WWE Executive Producer and Chief Kevin Dunn recently spoke to Cynopsis Sports regarding WWE’s work during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how they’ve managed to adapt to the current situation. Highlights from the interview can be found below.
His thoughts on producing live events in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic:
In mid-March when sports leagues began to postpone and cancel events, we quickly got to work on a plan to continue delivering in-ring content to fans. We were a few weeks out from WrestleMania, our biggest event of the year, and we ended up going from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay with more than 70,000 fans to a two-night event at our Performance Center via closed set with no one in attendance. We continued to produce Raw and SmackDown from the Performance Center for the next several months. Throughout that time we were constantly tinkering and experimenting with new production techniques and cinematic style matches to bring added excitement to our shows.
Talks the genesis of the WWE ThunderDome:
During months of testing and learning and listening to our fans, we were experimenting with new ways to add more energy into our live shows. We looked at what other leagues were doing, but we ultimately wanted to do something that was right for us and right for our fans. We knew we had to innovate, think outside the box, and recreate the in-arena atmosphere and interactive experience that is synonymous with WWE events. But do it virtually. Our world-class WWE TV production team had a specific vision, and designed and executed WWE ThunderDome, which launched on August 21, in advance of SummerSlam. A state-of-the-art set, video boards, pyrotechnics, lasers, cutting-edge graphics and drone cameras. A true spectacle. To date, nearly 300,000 WWE fans from around the world have registered to be a part of WWE ThunderDome. It’s the hottest ticket around.
What he considers WWE’s biggest challenge during this time:
I think the biggest challenge was just trying to reimagine our weekly flagship programming with a new technology that, we believe, has never been implemented before at this scale. Everything had to be reassessed as we were planning to launch ThunderDome. In testing, traditional camera shots were making the virtual fans look flat. Our entire lighting and production design had to be reimagined from the ground up. We have a great team that had to reinvent themselves, and their day to day responsibilities, in order to come up with something as innovative as WWE ThunderDome.
Talks the ThunderDome having a positive affect on WWE’s partners:
From the beginning we realized that the ThunderDome and its technology was going to be valuable for our partners, and we have been able to successfully activate with a number of brands. One partner, Cricket Wireless, was impressed with the interactive element of their integration, which immediately led to a positive reaction across social media. We have also worked with Mars Wrigley to promote their new Treat Town mobile app in the weeks leading up to Halloween, and Hyundai who used the ThunderDome to drive awareness for their Hope on Wheels initiative during childhood cancer awareness month.
Goals for the future:
If you asked me a year ago, I’d have said there is nothing we haven’t done from a production standpoint, but during this process, we’ve learned a lot and innovated in so many ways that I’d say anything is possible. Our goal is always to create the best possible experience for our fans. So, we are exploring a number of ideas and new shooting techniques, and in a post pandemic world I would expect to see our live shows draw heavily from our ThunderDome learnings.