As noted before, Vince McMahon recently temporarily stepped down as CEO and Chairman of WWE until the conclusion of the company’s investigation into McMahon’s alleged misconduct towards several former female employees. These allegations include McMahon paying secret settlements which were revealed to be over $12 million in total to four women over the past sixteen years.
PWInsider’s Mike Johnson reported that his sources stated that several mainstream media outlets are currently working on new reports regarding McMahon’s allegations and are currently expected to be released within the upcoming weeks.
Johnson reported that at least one new report is currently being worked on by the Wall Street Journal. The reporters working on this new story reportedly have been recently contacting former WWE female wrestlers for interviews.
Johnson reported that HBO is also currently working on a report for an upcoming episode of their Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel series. Several former WWE wrestlers reportedly were also contacted in recent days for this upcoming story.
Besides the upcoming mainstream media reports, Variety recently released a report detailing how McMahon’s on-going allegations could end up jeopardizing WWE’s current media expansion. The report referenced Netflix’s recent pull of the McMahon docuseries and the very sharp declines for the premiere episode of the second season of A&E’s Biography: WWE Legends series as potential warning signs of the impact McMahon’s scandals are having on the company’s current media rights revenues expansion.
All this has led to increases in media revenue in recent years. Yet this is now at risk due to the recent revelations. Netflix is rumored to have scrapped its McMahon documentary, which was in postproduction, and effectively wrote off millions of dollars in investment. It’s unclear at the moment whether this will impact any future product placements or tie-ins with Netflix originals, but the smart money would be on a temporary cessation at the very least.
The latest season of “WWE Biography” on A&E Network premiered two days after the WSJ’s latest revelations. Just as in season 1, the premiere episode focused on one of the marquee stars of the late ‘90s yet saw massive decreases in viewership, with total audience down -45% and the 18-49 demo down -63%. In fairness, this was a summer debut versus an April one for the first season, but the figures won’t go unnoticed at the network.
Netflix’s reaction may cause consternation to top WWE officials, as streaming replay rights for “WWE Raw” and “WWE Smackdown” expire this year. Netflix aside, it’s unknown how other media companies, especially those with existing relationships with WWE, will react to McMahon maintaining a steady hand on the tiller even though he is no longer chairman and CEO.
This is due to two reasons. The first is that by maintaining his role as head of creative — a role for which VIP+ has questioned his suitability — McMahon continues to shape the overall direction of the weekly TV product, and thus the company.
The second is the sheer scale of voting power McMahon holds, with some four out of five votes in his hands alone. Even among the most powerful positions in the company, he is still able to determine the key decisions it makes …
If more revelations emerge and sponsors and media partners are forced to act, the pressure will be on him to make a clean break with the company in terms of day-to-day roles.