World Championship Wrestling — A Crisis of Leadership (A)
(9 pages of text)
In January 2000, World Championship Wrestling (WCW)’s executive VP was faced with a challenging decision. He had been appointed as executive VP just three months ago, and was tasked with restoring the company to a profitable position. However, WCW’s on-screen performance was suffering; ratings for the flagship WCW Monday Nitro television program had fallen to their lowest levels in nearly three-and-a-half years. WCW was losing its market leadership position, its viewing audience, and even some of its on-screen talent to its major competitor, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). The executive VP faced problems on a number of fronts: a talent roster low on motivation and morale, turnover among both the writing staff and company leadership, and a rapidly shrinking audience. Furthermore, the current instability in leadership meant that another major change would seriously impact the already low morale among WCW’s on-screen talent and support staff.
This industry creates a unique competitive environment. While most industries adhere to legal and moral codes, professional wrestling has avoided scrutiny of most legislative bodies and the culture takes an “at-all-costs” approach. As a result, underhanded, unethical competitive practices have been utilized at times by both World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and the World Wrestling Federation (WWF).
The macro-level issues of the case focus on the strategy of the company. The future direction of the on-screen product and several key business decisions required evaluation of the relationship between WCW and its ownership, fans, and competition. Measuring all of these factors together was critical in defining WCW’s strategy going forward.
The micro level focuses on a human resources/leadership decision: whom to appoint as head writer for WCW’s television programming. Candidates had varying levels of qualification and experience, in addition to differing relationships with the on-screen performers. Several performers were unhappy; some requested early release from their contracts. A challenging decision needed to be made — force the talent to stay; allow the talent to leave; hire the candidate who has no issues with the at-risk personnel and risk not hiring the best qualified. This case is in an unorthodox industry (professional wrestling) seen by many as a low-class, low-brow form of entertainment. Herein lies the uniqueness of this case:
- An opportunity to show students that traditional business and strategy concepts can be applied to an atypical industry and that the core issues are very familiar.
- Balancing pros and cons, choosing the best strategic direction.
- Understanding trade-offs and consequences regardless of mainstream acceptance.
Arts, Entertainment, Sports and Recreation
United States, Large, 2000
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