What the WWE Network numbers say about WWE
October 30, 2014
By: Mike Tedesco of Wrestleview.com
We are a few hours removed from the announcement by WWE that the WWE Network subscriptions, despite now being available in 170 countries worldwide, has only grown 4% from the last time they announced the subscriber numbers in July when it was only available in the United States. They gained 286,000 new subscribers while losing 255,000 to cancelations.
Take away the cancelations. 286,000 new subscribers after becoming available in so many new countries since July has to feel like a punch in the gut to WWE. To top it all off, 703,000 are in the United States and 28,000 are international. They’re currently sitting at 731,000 total subscribers when even the most earnest of predictions thought they would be at least at 850,000.
There are quite a few factors that could be put to blame here. Maybe many of these new countries don’t have a developed, reliable, far-reaching Internet grid. Access to the WWE Network does require a reliable high-speed internet connection, as you know. Maybe the six-month commitment thing was a turn off for many. They announced today that they were doing away with that and it’ll just be $9.99 a month from now on. The numbers they announce at their next quarterly conference will be a good indicator if that is the case.
One could argue making it available in the United Kingdom will change the fortunes of the WWE Network, but it’s no secret that many hardcore fans have found a loophole in the system where if you put in a US address, you can purchase it. As of this writing, I’m not 100% sure if they’ve cracked down on that, but I feel like I’d have read about that and remembered it.
My theory is somewhat different. I think it’s hard to find any value in the WWE Network at all. Their whole selling point for the network is it is $9.99. Price should never be the focal point when you’re trying to market something. Even car commercials leave the price as the last thing you see. They try to sell you on the car first. That’s like Sales 101.
You get the PPVs, which is a great deal, no question about it, but if the shows promoting the PPV are so bad you have trouble watching them when they’re free, why would you want to shell out even a dollar for it?
Watching the old PPVs from the Attitude or Golden Eras was another big selling point, but the numbers showed that the old school fans didn’t open up their wallets to see it. That aspect of it is weak. Personally, when the network was announced, I was so excited to watch some of the old PPVs I enjoyed as a kid. I think I watched WWF Fully Loaded 2000 and WWF Survivor Series 1999 straight through and that was it. It’s got a limited interest level.
There are so many entertainment options that we try to squeeze in and afford in our daily lives. There’s Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, premium channels on top of the other bills we have to pay and the gym membership many of us have but never use. Many people live paycheck to paycheck. Can you seriously justify to yourself spending an extra $10 a month on a product you’re not even interested in?
It all comes down to the creative and what they put out there. There is no question that the product is suffering. Creative has been absolutely atrocious. You have a writing staff rumored to consist of about thirty people who are wannabe/failed soap opera writers that have absolutely no product knowledge and last on average six weeks in the machine before they’re chewed up and spit out. That’s not going to cut it. Keep in mind that at the peak of the WWE’s popularity, the writing staff consisted of mainly two guys with Vince McMahon always having the final say. What’s that saying about too many cooks in the kitchen?
There’s no question they have the talent, but they have no idea how to book them properly. There is absolutely no mid-card whatsoever that means anything. You’d think on a show where the WWE World Heavyweight Champion won’t be seen until December or be defending the title until January that they’d want to make the Intercontinental Championship seem important so there is still something to watch people chase, but that hasn’t happened. The Intercontinental Championship continues to be put in filler, time-killing segments and more often than not is doing the big J-O-B. When you’re trying to book up three hours of live television a week, wouldn’t it be nice to have an extra story to keep the fans interested? Instead we get the same four guys at the top of every hour either cutting a long promo or having a match. Then when one of those guys goes down, the WWE management flips out and thinks, “Oh god, no one is over to take their spot!” Gee, I wonder why that is? Could it be that no one is ever booked to look strong?
Throughout the years, you always had mid-card guys waiting in the wings who were primed to take that spot should an injury occur or they wanted a change in pace. There was Randy Savage, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, Chris Jericho, and probably others I’m forgetting that were in the mid-card at one point tearing things up. Maybe the current crop of guys could never fairly be compared to those guys, but they’ll never have an opportunity to be looked upon that way unless they’re given a fair shake.
That’s just the mid-card. The supposed main event guys not named John Cena or Randy Orton aren’t doing too hot either. Just a little over a week ago, we had Dean Ambrose in the ring with a Seth Rollins mannequin hitting it with a hammer while saying, “Let me hammer the point home for you!” Ambrose is a great performer who can cut a promo. How that ever got out of the writing room is a question that needs to seriously be asked, and the person responsible should be released immediately. The crowd was completely dead for that segment, and I’m sure that surprised someone in the back. Then you had Mick Foley come out. Yes, he hasn’t been seen in a while, but his pop was so big it blew anything Ambrose and Rollins had gotten the entire night. That says to me that the audience doesn’t see them as certifiable main event talents, and I have to say that is because of the lame way they’ve been booked lately.
How about the way they booked Roman Reigns? If I were him, I’d be on my knees thanking a higher power (not Vince McMahon) that I got that hernia to keep me off television because his booking was even worse… and this is the guy who is supposedly the heir apparent! The man speaks in 80’s action hero clichés like, “Orton’s got the venom… but I’ve got the antidote” or more recently, “Rollins says he’s the future… but I’ll make him the past!” Seriously – gag me. That’s absolutely horrible. People may like him now because he’s got a great look and some energy in his matches, but if he continues to deliver those awful written promos, they’ll turn on him faster than you can say, “$9.99”.
See my point yet? The frightening thing is I’m only scratching the surface!
The bottom line is that creative needs to get better for there to be any upward mobility not just for the network, but the company as a whole. I think creative is the one thing that has handicapped them more than anything. It’s just hard to watch the product and feel motivated and justified to pay $10 a month to see more. If I wasn’t the RAW recapper, there would be no way I’d survive the entire three hours.
So that’s my take on what the disappointing WWE Network numbers say about the current WWE landscape. Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know by e-mailing me or commenting below.
Be sure to check out my RAW and Smackdown recaps ever week.
Thanks for reading!