WWE held their annual conference call on Tuesday to relay company earnings, discuss injuries on the roster and when top injured stars would be expected to return, future talent debuts, and the touting of the WWE Network, among other topics.
On the call from WWE’s side were WWE Chairman Vince McMahon, WWE Chief Strategy and Financial Officer George Barrios, and WWE Investor Relations Michael Weitz. WWE Network subscriptions are always interesting seeing how the company has put a lot on the line in an effort to transition away from the traditional pay-per-view model into their network platform.
Much of their revenue is generated through the WWE Network, so a lot hinges on the number of subscribers. Traditionally, there are downswings in WWE right after WrestleMania and in the fall when wrestling goes head-to-head with the NFL. So it wouldn’t be a surprise to see subscription numbers take a dip on the WWE Network. However, the company announced Tuesday that they had 1.824 million subscribers in its first quarter 2016 earnings report with 1.454 million of those being paid subscribers, as reported by Wrestling Inc.
What makes that number somewhat impressive is that they announced 1.469 million WWE Network subscribers the day after WrestleMania 32, with 1.357 million of those having paid subscriptions. The reason they differentiate is that they are offering the WWE Network to new subscribers for free for a one-month trial. This way, a potential subscriber can have access to that month’s big pay-per-view as a way to entice them to sign up permanently. Even WrestleMania was offered for free based on that model this year, making it the first time in history you could have watched the big show at no cost.
Bottom line: This showcases an increase of 355,000 subscribers from March 31 to April 4, 2016. It’s also interesting to note that this call was held to address the first quarter earnings report. Unlike last year, WrestleMania took place in the second quarter this year. Barrios revealed that WWE generated between 900,000 and 1.2 million buys for WrestleMania and that pay-per-views generated the company $2 million in the first quarter alone.
While WrestleMania and other pay-per-views are the foundation of the platform, the WWE Network also relies on their original programming to attract potential subscribers. WWE boasts more of that than ever with monthly podcasts, Ride Along, archived episodes of Monday Night RAW and SmackDown, and the recently-wrapped Edge and Christian Show. Vince McMahon gave specific nods to Camp WWE, Holy Foley, Swerved, and Total Bellas.
Vince noted that their social media presence remains the strength of the brand with over 650 million followers across all their various platforms, including the WWE Network. Superstar Ink and WWE Game Night have also performed well for the company as they live online with increasing niche audiences.
Barrios revealed that they expect to hit 1.5 million WWE Network subscribers for the second quarter, which seems easily attainable seeing how WrestleMania was a second-quarter event. Just to compare, last year WWE Network total subscribers increased 75 percent to more than 1.2 million from the second quarter 2014, and average paid subscribers increased 31 percent to approximately 1.2 million from the first quarter 2015. A continual climb from year to year with no indication of a decline if you were to solely look at it from a WWE Network perspective.
Mr. McMahon released this statement via WWE.com in July 2015, and the same holds true today as evidenced by the increase in WWE Network subscribers.
“The performance of WWE Network demonstrates our ability to transform our legacy pay-per-view business into a global subscription business with high growth potential. We have
made meaningful progress executing our key strategic initiatives, including the achievement of significant international growth and increased engagement across our digital and social media platforms.”
[Image via WWE]