By: Smark Central
I’m usually not one to delve into serious topics about business or money. It’s not something I’m good at, but I know common sense. I know if you invest your money in something and your investment isn’t returned, you lose money. It’s also not wise to want to go into something and just “break even”. The goal is to always make a profit. This begs the question how long will WWE maintain and operate the WWE network before they deem it unsuccessful? It hasn’t been a calendar year yet, but there are many more troubling signs of failure than signs of success.
So far the fan response to the network has been mediocre at best. Don’t believe me? WWE gave away Survivor Series one of it’s biggest shows of the year for free. I don’t remember what the last count was, but I believe the initial number of subscriptions after launch was around 700,000. I know some people (myself included) have dropped it so the numbers may have dipped. Why is this happening? Well one theory out there is that Pay-Per-Views have become so diluted thanks to the amount of free weekly programming and very repetitive, drawn out feuds that even for $9.99 it’s not worth it. Why pay a monthly charge when they are going to put on basically the same match in the weeks leading up to or on the next PPV? I’m no business major, but watering down the meat of the product your trying to sell probably isn’t the way to go. Ok so the PPVs are a bust so what else is there? There are some specials that occur like the Vince McMahon-Stone Cold podcast that aired this past Monday. There are some documentary type specials which are fine, but is that worth paying $9.99? Maybe the video library which is chock full of the same shit you’ve had on DVD for years helps. In all seriousness, the video library is a nice touch for long time fans like myself, but it’s not drawing people in and they’re not even close to having everything uploaded. For me personally it’s great seeing all the old WWF, WCW, ECW stuff, but it’s not going to bring in the casual market (hey come see this stuff from 10, 20, 30 years ago). It’s not going to draw too many fans of the current product either(hey come watch some stuff that happened before you were even born).
Another major problem is that they can’t seem to launch in the UK for the life of them, but supposedly it’s coming. That’s the message their delivering to their second biggest market in the World. “Hey relax. We’re workin on it. Go sip some tea, get those nasty teeth fixed and do whatever else we think you British people do”.
So what does the future hold for the WWE Network? WWE said from day one that it needed a million subscribers to break even on the network. They had a rough start at home and its even worse in the U.K. They gave away November and a few weeks here and there along the way. One would have to assume that they need more than a million now. They haven’t reached that number yet so as of now it’s a loss. How long are they going to sink money into it? Who knows. I do know this – Vince doesn’t like losing and has already failed several times to branch out beyond the current product. He has to figure out a way to draw more people if he doesn’t want a third major public flop on his hands. NXT has become popular, but what’s the point when the characters get called up to the main roster and become watered down versions of what they were on NXT? It’s like “Yea that character I invested so much time in is now just a regular schlub like everyone else”. Even if NXT remains a viable product there’s still nothing else to fall back on. They need better original programming, but that’s going to cost money. Anything above a reality show is going to cost serious dough and I don’t see them going that route. What they really need to do is make the current product better. Yes, $9.99 is a great value for thirteen PPVs, but the product is not good enough to draw more eyeballs than what they’ve been getting. It’s just not there. Look at the ratings for RAW every week. They usually clock in at 2.9-3.2 range which is around 3-4 million people a week. Never goes much higher or lower than that. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great number but RAW is free and on cable which most people have these days.
The fact is the product is stale, poorly written, and overseen by an out of touch sixty eight year old man who can’t get the Hell out of his own way fast enough. It’s been something of rumor for the past few years, but it has become more obvious now than ever. Vince was all set at this time last year on having Batista as a face against Randy Orton for the title as the main event of WrestleMania DESPITE the fact that Daniel Bryan was the most popular guy on the show since nine months out. This is the same guy who also put the WWE title on Brock Lesnar DESPITE Brock only working 34 dates a year. The same Brock Lesnar who Vince decided (an hour before WrestleMania) would break the Undertaker’s undefeated streak.
Thanks to Vince’s “genius” we haven’t seen the WWE champion on TV since SEPTEMBER. Read that sentence again and tell me to be optimistic about the future of the network or anything else they do. Yea, they’ve come out smelling like roses before. I’m not doubting the company’s resilience. Vince went on trial for distributing steroids twenty years ago and they bounced back. Chris Benoit murdered himself and his family because of the mental and physical toll wrestling took on his body, but WWE lived to see another day.
This network is not going to kill the company. It’ll be gone long before it bleeds Vince’s bank account dry, but its a small window into a bigger issue. The WWE has plateaued creatively. There is seemingly no end to the madness and Vince is the key. He needs to admit his flaws, accept his failures and walk away. Leave it to someone who can move mountains the way he used to. To make the crowd roar and cheer and boo the way THEY want to. Not the way some old man tells them to.