WWE’s Schneider Just Wants to Have Fun Kurt Schneider may be approaching 40, but he’s never far out of touch with the little boy within. As head of marketing for Vince McMahon’s WWE Empire, Schneider’s clearly having the time of his life. It’s not that he’s a closet wrestling freak who is getting to work side-by-side with his boyhood heroes. It’s just that, after a career that started in the laugh-a-minute world of Madison Ave, and included stops at such hotbeds of levity as FOX and Disney, Schneider now works for a company that at times seems to measure its success in dollars and fun. Of course, the WWE does fine when it comes to getting serious, rolling up its sleeves and generating revenue. In fact, it claims that over the years it’s generated more than $1.7 billion in pay per view revenue for cable operators. But it doesn’t obsess about making money to the extent that it gets in the way of what it does best – namely, have fun. Schneider says that when he first interviewed with McMahon two years ago, he asked his future boss, should he be hired, what he’d like to see out of him after a year. "Vince told me he wanted me to be able to say that this was the most fun job I ever had. And it has." What parts of his other jobs did he carry with him to the WWE? From his advertising days he learned how to market packaged goods, which is something that he’s still doing. From Disney he learned the power of a strong brand. Rupert Murdoch’s company taught him that when given vast resources and unlimited opportunity, it’s more important than ever to deliver. And from the online sports and fitness company he once ran he learned how to "marry the Wild West of the Internet with the rational structure and brand power" of the bricks and mortal business world. And speaking of fun, revenue and other things cable operators wish they had more of, has there even been any content provider in this industry any better at driving usage of new media than the WWE? Others may do it as well, but arguably no one does it better or with less fanfare. As Schneider told me, the WWE was steeped in a culture of multi-media and as cable exploded so did it – and vice versa. "The culture here is all about media, since we grew up with television. For that reason, wherever cable operators go, we’ll be there with them." To that end, WWE is packaging archived content to help drive VOD and SVOD, while also developing original streaming video that Schneider says it eventually will make exclusive to customers with modems. The prize for operators, of course, will be that a demo group that the WWE considers low-hanging fruit – young males – may just suddenly start demanding cable modems, much as it once shouted for MTV. Schneider says the one thing he’d like to think he’s brought to the WWE is a guerilla-marketing mindset. With cross channel inventory drying up, he’s tried to instill in his staff a sense that the more restricted the local ad inventory, the more creative you must be. For that reason, cross channel promos have slowly given way to branded pizza boxes and conspicuously placed trash cans. "With this industry changing the way it is, we have to be nimble," Schneider believes. "And we are. The bat is off our shoulders and we’re always ready to take a swing." M.C. Antil can be reached at m.c.antil@att.net.

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