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 411mania » Wrestling » Columns

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411Mania Roundtable - The WWE Network
Posted by Scott Rutherford on 01.22.2014



Welcome all! With the recent announcement of the new WWE Network speculation has been rife with what it all means for the WWE, wrestling, PPV and other companies that rely on PPV for revenue like UFC.

The writers here at 411mania are no different.

For those living under a rock, according to the WWE press release at launch, all of the following will be available:

* All 12 current WWE pay-per-view events – including WrestleMania – will be available to subscribers live, as well as on demand.
* Live pay-per-view 30 minute pre- and post-shows.
* Raw and Smackdown preshows: Every Monday and Friday night, WWE Network will air 30 minute pre- and post-shows for WWE's weekly cable programs Monday Night Raw and Friday Night SmackDown.
* The Monday Night War – a series exploring the shocking real-life stories that fueled the mid-90s rivalry between WWE and WCW®. Battling for ratings dominance, WWE's Vince McMahon and WCW's Ted Turner engaged in a masterful game of one-upmanship, and in the process, elevated WWE Monday Night Raw and WCW Monday Nitro to all-new levels of pop-culture relevance.
* WrestleMania Rewind – a comprehensive look back at the most groundbreaking matches and dramatic moments in WrestleMania history, including never-before-seen footage and in-depth interviews.
* WWE Countdown – a one hour, groundbreaking, interactive, countdown series that puts the power squarely in viewers' hands by giving the audience the chance to discuss and rank WWE's most spectacular Superstars, unexpected moments, best catch phrases and more through digital polling and social media interaction.
* WWE NXT® – WWE Superstars and Divas of tomorrow face off every week on WWE NXT, a one-hour weekly show that features the brightest and best of WWE's rising stars. WWE NXT showcases the Superstars and Divas from WWE's Performance Center as well as appearances from WWE Superstars and Legends in an intimate setting. WWE NXT broadcasts from the state-of-the-art Full Sail LIVE venue on the Full Sail University in campus in Orlando, Florida.
* WWE Superstars – a one-hour weekly show highlighting the best of WWE Superstars and Divas in heart-pounding matches. Features highlights from all WWE programming, as well as a special glimpse at everything going on in the WWE Universe.

Below is a list of 5 questions that examine what the network will mean as 411 gazes into our crystal ball and make predicting about the WWE Network.


 photo wwe-network-launch_zps7b1a09d1.jpg





MICHAEL WEYER

1) Will you be subscribing? Do you think the WWE Network will reach the million subscriber mark to break even from the get go and how many will re-up after the first 6 months?

My initial reaction to this was quite simple: SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!

Seriously, this is sheer genius of Vince McMahon. To be able to watch just about every wrestling program ever made, from PPVs to a weekend Florida show from 1984, all for just $10 a month? That's the greatest bargain wrestling has seen since Vince bought WCW for $5 million and a godsend for fans. The idea they can't get a million subscribers is ridiculous as every blog I've seen has hundreds of guys saying they're signing on for such a price easily. Hell, Scott Keith's blog, usually one of the most downcast on the business, is going nuts for this, which speaks volumes.

Yes, I know it won't be all available at once upon the launch but even just all PPVs are going to be getting people into this and WWE knows they can build upon that for a major model. To click through wrestling history with a few touches on any device is a fan's dream and I can see quite a majority paying for the upgrade easily in order to get it going. Break even? If it works as well as we hope (and given the time WWE has put into it, it should do well), this will turn a great profit for the company to showcase its amazing library to its fullest just as fans want.

2) If successful, do you think this will be a game changer for wrestling? If so, will it be positive or negative long term?

We've seen how NFL Network has enhanced that company well and ditto for other sports. Some may see it as poor as it enhances WWE's dominance (if poor TNA wasn't already lagging before, they're in the dust now) and also gives a major look at the past. Indeed, that WWE is offering uncut shows is a huge thing, especially how we will indeed see Chris Benoit shown (albeit with a disclaimer). The company is accused a lot of whitewashing the past but to show things as they once were is a huge deal, a way of letting younger fans see how wrestling was in all its ways and respect it more. Show some fans classic Mid-South to see how great booking can be and they'll want to see that in the current climate as well. It also opens up guys long ignored by the company like Randy Savage, Sting and others and the nostalgia trip alone will be worth getting into. More than anything, this shows the legacy of wrestling that WWE has at their disposal and will lead to pushes for the present which can be a good thing for the company's future and thus all the business as well.

3) With UFC starting their own pay network, do you think the initial impression will make UFC suffer in comparison to the more fully formed WWE version?

Initially, yes as WWE is offering a lot more from the get-go at a cheaper price. It depends a bit as wrestling and MMA fans aren't as alike as some may think so it's rather like comparing WWE to NFL or MLB networks. This will want UFC to push their content a bit more but naturally worried over showing too much too soon whereas WWE is really pushing it a lot. UFC will have their own passionaite audience to be sure but WWE is offering slews of classic programming right off the bat which makes the UFC Network pale a bit and will take some time to get their own identity going properly.

4) What original programming could the WWE produce that would help bring in the casual fan?

I'd love to see them take the old "Are You Serious" show and extend it to a half-hour program every week. Come on, pro wrestling given the MST3K treatment, how obvious is that? Plus, would be great to bring back the "Legends of Wrestling" roundtables, those always had great stuff and insight to the past and can be better now with some various stars returning to the company (would adore Bruno Sammartino's input on a few). Plus, some shows delving more into the backstage lives of wrestlers, their pasts, how they got into the business and such and how they handle pressures of their job, really showcase how tough the business is but worth it. And the obvious, a "Top 10" type show running down the best of some sort of topic which always generates some interest and talk, just what being a fan is about.

5) Is the WWE shooting themselves in the foot by including WrestleMania? Or could the potential 6 months block the covers WM, Summerslam and Money In the Bank in between offer enough incentive to cover any shortfall from reduced PPV revenue?

I think it's a smart move, sure to get more subscribers there and even pull in folks who'd otherwise do an illegal stream. Let's face it, a lot of fans are wary over paying 50 or 60 bucks for a major PPV nowadays anyhow but a fraction of that they'll go for and that'll get good attention for the network. As stated above, the sheer size of shows the network has at the start is going to be pulling in subscribers all over and many will hook up to get an early start on Mania. The time block will give them time to bounce back as I'm sure still some fans willing to pay full price for the biggest show of the year. Overall, I believe this network is going to succeed no matter what so adding Mania to the mix just makes it a bigger buy than it already is and something any wrestling fan will gladly plunk down such a small charge to get.

++++




MIKE HAMMERLOCK

1) Will you be subscribing? Do you think the WWE Network will reach the million subscriber mark to break even from the get go and how many will re-up after the first 6 months?

I'll subscribe the first week. As a sidenote, if they can handle the flood of registrations that's going to hit on Feb. 24, Barack Obama ought to give them a call. Anyway, the McMahons are fairly smart about business. If they're publicly stating they need a million subscribers to break even, I suspect their internal estimate is they can double it. Do not underestimate their social media reach in terms of selling this thing. As for retention, it's a fairly painless $9.99 automated monthly withdrawal and I assume they'll be pushing people to see special stuff on the network all the time (again, that social media reach is going to be a factor). I expect the overwhelming majority of people who join will stay.


2) If successful, do you think this will be a game changer for wrestling? If so, will it be positive or negative long term?

It's a fairly obvious game changer. The PPV model was a small pond strategy: get a committed base of fans and milk them. The network model is a big pond strategy: put your product in front of a much larger audience. More teats, more milk. The Super Bowl is the most watched football game of every season. Wrestlemania is seen by fewer people than the 104 Raws and Smackdowns the WWE puts on each year. They need to flip that pancake. Plus, the PPV business is dying a not-so-slow death. It was time to make a change and this is nothing but a positive.


3) With UFC starting their own pay network, do you think the initial impression will make UFC suffer in comparison to the more fully formed WWE version?

Don't overlook the MLB partnership here. Don't want to get into an involved explanation, but I've seen the MLB.tv technical setup and it's a Death Star. The WWE not only is going to put a massive amount of content at people's fingertips, but it's going to have the firepower to do it reliably. The UFC has less content to air and I question whether it can go toe-to-toe with the WWE on the IT side of things. I'm guessing there's going to be a noticeable qualitative difference between the two.


4) What original programming could the WWE produce that would help bring in the casual fan?

Sky's the limit. I mentioned some in my column this week: MST3K-style commentary running over a foreign wrestling broadcast (cheesier the better); a parkour-inspired daredevil division. They'll probably do some travel and food shows. At some juncture they're going give scripted dramas and comedies a shot. Someone's going to come to them with an animated show pitch (e.g. a zoo full of animals that wrestle at night voiced by WWE talents). They'll start with a lot of bad reality and interactive programs, but I expect they'll take some risks over time that surprise us, putting some way-better-than-we-ever-expected stuff on the air.


5) Is the WWE shooting themselves in the foot by including WrestleMania? Or could the potential 6 months block the covers WM, Summerslam and Money In the Bank in between offer enough incentive to cover any shortfall from reduced PPV revenue?

Note my comments about how not nearly enough people watch Wrestlemania as it is. It's absolutely essentially they do something like this to take their flagship event to a broader audience. And there's little point to worrying about losing revenue over the traditional PPV business. Nothing they do with the network will lose them more money than if they stuck with the dying PPV model. Between the easy availability of pirate feeds and the desire not to feel like a sucker for shelling out for a disappointing PPV, they had to cut that cord. Long term, the network gives them an ever-expanding revenue stream. The only regret the WWE will have is that it didn't do this sooner.

++++




RYAN BYERS

1) Will you be subscribing? Do you think the WWE Network will reach the million subscriber mark to break even from the get go and how many will re-up after the first 6 months?

Yes, I will be subscribing. Frankly, if you were going to buy Wrestlemania this year, there's no reason not to subscribe, given that Mania on its own will cost approximately $60.00 and so will the minimum commitment for the WWE Network, with the Network obviously providing far more content than a four hour pay per view. Also, I'm one of the handful of people out there who still subscribes to WWE Classics on Demand, which is being discontinued at the end of January. I've been paying $8.00 per month for that service for a couple of years now, so it's not exactly a huge stretch for me to jump to paying the $9.99 per month for the Network.

Will WWE immediately be able to obtain the one million subscribers that is largely being predicted as its "break even" number? My prediction is...no. I hate to be pessimistic about this, because it sounds like a great service for hardcore fans like myself, but let's be realistic about these numbers. For the last several years, Wrestlemania has clocked in at about one million buys, give or take a couple hundred thousand. That's one million buys internationally, and we've already been told that the majority of the big WWE countries outside of the U.S. are not going to have immediate access to the Network, most likely because of stipulations in existing television contracts that have to be renegotiated before the Network can be cleared abroad.

So, even if every single person in the United States who purchased Wrestlemania over the past several years subscribes to the Network, you're already going to be at less than a million buys. I don't see the Network having all that much appeal to people who couldn't even have been bothered to order Wrestlemania. Plus, as much as I hate to sound like the guy who automatically paints WWE fans as ignorant hillbillies, you have to imagine that there's at least a percentage of the pay per view audience that, for whatever reason, cannot or will not make the technological leap from watching the product on traditional cable television to watching over the internet.

So, it's not just that I don't think they'll have one million subscribers at launch. It's that I don't see any possible way that they could get to having one million subscribers at launch. I do, however, see the majority of the early adopting fans sticking around for as long as the Network exists.

2) If successful, do you think this will be a game changer for wrestling? If so, will it be positive or negative long term?

There are almost too many unknowns to really provide an educated answer to this question.

To a degree, this is already a game changer because it necessarily demonstrates that WWE no longer values pay per view, particularly domestic pay per view, as a revenue stream of much importance, given that they're essentially cutting the throat of that source of income in order to feed the Network. We've already seen DirecTV drop WWE's PPV shows due to the Network's launch and, even if other cable and satellite providers won't be dropping them right out of the gate, I have a feeling that, over the long term, more and more cable/satellite services will be unloading them due to the decreased performance that will result from the Network airing the shows. Plus, this is a situation where I doubt you can put the genie back into the bottle. If the company bails on the Network and tries to go back to its traditional pay per view model, they have no guarantee that the carriers who have dropped them will pick them back up, and they almost certainly won't pick them back up on the same financial terms, because WWE will have diminished leverage. Even if they get the providers back, they're not likely to get the fans back, as consumers are unlikely to go back to paying $60.00 per month to get something that they have become accustomed to getting as part of a much larger $10.00 per month package.

So, in the worst case scenario, there is the potential for it to be a huge long term negative, as if the Network fails it is almost certainly going to take the pay per view business down along with it, and there's no direct one-to-one replacement for that income that I can see.

However, there is one great unknown out there that might ameliorate the effects of a WWE Network flop, and that's the fact that WWE is also set to renegotiate its United States television contracts during 2014. The promotion thinks that it is quite undervalued as a television property, particularly when compared to sports packages like NASCAR, and word on the street is that they are going to aggressively pursue a deal that at least triples they amount of television rights fees that they receive. I honestly don't know enough about the television industry to know whether they'll succeed, but, if they do pull this off, they'll be sitting much prettier financially than they have been over the past several years, and it would potentially be enough money to allow them to come off in a good position even if there is a Network and pay per view domb. If the TV deal bails the company out, a failed Network winds up essentially being a neutral for the promotion.

If the Network succeeds . . . well, again, I might be overly pessimistic here. However, I have a very hard time envisioning a world in which this Network becomes a smash hit, even though I'm certain I will subscribe to it and enjoy it immensely.

3) With UFC starting their own pay network, do you think the initial impression will make UFC suffer in comparison to the more fully formed WWE version?

There have obviously been a lot of very vocal UFC fans on the internet who have been complaining about UFC Fight Pass in comparison to the WWE Network, mainly because the Network is offering some real "a-level" content in the form of the pay per views for a price comparable to Fight Pass, while Fight Pass is largely b-level content with UFC's major shows being left to pay per view and the various Fox-owned television stations. I think those complaints will continue, because I don't see UFC changing up its business model just to compete with the WWE Network or attempt to be perceived as well as the WWE Network. After al, UFC, throughout its history, has never really tried to "keep up with the Joneses" so to speak as it relates to WWE, not in any aspect of its business.

So, I can certainly see the WWE Network nabbing more subscribers than Fight Pass and therefore being perceived as the bigger success . . . but I think that UFC will ultimately come out well ahead of WWE in terms of its overall business. For the past several years, UFC has crushed WWE in terms of success on pay per view. As noted above, WWE has essentially given up on that source of income, whereas UFC will still have it. UFC has a hundred million dollar television deal with Fox, while WWE's TV deal is of a much lower value and, though they are attempting to renegotiate it, there is no guarantee that they will be successful. WWE does have its superior merchandising deals and better international penetration, but I don't think that's enough to pull ahead of the UFC juggernaut in light of other factors.

So, yes, the public perception in the short-term may be that the WWE Network is a better service than UFC Fight Pass, as it gives fans more for their dollar, but I think that long term UFC will be proven to have the correct model because it's not undermining any of their primary revenue streams.

4) What original programming could the WWE produce that would help bring in the casual fan?

None. Seriously, none.

WWE's most popular programming has always been a straight up, traditional professional wrestling show, and all attempts to do spinoff programing that is not in the vein of a straight wrestling show has not done nearly as well, even when it's done well enough to be considered successful (see Total Divas). If causal fans still have Raw available to them on cable television - and they undoubtedly will, as it's too valuable of a property to put on the WWE Network full-time - there's not going to be anything that draws them on to the Network other than the allure of cheaper pay per views. That's why they're casual fans.

5) Is the WWE shooting themselves in the foot by including WrestleMania? Or could the potential 6 months block the covers WM, Summerslam and Money In the Bank in between offer enough incentive to cover any shortfall from reduced PPV revenue?

As you've probably picked up on from my answers throughout this column, I don't think that this Network is going to be as successful as WWE hopes. I don't see any way that they get the magic "break even" number of a million subscribers, at least not until the Network becomes available on a wider scope internationally.

However, with that being said, I think that, if you're going to try to launch this Network and make it work, you HAVE to give Wrestlemania away as a major hook. That's how you get people to rationalize the initial purchase, as I mentioned back in answer number one. There are a ton of fans who order Mania and no other pay per views, and making this offer to them gets them to say, "Hey, a minimum commitment to the Network is the same price as Mania, so I may as well just subscribe to the Network." I could see those same fans looking at another six month cycle and saying, "Psh, I never get those shows anyway, so why should I bother now?," even if they do realize that they could get six pay per views for $60.00 instead of six pay per views for $360.00.

To use an incredibly crude metaphor (particularly in light of the industry we're discussing), it's like being a drug dealer . . . you've got to give people a pretty damn big first high for free, and that is what gets them coming back for more. Wrestlemania is the big first high, and I don't think any other combination of pay per views will compare to it, at least not for more "casual" fans.

In fact, I think that the best idea would be to offer Wrestlemania as part of the Network this year but then pull it back and offer it ONLY on traditional pay per view in 2015 and all years going forward, unless and until PPV does truly die as an industry (which it is far, far from doing right now - ask Floyd Mayweather). That way, you get all of your sweet, sweet network revenue - whatever that might be - and you also get the traditional WM pay per view business, which is typically a pretty chunk of change for the company.

++++




JUSTIN WATRY

1) Will you be subscribing? Do you think the WWE Network will reach the million subscriber mark to break even from the get go and how many will re-up after the first 6 months?

I will be subscribing on February 24th, 2014. The issue with that is I am a huge wrestling fan. Despite what anybody else tells you, the majority of wrestling fans does not scour the internet for updates and rumors every day. I know quite a few casual fans in Wisconsin who still think Triple H and Stephanie McMahon are just a couple on television. Those people are not going to be paying $10 a month no matter what the deal is. It is going to take a strong effort for WWE to break even right off the bat. After a big promotional push leading up to WrestleMania XXX, it COULD get one million subscribers. Such a tough call. After the initial six months, there will be a drop off. No doubt. That is where the WWE Network will face its first road block. If this were just a six month project, I would predict success. Since this needs to keep being profitable every six months, who knows when the bottom falls out? Start with a million subscribers. What if that goes to 900,000 in a year? Or 800,000? Or 500,000 in a few years? Exactly.


2) If successful, do you think this will be a game changer for wrestling? If so, will it be positive or negative long term?

Yeah, if successful. Right now, I am not sold on that happening. For the diehards, it is an amazing offer. However, we are the biggest and most passionate members of the WWE Universe. The goal is not for us to subscribe. The goal is to get those 'once a year' fans that buy WrestleMania. That right there is where it may be a game changer. Should that all follow through, the WWE Network would be a positive for the long-term. I am more concerned about the short-term though. If this falters and WWE starts to get cold feet, expect another XFL disaster where the plug is pulled in a hurry.


3) With UFC starting their own pay network, do you think the initial impression will make UFC suffer in comparison to the more fully formed WWE version?

No. What the UFC is doing has no effect on what the WWE is doing. They will continue to run pay-per-view events and have their big relationship with FOX. WWE will get their monster cable deal and run their network as they see fit. I really do not think there is any comparisons here between the two companies.


4) What original programming could the WWE produce that would help bring in the casual fan?

None. Wrestling fans are going bonkers over this. Non-wrestling likely do not care and will barely even notice such a drastic change in the business model. If I had to choose one program, it would be Legends House. Yes, Legends House. Laugh all you want, but what do people love these days? Reality TV! Reality TV! Reality TV! Hello Total Divas. Well, that is Legends House for the WWE Network. Casual fans are not going to sit and watch hours of Mid-South. Casual fans are not going to care about hour long Roundtable discussions. Casual fans would watch classic Attitude Era stuff, current PPV events, and the reality television shows.


5) Is the WWE shooting themselves in the foot by including WrestleMania? Or could the potential 6 months block the covers WM, Summerslam and Money In the Bank in between offer enough incentive to cover any shortfall from reduced PPV revenue?

Both. I am in the middle here. WWE had to include WrestleMania XX this year. They just had to. Their buy rates will suffer, but the subscription fee come February will off set most of that loss. The summer pay-per-view events do not draw as well anyways, so it is nearly irrelevant. Come next year though, I have already predicted that WrestleMania 31 will NOT be on the WWE Network. By April 2015, the company will have a firm grasp on what is and is not working with their network. Prince increase, program fee, commercials and more would then begin...

++++




JARROD ATKINSON

1) Will you be subscribing? Do you think the WWE Network will reach the million subscriber mark to break even from the get go and how many will re-up after the first 6 months?

Hell yes I'll be subscribing. For the cost of Wrestlemania I can get access to the greatest archive of pro wrestling on the planet and all the pay per views. I think as long as the WWE keeps adding programming to the channel and it doesn't become like watching HBO with the same 6 things over and over again people will re-up in a heartbeat.


2) If successful, do you think this will be a game changer for wrestling? If so, will it be positive or negative long term?

This will cause all the other wrestling companies to reevaluate their PPV cost and realize that in order to compete with WWE, they may have to follow suit and try and do something similar, but on a smaller scale. Maybe ROH will finally look into a better production setup at the least.


3) With UFC starting their own pay network, do you think the initial impression will make UFC suffer in comparison to the more fully formed WWE version?

UFC has a good plan, but the sport of MMA is only two decades old and they're up against a man that's been buying video libraries for the same amount of time. UFC will be successful in their endeavor, but probably not as successful as WWE. It's really apples and oranges if you think about it. UFC is focused on particular fights and WWE can do storylines, feuds over the years, and the history of particular promotions. Dana is doing well, but he needs to absorb a few more promotions to be on Vince's level.


4) What original programming could the WWE produce that would help bring in the casual fan?

Go with a where are they now show or a pop up video type show. Find a way to reuse your old footage in a fresh way. There's probably stuff in the WWE archive that hasn't seen the light of day in 30 years. Find a way to use it.


5) Is the WWE shooting themselves in the foot by including WrestleMania? Or could the potential 6 months block the covers WM, Summerslam and Money In the Bank in between offer enough incentive to cover any shortfall from reduced PPV revenue?

WWE is taking a gamble including Wrestlemania, but it will probably pay off. How many of us said "Oh shit, Wrestlemania is INCLUDED?!" They had to know that they needed a hook to bring in those people on the fence, including myself. Wrestlemania this year could be worse than Wrestlemania 25 and I wouldn't bitch as much because I didn't drop $50 on it like all the previous years. And there will still be those willing to drop money on PPVs out of pure habit. WWE has a winner here if you ask me. Absolute money in the bank.

++++




WYATT BEOUGHER

1) Will you be subscribing? Do you think the WWE Network will reach the million subscriber mark to break even from the get go and how many will re-up after the first 6 months?

I will absolutely be subscribing on day one. I'd be subscribing on day one even if it meant cancelling my Netflix and/or Hulu Plus services, but it doesn't, so this was absolutely a no-brainer. Traditionally, because I travel a lot for work, I'm generally in a hotel room on Sunday nights, which makes it extremely difficult to order WWE PPVs. Even so, I usually end up getting together with friends and buying three or more PPVs a year, so a one-year subscription to the WWE Network is actually going to pay for itself. I would be surprised if the WWE doesn't break the one million subscriber mark on day one, and I actually wouldn't be surprised to see a retainage rater of somewhere between 60-70% after the first six months. The more tape libraries that they include, the wider their appeal is going to be, as I know a lot of wrestling fans who have stopped watching since Vince bought WCW, and they are thrilled by this announcement, as it gives them the opportunity to go back and watch wrestling when it was still "professional wrestling" and not "sports entertainment".


2) If successful, do you think this will be a game changer for wrestling? If so, will it be positive or negative long term?

I don't just think this will be a game changer for wrestling, I think it's a game changer for the future of television. This is the first, real "a la carte" channel with a narrow focus and a potentially very large install base, and I think when it proves to be a huge success for the WWE, you're going to see other successful entertainment providers follow suit. It's my sincere hope that the NFL breaks away from DirecTV and offers Sunday Ticket in a package like this when their current deal is up, as that'll allow me to cancel my DirecTV subscription and still enjoy my Bengals games no matter where I happen to be on a Sunday. But you know who won't follow suit? The UFC, because Dana White is a hard-headed moron who believes that their (clearly inferior) subscription model is the best way to go.


3) With UFC starting their own pay network, do you think the initial impression will make UFC suffer in comparison to the more fully formed WWE version?

As I mentioned, I certainly hope that it does. As an MMA fan (and writer for this site), I was initially excited about UFC Fight Pass...until I saw the content that it would actually contain. Fight Night events that were already on free TV? Reruns of shows that were on Spike and FX anywhere from two to ten years ago? Even the biggest selling point, the UFC's video library, is only offered in small chunks. Plus, no PPVs and they still want the same price as the WWE Network? Yeah, I'll pass.


4) What original programming could the WWE produce that would help bring in the casual fan?

Honestly, I think the WWE needs to do less to bring in the casual fan and more to bring back those fans they alienating during the Attitude Era. The way I see it, casual fans are already sinking their money into Netflix and/or Hulu Plus, because wrestling is something they catch if they're channel surfing and it happens to be on. As I mentioned earlier, there's a pretty sizable group of wrestling fans that don't like the current WWE product and haven't really been happy with anything since WCW started to decline. Those fans are tremendously loyal to the older brands, and by making them feel like an important part of the WWE Network, I think the WWE could bring a sizable number of them on-board. I talked to one of my friends who fits into this group the other day after the announcement, and I asked him if they ran NWA shows or Nitro from the beginning with a pre- and post-show hosted by Dusty or Ric Flair or some of the other greats who featured on the shows, if that would be enough to get him to subscribe, and he was 100% on-board. He even said he'd be more inclined to give the current product a chance, since it'd be included with his subscription (this is after I've spent the past year trying unsuccessfully to get him to watch NXT).


5) Is the WWE shooting themselves in the foot by including WrestleMania? Or could the potential 6 months block the covers WM, Summerslam and Money In the Bank in between offer enough incentive to cover any shortfall from reduced PPV revenue?

They are absolutely NOT shooting themselves in the foot. After all, Wrestlemania, Summerslam, and all the rest of the WWE PPVs will still be available via traditional PPV, and they're still going to get a great deal of their buys that way, as there's a pretty significant portion of their fanbase who still live in rural areas where high speed internet isn't yet available but PPV is. Additionally, there are going to be people who subscribe to the WWE Network just for the archival footage and video library and not for the current product, so it's not like they're losing any money that way. As I said before, I have a group of three friends that I watch PPVs with (and a bunch of other people usually show up, but we split the PPV costs between the four of us), and we make sure that we get three PPVs a year - Royal Rumble, Wrestlemania, and Summerslam. Last year, we also got Elimination Chamber, but even so, that means we each spent about $60 on PPV for the year. Two of those guys are roommates, so they'll only be getting one subscription, but the other remaining guy and myself are both also subscribing, so right there, the WWE has essentially gotten the same amount of money we would've spent on PPVs this year, just on the initial six-month commitment. There's very little chance that after six months any of us are going to cancel, so they've actually made more money off of my group of friends than they otherwise would've. And yes, I realize this is anecdotal and not representative of the WWE's fanbase as a whole, but I'd also be willing to bet that we're not the only such group of WWE fans out there, either.

++++




DANIEL WILCOX

1) Will you be subscribing? Do you think the WWE Network will reach the million subscriber mark to break even from the get go and how many will re-up after the first 6 months?

As someone who lives outside of the United States I unfortunately do not have the option of subscribing right away as the proposed launch date for the UK and other areas is late 2014, possibly early 2015. On the bright side that means any issues with the Network will hopefully be resolved by the time it goes international, but I'll obviously be missing out. Once the Network is up and running over in the UK however, yes, I will be signing up straight away as long as there are no catastrophic issues with the Network that haven't been dealt with. I mean, even though WWE charges less for its pay-per-views internationally than it does domestically, as someone that purchases every pay-per-view out of blind loyalty, I'm making a massive saving assuming the international price falls in line with the domestic launch price.

As for whether it makes a million subscribers, I wouldn't be surprised either way. My business acumen is limited; I have qualifications in economics and business but they don't stretch quite this far. I'm a wrestling fan first and foremost, so looking at this from a fan's perspective, I would absolutely have to assume that they'll break the one million barrier fairly quickly, especially having Summerslam WrestleMania XXX in there.

The number of people who re-describe will be decided by how many issues with the launch there, and perhaps more importantly how quickly they're resolved. WWE is a massive, massive organization, and I would hope that they'll be able to stream a live pay-per-view on the Network without any issues. If they can pull that off, then I think the majority will re-subscribe because the big draw is the free pay-per-views, surely?

2) If successful, do you think this will be a game changer for wrestling? If so, will it be positive or negative long term?

Swings and roundabouts. Of course it's going to be a massive game-changer, it completely blows the current pay-per-view model out of the water. It puts the emphasis even further onto the television shows. It's also another example of how WWE is ahead of the curve when it comes to technology and innovation. WWE has embraced the social network aspect of the internet like few other shows have managed to do, and now they're one step ahead of the competition in terms of how they deliver their product to their audience. Assuming this is successful, and I think it will be, it has to make one wonder if there will ever be a professional wrestling company who can compete with Vince McMahon and the WWE ever again. On current evidence, you'd have to suggest that Vince McMahon has won this particular game of monopoly.

3) With UFC starting their own pay network, do you think the initial impression will make UFC suffer in comparison to the more fully formed WWE version?

I don't follow UFC as regularly as I used to but from everything that I've read in the past couple of weeks, the two things that seem to set WWE Network aside from UFC's Fight Pass and similar offers is the amount of content and the technology. WWE is offering a much greater range of content and a much more respectable price than UFC is currently offering and that's going to make all the difference. And don't underestimate the technological side of it - WWE has some fantastic partners that they are launching this Network with and if everything goes to plan, they're not going to have too many problems upon launch, which can't be said for UFC. How closely the two are linked is largely debatable because despite what anybody else says, WWE and MMA do not share the same fan base. There's a small amount of overlap, but not a lot. The fact remains that despite everybody devouring Vince McMahon for being out of touch, it sure does look like he's managed to hit a home run with WWE Network.

4) What original programming could the WWE produce that would help bring in the casual fan?

It depends what you mean by "casual fan." Are we talking casual wrestling fan, or your regular casual viewers? Because nothing will entice people onto a wrestling network that aren't already wrestling fans. A show like Total Divas on television can draw viewers in and get them into wrestling, but that's something people can stumble across by channel-hopping. With the Network, that's not an option. But being able to bring in casual wrestling fans shouldn't be too much of an issue - it's all about offering as much content as possible. Drag them back in by offering the shows they used to love (the old WWE, WCW and ECW pay-per-views) and then hook them with the brand new content. Of course, this is only going to work if that new content is as good as it can be. Offering additional shows like my co-writers have mentioned such as realities series, roundtables, countdown shows and the like is all well and good, but the long-term goal has to got to be to get people who view content on the Network to tune into Raw and SmackDown every single week if they're not already doing so.

5) Is the WWE shooting themselves in the foot by including WrestleMania? Or could the potential 6 months block the covers WM, Summerslam and Money In the Bank in between offer enough incentive to cover any shortfall from reduced PPV revenue?

Look, the current pay-per-view model was dying. The number of people purchasing these shows has been in a steady decline for a number of years now and it has nothing to do with Vince McMahon not offering the "right attraction." People no long have the disposable income to plonk down that sort of cash for a wrestling show once a month, especially when that wrestling show doesn't deliver anywhere near to its lofty price tag. By offering WrestleMania in the deal they get a hell of a lot more eyes on their flagship show. WrestleMania is WWE's SuperBowl, and now a hell of a lot more people are going to get the chance to see the show. Fans are getting fantastic value for money here, and if WWE feels they're getting it too good, they can always take WrestleMania out of the deal in 2015.





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