Well, this is a bombshell of a rumour, if there ever was one.
Hollywood gossip site TheWrap.com are claiming that WWE are in talks to sell their huge video tape library to entertainment conglomerate Warner Bros.:
"Warner Bros. is in talks to acquire the WWE library, two individuals with knowledge of the negotiations told TheWrap.
Warners Bros. and the WWE decline to comment.
While the financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, the library is estimated to have nearly 150,000 hours of content, consisting of television shows, pay-per-view events and house shows dating back to the 1950s. It also contains a large selection of the visual history of modern professional wrestling, and is currently held by Cinedigm.
An insider with knowledge of Cinedigm's WWE contract told TheWrap there is no end date as yet, but the company is transitioning away from the library."
The story then went on to discuss how the WWE Network has made use of the tape library but hasn't received enough monthly subscribers yet to make up for the drop in pay-per-view revenue, implying that disappointing WWE Network subscriptions had led to the talks.
This report follows hot on the heels of a New York Post article that WWE is considering making the WWE Network available in the United States as a premium cable channel, after the company's success in Canada utilising that strategy:
"WWE boss Vince McMahon, while pressing ahead in hopes of turning around the disappointing start of his six-month-old streaming network, has still not shut the door completely on adopting a premium cable-TV network in the US, The Post has learned.
McMahon, the WWE’s chairman and chief executive, is keeping an eye on a little-publicized partnership with Canadian cable giant Rogers Communications to see if it holds the secret to distribution gold, a company executive said."
I'm sceptical that either plan will make it off the ground, but the fact that WWE is considering such out-of-the-box ideas suggests that WWE are very worried about the retention rates of the first batch of Network subscribers whose six month commitments expire later this month (a concern our columnist Hulk Holland shares) and that last month's international roll-out of the Network into 170 countries has not hit subscriber targets (perhaps because many foreigners have used loopholes to already access the over-the-top channel).
What do you think, Cagesiders? Is this a bad sign for WWE and the future of their struggling Network? Or could WWE benefit from partnering with giants in both the entertainment and cable industries?
Update (Friday 10:48am EDT): Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com has reported that there is nothing to the story of WWE looking to sell their tape library to Warner Bros., which our own sources have backed up.
Johnson went on to speculate that WWE may be in talks with Warner Bros. to be their new DVD and Blu-ray distributor instead of Cinedigm. This we can't confirm or deny, but would make sense given that the two sides have worked on animated movies together before (Scooby Doo and the Wrestlemania Mystery, and the upcoming WWE Flintstones film) and explain how TheWrap.com's inaccurate report ended up getting published in the first place.