When the pandemic shut down the sports and entertainment world, WWE’s executive committee successfully led the company to be the only sports and entertainment property at the time to produce ongoing, weekly live events from WWE’s training facility in Orlando, FL, without fans, on closed sets and with only essential personnel in attendance.
At the heart of every WWE live event and broadcast experience is the interaction between fans and the Superstars they love—and love to hate. So, what happens when the fans are no longer there?
In August 2020, WWE unveiled WWE ThunderDome. With more than 1,000 fans welcomed back into the arena virtually via proprietary technology provided from The Famous Group, WWE recreated the interactive in-arena atmosphere that has been a staple of its events for decades.
WWE ThunderDome (launching August 21, 2020 and concluding July 16, 2021 when the company returned to live event touring) was a first-of-its-kind large-scale interactive live platform which audiences had never seen or experienced before. Fans were not only able to see the action, but they were also able to experience it, becoming a part of the show and interacting live with WWE Superstars as if they were there in person. WWE ThunderDome also featured a state-of-the-art set, video boards, pyrotechnics, lasers, cutting-edge graphics and drone cameras to provide viewers with a reimagined live event spectacle.
Through Virtual Seat, an immersive real-time, multi-user streaming platform developed by WWE and our technology partner, The Famous Group, thousands of fans were brought back into the arena. The Virtual Seat system used proprietary real-time data compression technology to minimize the bandwidth required to send and receive 1,000 simultaneous two-way video streams, delivering an ultra-low latency user experience with unparalleled control, moderation, scalability and customization of content. Being web-based, fans could access it via any web-enabled device, anywhere in the world, with a broadband internet connection. With that low latency critical to delivering the experience, the entire system was exhaustively tested to optimize both web-based video transport and on-premise media server systems, eliminating all possible points of processing overhead, bringing latency down to just milliseconds.
As WWE returned to live event touring with fans in attendance beginning July 16, 2021, WWE ThunderDome allowed the company to never skip a beat and deliver live weekly content in new ways to fans and broadcast partners worldwide. In addition to premium live events, more than 70 primetime episodes were filmed live in WWE ThunderDome and used for television specials including Tribute to the Troops, an annual special honoring US servicemen and women and their families, and a two-hour event for our broadcast partners in India.
With nearly 1 million registered fans from 226 countries and territories, the creation of WWE ThunderDome delivered excitement for fans and further solidified WWE as a visionary leader in technology, live event and production.
Always on the cutting-edge of technology, WWE took lessons learned throughout the pandemic, including how the company leverages AR and VR technology, to continue to take a fan’s viewership to the next level. Today, all of our live broadcasts integrate AR. Various WWE Superstars have augmented reality incorporated into their ring entrances.
Additionally, always on the forefront of the latest digital trends, WWE explored innovative ways to engage our fans even further across an array of platforms. As Snapchat began to pioneer the AR space, WWE knew we wanted to take that journey with them. In October 2021, WWE launched a new partnership with Snap Inc.’s new global creative studio for branded augmented reality, Arcadia, to deliver the most innovative, impactful and effective AR experiences to WWE’s global audience.
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