wrestler in Mexico and a drama about a fictional family running a wrestling company.

Colin Campbell, WWE’s vice president of development, said the company expects the shows will help it reach new audiences and grow its relationships with media outlets.

Contra Las Cuerdas, the Spanish-language WWE comedy, will debut on Netflix inc

in Mexico, while “Pinned,” a “Succession”-like mughal family drama, will be available through Comcast corps

NBCUniversal, owner of NBC and streaming platform Peacock. Where in the NBCUniversal realm “Pinned” will appear is yet to be determined.

WWE CEO Vince McMahon, who bought the company from his father in 1982 and has run it ever since — including stepping into the ring on occasion — said the scripted shows are part of his management team’s efforts to generate new revenue and find new distribution platforms.

Like most sports leagues, WWE derives most of its revenue from television rights to its wrestling events. The company used to have its own streaming service, WWE Network, but decided to shut it down last year. Peacock has since become the exclusive streaming home of WWE, as part of a five-year licensing deal valued at more than $1 billion. WWE’s marquee event “WrestleMania” will begin on Saturday and will be broadcast on Peacock. The company also has TV licensing deals with Fox corp

and NBC Universal. Fox Corp. and News Corp, the Wall Street Journal’s parent company, share common ownership.

CEO Vince McMahon says scripted shows are part of WWE’s efforts to generate new revenue and find new distribution platforms.


Photo:

Jessica Hill/Associated Press

WWE has produced documentary and reality series in addition to its wrestling shows — including WWE: Legends, Total Bellas, and WWE: Evil — but the two upcoming TV shows represent its first foray into fiction.

Contra Las Cuerdas, currently in production, is a comedy about a woman who trains to become a luchadora, a Mexican wrestling character, in order to win back the love of her estranged daughter. The TV series is based on Queens of the Ring, a 2013 French film that was developed in part with help from WWE.

Although “Pinned” is not based on Mr. McMahon and WWE, it will likely have brushstrokes and similarities to the executives and figures associated with the company, a company spokesman said.

Aside from its two scripted shows, WWE is making other moves on the content front. WWE is partnering with Blumhouse, a production company known for its horror films such as Paranormal Activity and The Purge, to produce The United States Vs. Vince McMahon, a television series about the government’s indictment of Mr. McMahon 1994 for allegedly supplying anabolic steroids to WWE wrestlers. Mr McMahon, who turned down a plea deal, stood trial and was acquitted by the jury.

According to Chris McCumber, President of Blumhouse Television, the show will be FX Networks style “The People v. OJ Simpson”, a dramatized mini-series based on real events.

“Even if you’ve never seen a match, you know the brand and you know superstars like Hulk Hogan, The Rock and John Cena,” said Mr. McCumber.

Mr. McCumber said the idea for The United States Vs. Vince McMahon came from WWE President Nick Khan, who joined the company in the summer of 2020. Mr. Khan was previously Co-Head of Television at Creative Artists Agency and built a relationship with Mr. McMahon during final TV rights negotiations for WWE.

One of Mr. Khan’s first moves was to shut down WWE Network, the company’s streaming service, in the United States and license its programming to Peacock.

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WWE Network had 1.1 million subscribers in the US when it closed. In contrast, more than 3.5 million paid Peacock subscribers have viewed WWE content since the transition last March, Mr. Khan said during WWE’s call to investors in February, calling the deal “a strategic pivot for our company”.

The company reached a milestone last year, surpassing $1 billion in annual sales for the first time. WWE stock, which closed at $62.38 on Wednesday, has nearly doubled since its pandemic low in March 2020.

write to Lillian Rizzo at Lillian.Rizzo@wsj.com

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