World Wrestling Entertainment is now officially in the social-networking industry.
The company has officially launched WWE Universe, an online destination for the millions of WWE fans to gather and discuss all things WWE.
WWE quietly tested the website since April and has already obtained more than 200,000 users without spending a dime on advertising or promotion.
WWE Universe is seen as a way to keep WWE fans in one place and capitalize on it, rather have them switch between, say, Facebook or MySpace.
The company will be able to gain more revenue from online ads and merchandise sales. It also creates a community and user base to which it can promote upcoming projects, including its slate of films that start rolling out early next year, beginning with the Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2 Director) actioner "12 Rounds," starring John Cena.
WWE Universe includes profile pages, message boards, discussion groups, live chats and blogs but also includes active participation by more than 80 WWE entertainers.
The site traffic is mostly men 18-35. But it’s also proved popular among women, who currently account for 40% of its user base.
"People are looking less for a passive experience and more for an interactive experience," said Brian Kalinowski, WWE general manager of digital media.
WWE also found that its audience on the website wanted more video and less text.
"They want more interaction with talent and richer media," Kalinowski said. "We’ll be making the transition to a site that’s more image- and video-heavy."
As part of that, WWE.com launched an enhanced video player last month that already has boosted viewership of original programming by 77% and increased ad impressions by 95% through pre-roll ads that play in front of video content.