Former WCW Executive Vice President Eric Bischoff recently hosted a TED Talks at TEDxNaperville in Naperville, Illinois. During his TED Talks, the former WWE on-air performer spoke at length about how he feels pro wrestling and today's mainstream news media outlets use a very similar formula to garner interest from the viewers. He also spoke extensively about wrestling's popularity on television in general. Featured below are some of the highlights.
On how the mainstream news media and pro wrestling promotions use a very similar formula to garner interest from viewers / consumers: "What is with the news today? All of us are exposed to it, right? I mean most of us -- if you're like me at least I'm kind of addicted to it -- but I try as hard as I can to not watch it, because it upsets me. It wasn't until after I got out of the wrestling business and I retired then I realized that the news media and professional wrestling used much of the same formula. They don't want you to think, they want you to feel, and as long as you feel passionately one way or the other, business is good, and right now business is very, very good for the news media that cover politics.
"It never used to be that way, now I'm 63-years-old, I've been around for a little while and I've always been interested in current events. As I got older, I don't recall seeing politics as bad as it is today. At least the news media back in the 60s, 70s, or 80s, at least they tried to pretend and most of them did a great job. At least there was an integrity in journalism and lines they wouldn't cross, things they wouldn't do. They would report both sides of the stories and let the audience or the reader decide how they felt about the given issue, or personality, or politician, but that's gone. Why is that? Why did that happen? It seems to me at least then it's really just begun happening over the last ten or eight years is when it's gotten really bad.
"Where what you watch on television isn't as much informing you and making you think, it's making you feel and pissing you off more often than not, because that's what they do it's called 'cheap heat' in the wrestling business. It's easy, just like me coming out here and making fun of people. It's easy to get people to react to that kind of thing and a lot easier to get them to react to that than asking them to think. So that's what they do."
On pro wrestling's popularity on television over the years in general and today's digital world: "Now, one of those things I talked about in the book is professional wrestling, in fact right here in Chicago it was the first weekly network television show back in the 1950s. At the beginning of the television age, it went from there to being the number one local TV show, long before cable came around. In any city in the United States, pro wrestling was the number one most watched form of content in any given market. Cable television came along sometime in the 70s or 80s, it was when professional wrestling became -- and still is to this day -- the most watched form of entertainment every single week on cable television.
"The digital age, which is only a few years old, the WWE has 25 million fans around the world. 25 million fans around the world. They have a market cap of six billion dollars and they trade on the New York Stock Exchange for right around 75 or 78 dollars depending on the day. How did it get so big? How did professional wrestling become such a big part of our culture? It's simple, they don't make you think. It's not like a TED Talk, they make you feel."
Check out Eric Bischoff's complete TED Talks appearance via the YouTube player embedded below.