Explaining WWE's New Format for RAW Commercials and Why It Was Great

Justin LaBar@@JustinLaBar Featured ColumnistDecember 18, 2012

Photo courtesy of WWE
Photo courtesy of WWE

Last night, WWE performed a test on a new format for WWE Raw. A lot of fans didn't get it or like it―but I did.

WWE was being strategic regarding when they took commercial breaks. There were two parts to this.

They would announce the category and nominees for an award. They would take a break and encouraged you to vote during the break. They would come back from commercial with the presenter now having being given an envelope to reveal the winner. After that, wrestlers already in the ring and ready to go.

Here the taking of the breaks was to give time for voting and keep up the gimmick that your vote matters. The award show gimmick is what it is. People whine about it being rigged which is annoying. It's a show, it's scripted. WWE needs to have a plan and be in control. Why would you think it's all based on legitimate voting during a three minute commercial break?

The second reason, the most effective and long lasting, is to build suspense.

I got hundreds of tweets of people confused when they heard Ric Flair's voice and a big “woooo.” People thought it was a technical screw up or a waste of Flair's big return. Wrong. Couldn't be further from the truth. It was planned. The commentators gave a clue of a special presenter. We heard Flair's voice and his trademark. It was a tease.

More tweets came during Raw from fans upset as The Shield was shown coming to the ring through the crowd while Ric Flair was in the ring. WWE goes to commercial. We come back and a fight is going on between The Shield, Flair, Daniel Bryan and Kane. Perfect.

The key to both those situations―you made sure to not tune out of the show.

It goes back to those days that everybody loves to yearn for. The attitude days. The days where you would call someone on commercial and say, “you gotta turn this on,” or “guess who just showed up?”

WWE's numbers for three hours of Raw are good by USA's standards. The extra hour of Raw is still more valuable ratings wise versus running NCIS or anything else USA would put on. By WWE's standards, they would like to improve the rating. Most importantly, improve viewership to the point of it not dropping off as the show goes on.

I don't know if the numbers will rise as the show goes on for this weeks episode, but I think it was a good move in a good direction to improve the show overall. It had a better pace. It felt more exciting and unpredictable. The good content and surprise appearances certainly helped as well.

I'm very interested to see the numbers later this week for the show. I want to see how the segment by segment numbers were. I think we'll see less drop off and more consistent viewership.

Despite what many might think, WWE didn't do the commercials by accident and they didn't take more than normal. Some were under the impression that because of a commercial free Smackdown Tuesday―WWE added more commercials to Raw. Not true at all.

Every episode of Raw has five commercials per hour. WWE has control of how they want to construct the timing of segments and insert commercial breaks. As long as they get 15 breaks in for the three hour show, all is good.

I give WWE credit for recognizing they needed to change things up and try something new for the format of Raw. This was the perfect episode to do so.

The show had good content to cliff hang people with as well as the award show gimmick which made sense to take the breaks when they did to give off the illusion that they were tabulating votes.

In WWE, it seems when it rains it pours with negative or heavily critiqued content/news. However, when WWE is swinging the bat well, they're clearing the bases.

The new Raw format was a great choice in the midst of a great week for WWE.