If you've been following the business or wrestling (or business of wrestling) news today, you've probably learned the following: WWE Network business is not good, WWE Network is desperate for subscribers, and WWE Network is very desperate for subscribers. Yes, the sky is falling on WWE's soon-to-be-latest (and most expensive) failed venture. But if I can be the (and I can't believe I'm doing this) voice of reason for a minute, there's something I'd like to tell all of you, and some of you probably won't like me saying this:
WWE Network is going to be around for at least the foreseeable future. It's not going anywhere.
I have 10 reasons why. Yes, of course I made a list.
1. They have far too much money invested in it. To quote a term commonly used in poker, WWE is all in on this service, meaning they have to make it work or we could be looking at a roster of like 20 people. That's how deep WWE's in this streaming service. We don't exactly know what the real break-even point is, but assuming it's the lowest projected number (500,000 subscribers), they're well into making a small profit. Of course, if we are to believe a million subscribers is the break-even, then...yeah, it's gonna be a tough hustle, at least as far as this year is concerned. Can they ever make it break even? My gut says no; it's hit its ceiling. But I'm probably wrong.
2. The United Kingdom-you know, that group of countries ruled by a queen-doesn't have WWE Network yet. Recently, WWE Network became available in most of the free (and probably not so free) world, including Canada, which has some weird complicated deal that shuts out most of the country from getting the Network legally. Know who doesn't have the Network still? The United Kingdom, the only major international market without the service. It will be available soon enough (we think), and hopefully with a better deal with the one the Canadians got. It should-in a perfect world-be able to add a few thousand subscribers.
3. Germany also does not have WWE Network yet. Shot out of the dark: how is this even possible? Did WWE even think this through? Sorry, I digress. Just a hunch here: there's no way the company gives up on the network without having two of their biggest markets having at least a shot at it. Simply not plausible.
4. The alternative is much worse. Let me remind you of what that alternative is: $50 a month PPVs (which, in some parts of the country is still the only option)-or worse, not even being able to get the PPV at all, torrents, illegal streaming, viewing wrestling videos in resolution that would make your 1980s TV jealous. You really want to go back to that? I mean, if you do, let me know. As for me, gimme Wrestlemania X-Seven on WWE Network in upscaled 720p HD all day every day.
5. Those 100,000+ hours of their video library will just sit there collecting dust. Granted, that's what most of it is doing now, but making their vast video library suitable for Internet viewing takes time, and that's not even taking into account music rights and other legal mumbo jumbo. Thus, the reason why you only see the first 16 months of Nitro, or a few episodes of ECW, or selected RAWs and Smackdowns. If the Network goes away, then WWE will have no reason or incentive to upscale any of that footage anymore. It'll just sit in shelves in a big warehouse, probably never again to see the light of day. Speaking of those thousands and thousands of hours...
6. More content will be coming. Shoutout to TheLadyJSays for this: eventually, WWE Network will hit that sweet spot between they're asking from subscribers and what they're providing to their subscribers. Netflix found it. Amazon found it. Hulu found it. Even if it's about as niche an audience as there is in entertainment, if there are enough people that find their offerings intriguing, people will buy. In droves. It worked for Netflix. It worked for Hulu. It worked for Amazon. I'm pretty sure it'll work for WWE too.
7. Maybe the market is not quite ready yet for it-or maybe it is. The trouble with being first is people are going to look at your idea as crazy, maybe even flat out stupid. But when companies like Home Box Office and Showtime (you may have heard of them, they show movies all the time) are planning to do an over-the-top streaming service without a cable subscription, then suddenly that idea isn't so crazy. WWE Network may have been among the first to kickstart the era of unbundling.
8. Economics 101: one must spend money to make money. Without the WWE Network, surely the company would have turned in a profit for 2014. At this time last year, WWE was operating $10 million in the black through nine months. This year, WWE is operating $28.5 million in the red. Yes, the awful, awful programming has some part in that, but mostly it's because of the Network. And guess what? It's pretty much part for the course with any new technology. Netflix didn't profit from day one. Neither did Xbox Live or Playstation Network or Hulu or whatever your favorite technology service is. But in time, all those services did turn that red ink into black ink. Maybe all they need is patience and time, and that -$28.5 million could easily be +$28.5 million in three to five years. One can hope.
9. WWE's two biggest events on their calendar come within the next six months. Granted, those two events don't come until the new year, but while WWE has made some questionable decisions in the last year, one thing is for certain: they're not shutting down the Network any time soon. Not before Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania XXXI, the two biggest draws on the WWE calendar. There's probably gonna be a subscription spike come Wrestlemania season.
10. No commitment? No problem anymore. With WWE probably seeing the writing on the wall that people are getting out of their six-month commitment before those six months are up, they finally wised up and are ending all commitments effective December 1. What does this mean? One, you're no longer spending $60 every six months, so you're no longer tethered to their Network if you're not satisfied with it. Two, and perhaps more importantly, it gives WWE an incentive to improve their programming as people can simply vote with their wallet and say they're not giving them money next month if this month isn't to their liking. Or if they simply do not have the funds. And no more awkward cancelling of subscriptions either. It's basically Netflix. Don't feel like spending the money? You no longer have to. I have a gut feeling a lot of people will make this decision come April or May.
Yes, WWE Network is a disaster. It's a smoldering tire fire. And perhaps it's far beyond repair. But WWE will give it every chance to succeed before they throw the white flag.
So since the streaming service is going to be around for a bit, let's fix it.
Ideas, ideas, who's got ideas?