clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

It's not the network WWE should be selling, it's the product

Michael N. Todaro

In a way, taking your company public is like finally shacking up with Igraine. It's all wine and roses for about nine months or so, and then all of the sudden you have Merlin at your front door asking for the kids.

Hello Vince, we're here for the subscribers.

WWE released its third-quarter financials earlier today, including an updated subscriber number for the WWE Network, and let's just say that nobody on Wall Street is popping any bubbly. To read some of the fine print, gleefully transcribed by Sean "Rueter" click here.

In a nutshell?

WWE continues to add subscribers, just not at the pace it was hoping for. When tied to a chair and put under the lamps, McMahon and Co. had a nice little song and dance about rainbows and unicorns, because everything is hunky dory in the land of make believe.

Uh huh.

Having spent several years on Wall Street, I know that people who work in finance aren't at all interested in the whys and wherefores of performance. As my old boss used to ask every Monday before the closing bell, "Fuck you, what are the numbers?"

Have an answer, or have a seat on the first bus to Splitsville.

One thing that has remained constant since the day the WWE Network launched, is how aggressive the organization has been in selling it to us, the fans, even going as far as inserting the NINE-NINETY-NINE shtick into live promos and crappy songs.

It's not the price WWE should be selling, it's the product.

As our own General pointed out earlier this week, it's almost as if the suits behind the scenes are stuck in a perpetual head shake, aghast at this idea that dummies like you and I won't sign up for a service that's so cheap, especially when we stand to acquire the lion's share of WWE content.

Like free pay-per-view (PPV) events!

I'm reminded of my early days in department-store retail, when the store manager couldn't wrap her head around the fact that customers weren't taking advantage of the company's "buy one, get one free" sale, perhaps forgetting the cardinal rule of shit:

One piece of shit smells bad enough. Why would I want another?

WWE seems to be operating under the assumption that fans will sign up for the WWE Network simply because it exists. Also known as the "If you build it, they will come" business model. And it's true, as a good portion of the "Universe" -- like myself -- will automatically hop on board because it sure beats buying a costly PPV every month.

But we're not the people who need to be sold.

That was one of the things that used to drive Paul Heyman crazy about ECW, as he argued that TNN would only air commercials for his product during the actual wrestling show. That's like showing up at a friend's party and then getting the invitation.

I'm already here, leave me alone.

As far as I'm concerned, WWE is probably close to rounding up the last few stragglers who are willing to sign up for the online service regardless of what's happening on screen. Now it's time to go after the rest of the fan base and as we've already ascertained, the organization's "it's here and it's cheap" marketing strategy has run its course.

Let the product take over and do the rest.

It's essentially the one and only way to market to prospective subscribers without alienating the existing ones. That means a concerted effort to build long-term programs with new and established talent, and less start-stop booking based on whatever fluctuating number Monday Night RAW turns in on any given week.

If the product is consistently great, your customers will do the marketing for you.

I hated WCW in the early nineties and decided to call it quits after RoboCop showed up, because he took 45 agonizing minutes to walk down the ramp, then pulled Sting from a rubber shark cage while the announcers cheered: "Woo hoo! What strength by RoboCop!"

Then something happened.

WCW got good. Actually, it got great, and one of my college buddies kept harping on me every week. "Dude, you gotta see what's going on in WCW!" That was all it took. Once I revisited the product, I was willing to stick around and even laid some heavy timber on a couple of PPV shows.

Good news travels fast.

WWE can help broaden its digital footprint by A) bringing back the fans who jumped ship and B) converting more non-believers (like her). Not by changing the parameters of the agreement or adding hackneyed gimmicks, but rather by putting the creative back into "Creative."

Sounds simple (because it is) but that doesn't mean WWE is ready to embrace it.

Heck, I don't know if it's even willing to acknowledge it, which may explain why that particular question was ignored on today's conference call. There was no "We are happy with the current direction" or "We have some big things cooking" ... it was just flat-out ignored, which comes across like Who the fuck are you to ask us about Creative?

In a way, the WWE Network is not unlike a WWE superstar.

Even if you have a great look and perform well, there is only so far you can go without the right creative direction. Personally, I enjoy the current product and think it's "good." But if WWE wants to set sail for the new world and not leave any pilgrims behind, it needs to be great.

Because in the end, I don't really care about the network, I only care about what's on it.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Cageside Seats Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your pro wrestling news from Cageside Seats