A little while back we did an editorial on the top ten ways the WWE Network can grow as a network. This week fellow AlternativeNation reporters Mike Mazzarone, Anthony Falco and contributor Joseph R. Cooper delve into the WWE Network months into launch as we ask – has the WWE Network reached it’s peak in this new roundtable discussion. We invite readers to post their thoughts in the comments section.
Mike Mazzarone: Alright. First off, I want to say so we don’t get things twisted that I love the WWE Network. However the subscriber reports have been disappointing to say the least. The Network needs 1,000,000 to break even and they are around, I believe at the 7-800,000 mark. There have been no significant gains recently in subscriber numbers. Is it safe to say the WWE Network subscription base has plateaued?
Anthony Falco: I’m not sure we can say that just yet. I feel that in the coming months, we’ll probably see a decent enough gain here in the United States before it finally plateaus, however it’s not going to be fast by any means.
Mike Mazzarone: You can argue that things will take time, yes. Netflix only had 400,000 subscribers in 2001 and were just starting out. However, WWE clearly expected more than a million. They didn’t expect this to be a slow building thing and it’s not there. We won’t know if expanding into other countries will exceed the one million mark, although it should. But what is stopping fans from investing in what is undoubtedly a big steal in terms of pure content?
Joseph R. Cooper: First off as a Canadian, I am getting hosed and hosed bad by this Rogers deal, I don’t have cable nor do I have any intention of getting cable, I cut the cord a long time ago and then moved into a building that has no cable, so even if I wanted it, I can’t have it, so my initial reaction of “shut up and take my money” was replaced with “Are you [redacted] kidding me?” Rogers launched The Network at 12.99 that has even less content and more problems than the United States did at launch but it really doesn’t hurt that the WWE has MLB helping them in the States while here in Canada we have call centres in Quebec and India, but they’re working on releasing an app that will no doubt require you to be a Rogers subscriber to use and I couldn’t give them my money if I wanted to as I’m serviced by a different cable provider and as mentioned previous, my building doesn’t have cable connections, this is 2014 and the WWE which looked like they were going to be leading the future of the business by moving to the Internet and now just 6 months later are going to be making deals with the Cable companies abroad to provide the same experience I am having here, hello United Kingdom, I’m talking to you.
Anthony Falco: They have a few issues. One of the issues is that the casual fans don’t need to see all the old Pay Per Views, they could probably care less and only want to see what is going on right now. Sure their are exceptions to that rule, but mostly it’s the more die hard fans, the more hardcore fans, who want the network.
Joseph R. Cooper: Back to the question though, what’s stopping most wrestling fans from investing in The Network is the price, at 9.99 its not much at all, I’ve had subs from Subway that cost 15 bucks without a drink, but even if they offered it at 99 cents a month wrestling fans would still find a reason to bitch about it, in this world of streaming sites like VIPBox and First Row Sports alongside wrestling centric sites like WatchWrestling.net and Xtreme Wrestling Torrents, almost everything you can find on the Network can be found online, for free. Although 9.99 a month is nothing in comparison to 60 bucks a month for a PPV, plus all the other content on top of it, for example I pay 3.99 a month for a YouTube channel, Drive+, which is a car magazine channel started by YouTube and JF Musial during YouTube’s New Content Initiative thing they were funding until 1/1 of this year and had to switch to subscription service last month after exhausting all of their YouTube Money to keep the expected content, I’ve bought Porn Mags for 4 times that, I spend 4-5 times that a month on my Steam account for stuff to just collect dust, yes I get it, you’re a millennial, you’re used to getting everything handed to you for next to nothing, if not free but if you want to call yourself a wrestling fan and you don’t have The Network, I have something to say to you, “You are not a wrestling fan, you’re just a cheapskate.” Get The Network, it pays for itself in the 2nd month even if you only watch it once a month.
Mike Mazzarone: In my opinion I don’t know if causal if the vast library and archived content is as big of a draw as we think. It’s nice but there was a reason why WWE 24/7 had pretty low subscriber numbers. I don’t believe your casual, every day fan will be interested in past events and stuff that happened in the 80s mid 90s. A lot of diehards most likely own these events either on DVD, Blu-Ray or even VHS so why pay money to view content you already have.
Joseph R. Cooper: WWE 24/7 was also the drizzling shits, Mike. WWE on Netflix is better by comparison. I’m pretty sure everybody involved would like to forget about it existed anyways, it was a good in theory but poorly priced and the content wasn’t up to date in practice. Kinda like how The Network is in Canada right now.
Anthony Falco: Another problem is their aggressive advertising. As much as it works for the casual fans who are on the edge, it just drives the die hard fan base away since they find it annoying and over saturated. We know they are going to advertise, and even more so now since it’s numbers are doing as well, but it comes off bad especially to the hardcore fans.
Mike Mazzarone: It’s something I agree on. It helps that their C shows are exclusive to the network – Main Event, NXT. But again, does that really cater to the CASUAL fan? The casual fan watches for RAW and sometimes Smackdown. WWE should’ve found a way to air RAW or at least SD exclusively on the network. This NBC deal is going to cripple them. Also, the infomercial-like advertising could potentially backfire in my opinion. I think one of the reasons I have yet to download the WWE app is because I have Michael Cole telling weekly to download the thing.
Joseph R. Cooper: I just deleted the app last week, because I was missing RAW live often enough that I was getting spoilers that I thought were texts because of the notification it used, you’d only see 20 or so characters on the screen before dismissing it, but that was usually enough to let me know what was about to happen. You can chalk it up to being lazy and not messing with the settings myself, but some vagueness on the notifications during a live show would be nice, the app in general is good for what it does, promotes lesser talent, has a cool commercial feed so you don’t miss on the action, but you really need a tablet to get the full function of the app, as I feel a phones screen just isn’t catered for that and it shows that the WWE is moving towards a digital content, but with nobody buying in they still have to make deals with the cable companies to keep the Network afloat, see Canada, see United Kingdom.
Mike Mazzarone: But think about the whole pay per view aspect of the Network as well. Their major selling point, asides from the back catalog is the fact that each PPV is basically 9.99 a month instead of 60 dollars a month. This is a good thing, yes. I’m not denying that. However, how many PPVs is one actually going to watch? Out of the 12 PPVs that WWE produces. How many are actually important? Summerslam, Wrestlemania, Royal Rumble and MAYBE Survivor Series. The rest feel like bloated RAWs. Why would I, even at that price choose to watch Payback or TLC over Football on Sundays or the NBA? Or a show like Game Of Thrones.
Joseph R. Cooper: I am going to watch them all, the WWE is really starting to stack the PPV cards with enough action to make you think the 9.99 is a steal, which it is, but people aren’t understanding what kind of deal they’re getting and as such the subscriber rates are less than expected hence the whole “9.99” edict that went through recently to push The Network as a bargain, which after how good Summerslam just was, will hopefully drive the point home.
Anthony Falco: I always thought when the Network was being developed that they were going to show RAW and Smackdown on it as well as the other shows. Once I found out they weren’t, even though I could still watch it on a TV, i felt the value of the service dropped.
Joseph R. Cooper: It would be nice to have RAW and Smackdown up within 24 hours of airing, hell it would stop me from using WatchWrestling as much as I do, but with current television deals in place, they have to wait 30 days for it to be up on The Network which doesn’t really make sense when the PPV’s are up pretty much as they air, sure they own all the content because its on The Network but it would be nice to be able to watch the week of the PPV before the PPV is up, just in case you missed something or need to get your friend up to date before the show, but as it stands right now you can’t do that and it is one of the glaring downsides of The Network.
Mike Mazzarone: Same. My ex-friend bought the network thinking RAW and SD was going to be on it. Perhaps it was unrealistic to air RAW on the Network right during launch but it would of helped numbers. It could’ve been doable when it comes to SD which airs on Syfy of all places. Let’s face facts. Besides from the CW Smackdown has never really been on an established network.
Anthony Falco: Exactly, that is a big issue as well. Pay Per Views are great to rewatch, sure, but how many times do I really need to re-watch Summerslam 2002, or Wrestlemania 17. Not to mention the vast amount of PPV’s I have no real desire to re-watch.
Mike Mazzarone: The WWE need to stick with the Network. They cannot claim failure. Currently with this model HHH and Co. are losing 20 dollars per PPV. I strongly believe the Network is one of the main reasons all the budget cuts are being made. You also have five hours of programing per week (three coming in on one day. The casual fan has their WWE fix and can follow without watching PPVs or some random 90s PPV. There needs to be an overhaul on the marketing. They need to make this a better draw. Like I said, the NBC deal is going to hinder them. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want this to seem like I’m against the WWE network. I LOVE everything the WWE offers but then again I’m a diehard. I’m in the camp that can’t wait for the WCW content to come out. This is just to examine the flaws within the Network and it’s appeal (or lack there of) to casual fans.
Joseph R. Cooper: I’m with you there Mike, I need more WCW content, all of the Clash of the Champions and PPV’s are nice and everything, but they keep holding me off on the Monday Night War, Thunder and would it kill them to start posting some WCW Saturday Nights? SATURDAY 6:05! ONLY ON THE SUPERSTATION! That was a staple of my childhood, I want some JCP, I want the entirety of WCW 1993 where Vader kills everybody with Harley Race doing most of the talking, I want Rick Rude as the World Champion, I want to see classic Heyman promos when he was the leader of The Dangerous Alliance, if only for those to show up in a supercut compilation of his best work on YouTube, hell put the 2011 season of RAW on The Network and I will binge watch from 11 til now just to see how quickly the product changed to what it is now and of course for all the awesome Punk promos, I love The Network, I’ve watched almost all of the Legend’s Roundtables, most of the Original Specials, I need to catch up on NXT because I’ve been busy the last couple months and thats been on the burner, but that’s what weekends are for.
Anthony Falco: See, I am also a big fan of the WWE network. I love the service, but I see why so many people are turned off about it. The network could be so much more than it is though. Imagine the network doing brand new content that you want to see. I honestly want to see what the reruns of Total Divas and Slam City do on the network, because I don’t ever have a desire to watch those.
Mike Mazzarone: Right. The original content is something I have issue with. Especially Slam City which is an excellent premise. However, when you cannot get your own employees, the superstars of your own company to do the voices then it’s a bit suspect. Legends House was fantastic but I would love to see more original programing and reality shows.
Anthony Falco: Legends house was good, but I feel it lacked in some areas. Slam City would be greatly helped by the wrestlers actually doing their parts. I understand that’s hard for some of them to do, like John Cena, who has a heck of a schedule. Still, it would help a lot to get that show going in the right direction.
Mike Mazzarone: There is no reason someone like Sheamus can’t do his voice. Also it’s not like Slam City is a 30 minute show. It’s like 5-8 minutes if that.
Joseph R. Cooper: You won’t find a complaint about that from me, but I haven’t watched any of the Original Series like Legends House or Total Divas, reality TV isn’t my thing and Slam City isn’t Archer, but I can see their appeal and yes Slam City should have the characters being voiced by the talent.
Anthony Falco: I just imagine that one day, the WWE Network will finally be what we want it to be. All old RAWs and Smackdowns, not just some. Half of wanting to see the old PPV’s is wanting to see the old shows. I don’t just want to see Vince McMahon get his ass kicked by Stone Cold on a PPV, I want to see it for the several weeks it happened on TV before that as well. Imagine if they got one on one interviews on the network as well. What better ways to showcase your talent then on your own network. How about once a day, you have some in a interview, or a promo, or something. Have them go off, do it the right way, give them the mic and let them go and showcase it on the network. What better way to gauge who has the Stone Cold or The Rock factor then letting them do it. If they do a promo, and it sucks, oh well, move on, down the line we will try again. The Network could help in this area though. It’s a place where it’s lower risk if people see a bad promo, but it’s great place to test these types of things.
Mike Mazzarone: I see the Network as a potential cornerstone for the WWE. However, this is a growing period. That needs to be realized by most. Right now the Don West infomercial style shills come off as cheesy. But if WWE stays course, tones down the weekly ads and changes its focus on the casual demographic as well as your die hard fan and in turn finding that balance then they would really have something. I hope it happens.
Anthony Falco: I hope it does too, because the Network is a great thing already, and if they just put in that extra effort and do it right, there is no telling where it will be in a few years.
Joseph R. Cooper: Good things come to those who wait, some wrestling fans can’t grasp that sometimes, but a year or so from now when The Network is in full swing and is properly worldwide on the internet, we’ll find another thing to complain about it, because we’re wrestling fans, we wouldn’t have it any other way.