In a follow-up news story to our report on Thursday night that the poor financial performance of the WWE Network was being blamed for the day's Superstar firings and future company wide administrative cuts, its current subscription base may be worse than even the most pessimistic projections.
No-one dreamed that subscriber numbers could have declined from the 667,287 figure WWE reported the day after WrestleMania 30 due to the six month commitment to the service, but Dave Scherer is now speculating that could be the case:
"There are some within the company that have intimated to us that when the WWE second quarter numbers are released, the number of subscribers will actually go down (which to be clear we can't confirm at this time). When this was mentioned on audio yesterday, subscribers asked how it is possible that the numbers could drop given that people made a six-month commitment when they signed up. It's easy to explain. If there is no money on the debit or credit card someone signed up with, when WWE tries to draw payment they will not get it. Eventually, the subscriber in question is cut off, reducing the numbers."
WWE made clear in their press release on Apr. 7th announcing the statistic that the "current subscriber number does not account for potential failures to comply with subscription terms and six month commitment", but it was hard to fathom a scenario where the number of people who withheld payment was greater than the number of new sign-ups.
Given that the biggest selling point of the WWE Network was watching WrestleMania 30 on the channel and getting six months access to the service for the same price as buying the show on pay-per-view, it's possible some rogues who were only interested in watching the big event, signed up the day of the show, paid the first month's fee and then found a way to circumvent future payments. Still, for these people to have such a significant impact that subscriber numbers have dropped, that means new sign-ups must be crawling in at a snail's pace.
Scherer gave four ideas on how WWE can fix this problem. Firstly, listen to the fans more over who to push. Secondly, stop relying so much on John Cena, at the expense of other fresher talent. Thirdly, stop treating the audience as fools that will accept anything you say or present on TV as being fact, even when it makes no sense, i.e., more coherent and sophisticated storytelling. Finally, realize that wrestling is the Network's key selling point and give fans more of what they want.
The problem is new programming costs money and thus loading up the Friday night house show each week and taping it to air the next night would be cost prohibitive at the moment. The key is to do a much better job of hyping up the monthly live WWE specials and turning them into can't miss events. Both Extreme Rules and Payback were very good shows that kept the hardcores happy, but there was a noticeable lack of buzz for them before they took place. Indeed, Money In The Bank is just two weeks away and we've only got one match fully announced for the event. That's a recipe for teaching fans that the rank and file pay-per-views are skippable and not worth spending money on, just ask TNA.
Rather than more new programming, WWE needs to take better advantage of their huge tape library vault. They need to up the pace that they're adding old episodes of Monday Night Raw at, as they're several months away from hitting the time period with the most nostalgia appeal of the Attitude Era. But not everyone is the biggest fan of that time period or even that promotion, so a more diverse range of programming so that's there's something that every wrestling fan, old, young or in-between, from any part of the country, would enjoy is imperative.
But you may have your own ideas, Cagesiders. How would you turnaround the WWE Network's fortunes?