WWE is one of the largest entertainment media providers in the United States, offering international professional wrestling fans access to some 300 events per year in person, on WWE broadcast shows aired on various cable channels, and through the WWE Network, a new OTT offering available on smart TVs, gaming consoles, and online. Unfortunately, their web presence wasn’t providing their fans with an experience befitting the WWE brand.
The Business Problem
After launching a subscription business in 2014, WWE was struggling with how to create both an engaging and differentiated .com experience while also driving fans to become network subscribers. Inspiring these conversions, and getting new users to understand the difference between WWE.com and the Network, was a matter of creating a clear distinction between free and paid content and experiences.
The WWE turned to Code and Theory for a re-imagined, modern, and functional .com experience. Our focus remained on helping them create an engaging content platform for both long time and new fans that allowed them to fully immerse in their favorite stars, matches and moments, all while maximizing the value of WWE's subscription business.
How can a single platform give fans the content they crave, and inspire them to become WWE Network subscribers?
The Experience Insight
WWE.com’s last update occurred five years prior. The site gave no consideration to advertising, monetization, or subscriptions. In redesigning WWE.com with subscribers in mind, we sought to drive more video and content consumption, increase social sharing and monetization opportunities, and convert fans into Network subscribers.
We instantly recognized that the heart of WWE’s business is content—exciting, engaging, inspiring content. As the system is structured, premium content is hidden behind a wall called “Network.” If a fan does not subscribe to the Network, they have to go Pay-Per-View. We realized that the new .com experience should centralize all free content existing around the Network—the highlights, tension, storylines, interviews—in order to path people to subscriber-only content available on the Network. Implementing a clear acquisition strategy to engage people on WWE.com, we gave fans a reason to deepen their relationship with the WWE brand with a Network subscription.
We also helped WWE explore the importance of mobile to their audience, in the sense of both introducing the brand to new fans as well as being a primary consumption environment for today’s users.
The key to WWE’s success is excitement. We had to replicate and extend that excitement in digital, and keep fans hungry for more.
Perpetual Video Explorer
We built a Video Explorer to live at the top of the screen, offering contextual content to the page that you’re on, a show that you’re viewing, or the homepage. Clicking into the player opens up a video that doesn’t change where you are on the page, so the reader can keep their place while they watch. In fact, users can actually scroll past the video player, at which point it will shift to the top left of their screen as they’re reading an interesting article.
We made it so WWE can push videos to users 99% of the time they’re on the site. Pre-roll advertising—the best revenue source—still plays on the minimized video player, so the site pulls in money without annoying or distracting readers.
Cross-Network Visual Unity
It was essential for WWE to express consistent WWE Network branding across their networks. However, WWE didn’t have a set style guide yet, which made it important for us to differentiate what was WWE.com content and WWE Network content and give each a unified but clearly differentiated visual treatment. This was a particular challenge considering that WWE encompasses many brands, collectively hosting more than 600 events a year.
Bringing Order to a High Volume of Content
WWE appearances and events happen constantly, covering a vast range of locations, storylines, and rivalries. With such a high velocity of content, we had to give fans a means of connecting with the content and clarifying the personalities and activities of their favorite performers. That’s why we offered users the option of following the storyline of one superstar, rather than ensembles. Fan of John Cena? WWE.com is your one-stop shop for everything in the John Cena universe.
High-Impact Advertising Strategy
Similar to the advertising strategy we brought to life for Vogue.com, we integrated dynamic advertisements fluidly into WWE’s content feed. As users scroll, the advertisements stick in place on the screen as if they’re following the reader’s eyes, offering a moment of surprise that draws attention to the unit.
The new site also serves up more contextualized advertisements. When you’re reading an article about John Cena, for example, you’ll see his products available in the shop.
And, since the site accommodates entirely new ads and structures to avoid ad repetition, every ad shown brings revenue through the new platform.
When it came to maximizing the impact of the WWE brand, we needed to emphasize tech solutions that harnessed the breadth of their content library—making sure that WWE's rich collection was available, accessible, and felt organic to the site experience
To that end, our custom-built performant media searching helped WWE's editorial team keep the content flowing quickly to end users; during a live event, the site needed to publish articles as frequently as once per minute. We also developed a custom editing browser while co-locating with WWE's editorial stuff, building a CMS interface with customized components and input options for their needs.
This was one of the first iterations and integrations for paragraphs and a media browser in Drupal.For users, a sticky video player that loaded quickly and was anchored to a corner of the page as the user scrolled through editorial content transformed the way visitors accessed video on the site. To make this work, we ran two video players simultaneously, with one hidden depending on the end user's page location. The result? A seamless, lag-free viewing experience.
- Angular 2
- Custom AWS hosting
- JWplayer for live-streaming
WWE was an ideal client partner, both unafraid to take risks and determined to modernize their approach to connecting with fans through digital. Since starting work on WWE.com, we have extended the partnership to work with WWE on their Mobile Strategy and Design, Social Strategy, and long term Acquisition Strategy. At each fan touchpoint, we are looking to optimize and unify the user experience so fans can stay close to the action, no matter where they touch the brand. We observed positive momentum in all of the following areas:
- Video Consumption