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WWF Mines for VOD Opportunities

World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, owner of one of television's most recognizable and popular brands, is exploring ways to exploit fast-evolving video-on-demand technology.

Although it doesn't have any distribution deals with MSOs that are currently testing VOD, WWFE is looking at how to fit its vast library of broadcast, basic-cable, home-video and pay-per-view programming into a profitable and entertaining on-demand format, said vice president of marketing Greg Castronuovo.

"We realize that this is an opportunity for us to further the reach of the shows through PPV," Castronuovo said.

The company's programming would certainly be an attractive draw for operators. WWFE's provocative and often controversial sports-entertainment shows-series such asRaw Is Waron TNN: The National Network andWWFSmackdownon United Paramount Network, as well as 12 PPV events per year-draw consistenly strong ratings or buy-rates.

The company also has a well-stocked library of home-video titles featuring its popular wrestlers that could be stored on a file server for VOD distribution, Castronuovo added.

WWFE is also looking at potential interactive applications that could tie in to its over-the-air and basic-cable series and specials.

"We want to be the trendsetters in the VOD event business," Castronuovo said. "We're going to make a major push into VOD to look into how we can best take advantage of the new digital environment."

The company's newly launchedWWF Fanaticmonthly PPV series could serve as its VOD entry point.WWF Fanatic, based on the home-video series of the same name, is billed as an inside look at the most popular WWF superstars and PPV events.

EachWWF Fanaticspecial will be hosted by a WWF performer and include exclusive, never-before-seen footage.

The first installment,The Rock: The People's Champ,premiered Oct. 1. It's unclear how many buys the event generated.

The shows, which run several times each month, sell for a suggested $9.95.

"We look at thisFanaticseries as the next step toward VOD," Castronuovo said. "It's something to show distributors that we have the product and inventory to offer consumers beyond our 12 monthly PPV events."

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.