Back in August, WWE introduced the innovation of ThunderDome as a countermeasure for the coronavirus pandemic not allowing traditional crowds in arenas for almost half a year.
The ThunderDome, allowing virtual fans to appear in the audience of shows, has become an integral part of WWE's presentation and now that their residency at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida is coming to an end, they will be switching to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Speaking on the 2020 Forbes CMO Summit Virtual Series, Stephanie McMahon spoke about the advent of ThunderDome and how this experience allowed WWE to regain focus on the importance of their fan base.
"We continued to produce seven hours of live content for television partners on USA and FOX specifically, but we also produce content for a myriad of channels and platforms and we never stopped. What we found is that our fans mean everything. They bring the energy, they bring excitement, they bring the spectacle, and without them, the shows are just not the same. Our ratings fell off. We tried bringing in our developmental talent to see if that would help in terms of some type of audience but it just wasn't enough. Ultimately, we had hoped to be back in arenas in the fall but when we realized that wasn't going to happen, we doubled down with a new partner called the famous group and we now have nearly 1,000 virtual fans."
Stephanie also confirmed that when they pipe in crowd noise for the television audience, the performers hear that audio as well, feeling that it is beneficial to them in their performance to be able to feed off of crowd reaction.
Speaking at a recent Forbes CIO Next virtual event, Rajan Mehta, WWE’s chief product and technology officer, echoed the sentiments using his experience as an amateur wrestler in his youth.
"When you’re at an event, you feel [it],” he said. “You feel the crowd, you hear the music, you hear the introductions. Our superstars respond to that. They respond to the crowd’s reactions.”
He continued, “People are able to view [the wrestlers] at home and then we’re getting the video back in real-time from [fans] to be able to then integrate that on to our production screening.”
Talent morale reportedly improved after the advent of ThunderDome. Learn more at this link.
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