Rajan Mehta, WWE's Chief Product and Technology Officer, is the man behind the recently unveiled ThunderDome that beams in nearly 1,000 fans to each show. Mehta, who has been with the company for six years, says more than 85,000 requests have came through to get access and appear in the arena.
Mehta recently joined SportTechie for a conversation about how the landscape of sports is changing, and he said there are so many more options available today that are driving the technological need to meet demands.
"The volume of sports and entertainment has grown exponentially in terms of niche sports leagues, niche television content, and streaming," Mehta said. "There's many more options for people today. You have a combination of factors that drive that. The technology enablement to allow a lot of this, and then people's general cultural desires, it's very positive for sports and entertainment. But at the same time, you want to make sure you have innovation happening within your league/television show/entertainment property.
"Broadly at WWE, we've always had a willingness to reimagine, disrupt, take calculated risks, and stay relevant," Mehta continued. "It's about treating every day as if it's your first day on the job and staying slightly ahead of the curve. We have that in our DNA. We've always taken those calculated risks. We were ahead of the game in terms of distribution of content. In 2014, we launched WWE Network, direct-to-consumer. A lot of properties were thinking about doing it, but we went ahead and did it, and it was a huge success for us."
Mehta went on to talk about how important it was for the company to be innovative during the pandemic era that took the element of live fans away. He says he takes great pride in being able to use technology to bring fans back into the arena.
"We take pride in how we've operated through COVID-19; we tried to innovate every portion of our organization," Mehta said. "It's important to create a diversion in these hard times and we took that to heart. We never stopped producing content and our weekly shows - we were really excited about that. Back in March, we moved content creation to Orlando without fans, central personnel only.
"Most recently with the Thunderdome at Amway, we are able to have 1,000 fans in attendance at any given time," Mehta added. "When I look at what we did, at our technology and production capabilities, I feel like we set the bar. The ability to try and bring fans to our environment and give the energy of what WWE is, it feels great to watch. Part of what we do is create this energy at WWE that ties into our overall production value."