The WWE Network concept, which was originally announced in 2011 as a potential subscription-based channel to be offered on cable packages, eventually debuted in the United States in 2014 in the form we’ve come to recognize today. Its expansion included availability in 220 countries six months after its unveiling, continually growing with the WWE’s most recent expansion coming this past March to the Philippines and Thailand.
Two weeks ago, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon conducted his annual conference call to report third-quarter earnings to WWE shareholders. Over the last three years, one of the more anticipated aspects of the quarterly calls is the WWE Network subscription numbers. The company has invested a ton of resources in the platform as it continues the distribution transition.
During the most recent report, Vince revealed that the current WWE Network subscriber count is 1.458 million. That number is up from the 1.306 million paid subscribers in the third quarter of 2015 but down from the 1.52 million subscriber count from the previous quarter this year.
The WWE Network’s 1.458 million paid subscribers number is actually short of the 1.49 million paid subscriber count that Vince and the WWE had predicted for this time this year. Of the 1.458 million subscribers, 1.071 million of them are domestic (within the United States) with the remaining 373,000 coming from international subscribers. Things were a bit different at WrestleMania back in April, but free month subscription offers played a big role in that.
So with all that in mind, the WWE is taking action. According to a report from Wrestling Inc., the WWE is taking measures to assure that their projections are accurate by the time the next earnings report conference call comes around. And their process is two-fold.
To begin with, it appears that the WWE is considering cutting back the number of pay-per-views it will put on in 2017. Once Roadblock (the final RAW-exclusive show of 2016) airs, the WWE will have produced 15 pay-per-view events and five WWE Network exclusive shows this year alone. When the brand split was initiated and the announcement was made that both RAW and SmackDown would have monthly specials, many felt it was overkill, and the WWE seems to have finally realized that.
The realization first came back in September when there were two pay-per-views, one each for RAW and SmackDown, the first time it occurred in light of the brand extension. However, to the WWE’s chagrin, network subscriptions did not increase. As of now, there are only four confirmed pay-per-views scheduled for 2017 (Royal Rumble, Fastlane, WrestleMania, SummerSlam), so expect a decreased number from the projections we had when the brand split first went into effect.
The other part of the plan is to beef up the original programming on the WWE Network. The network, of course, already features podcasts, reality-based programming, retrospectives, and more, but the WWE wants to add to their original library.
Early ideas include a show similar to that of ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption, which would feature both JBL and Paul Heyman as the panelists discussing wrestling. PTI has two co-hosts, but the WWE is considering bringing in a third personality that would act as the moderator between JBL and Heyman, who would be the analysts in this scenario. The leading candidate for that role appears to be Peter Rosenberg, a popular radio host on Hot 97 and WFAN as well as a podcaster on ESPN’s WWE platform.
There has also been some consideration towards bringing in ECW personalities from the original era for a show as well. The names being discussed for that particular show are Taz, Tommy Dreamer, and The Dudley Boyz. If you recall, Taz was rumored to be in talks to bring his edgy podcast to the network back in the summer. Dreamer turned down a full-time return to the company as a wrestler. D-Von recently returned to the WWE as a producer, and Bubba Ray has teased a singles run recently as well.
Do you think these moves will have an impact on WWE Network subscription numbers?
[Featured Image by WWE]