Over the past few years, there have been repeated calls from fans for Vince McMahon to step down as Chairman of WWE to allow somebody younger to take over the business. Eric Bischoff recently weighed into the debate on the 83 Weeks podcast after host Conrad Thompson asked him if he believes McMahon has lost his touch.
The former Raw General Manager said: "That's such a hard one. It's because it's such a complex answer. Look, the entertainment industry is changing every single day. I think it's true that Vince is committed to a formula that has provided an unbelievable level of success for the wrestling industry… There isn't anybody that can look at what the WWE has accomplished in terms of its global significance in the world of entertainment and not recognise that the formulas Vince McMahon relied upon to achieve those levels of success were unquestionably amazing success stories and the formulas worked. Now, do I think there may be some reluctance to adopt new formulas in light of the ever-changing nature of entertainment? Yes, I do, I do. Do I understand why people are reluctant to change those formulas? Of course, I do… But there's a difference between resisting change and being out of touch. To me, out of touch suggests you just don't understand the psychology of storytelling, you don't understand the product as it should be presented in today’s environment."
Bischoff later added: "It's all based on your relationship with advertisers. Not the network. The network obviously is your first line of relationship but if the network can't sell your commercial inventory to their advertisers you've got a big problem. So, WWE has to walk this really fine line of satisfying the audience while maintaining… the relationships with the advertisers they currently do have. And sponsors, which are very significant… It's taken WWE a very long time to build that. They didn't get the broadcast television deals they've got because they got good ratings or because they got ratings in the right demos. They've spent 20 years developing the product and the platform they have that appeals to advertisers. It's taken them 20 years to get there, or more, and now that they have it, they have to treat it with respect and they have to treat it very carefully.
"And there are things I'm sure WWE would love to do creatively that they just can't because they know the blowback they'll get from advertisers. It's a little bit like producing an action movie for Disney. You've got to be really careful how you do that. That's probably the best analogy that I could give. And does that mean that he's out of touch or does that mean that he's catering his business to his customer? The real customer being the advertiser because without the advertisers there are no viewers folks.
"I know that viewers like to think that they are the most important thing in the world, and in some respects they are because it's a direct connection to the advertising opportunity, but if the advertising community says, 'No, I know that there's a lot of people watching your show but we just can't have our product associated with it,' You're dead. You're done. And guess what? All those viewers who were so important aren't going to be watching the product because it can't live without advertising. So, it's easy to say so and so is out of touch if you don't understand the complexity of the business as a whole and just how significant those broadcast rights are, and those broadcast rights will not exist without a really really solid relationship and a confidence level amongst advertisers."