Posted in: Doctor's Orders Doctor's Orders: WWE Network May Change The Industry
By The Doc
Dec 8, 2011 - 12:32:33 PM
Let’s pause the Mania countdown for a day…
I’ve had my eye on the rumors concerning the WWE Network for some time now. One of the key things that jumped out at me was the now persistent idea that the WWE might consider moving a portion, if not all, of their PPVs to the network. I am utterly fascinated by that idea. It shows that a business that, by and large, has been stagnant for several years, is willing to take a significant risk. PPV business, while not as financially successful as it has been in the past, is still a major cash cow for the WWE and the wrestling industry, in general. It is right up there if not slightly ahead of television as their main money-making enterprise (WWE TV programming being broadcast all over the world has helped keep things going pretty well, in that regard, despite decreased ratings in the States). So, moving PPV cards to TV seems, on the surface, a huge financial risk. Thus, for the last few months, I have looked at it as an unfathomable concept that was little more than silly conjecture slapped on the page to sell newsletters. However, there may be something to this idea…
I’ve often suggested that the WWE attempt to be more like a traditional sport with the theme of their product, as sport is very entertaining and is still booming in this economy as if the recession was merely a small dip in the financial world. Soccer and football are still charging along, as they always do. So, why not try and parallel your model based on what is clearly working? Soccer and football are free. They don’t operate like MMA or boxing or, for the last 25 years and counting, like the WWE. Television is king in the sports world. The WWE, in lessening their focus on the PPV business, would be switching gears to be more like the NFL. ESPN and the NFL’s own network are focused throughout the week on hyping the big game to ensure higher ratings. They have analysts and reporters making careers out of feeding the public’s hunger for more sports coverage.
Enter the WWE Network…and with it the opportunity to create a new business model, patterned after what the NFL and NBA do best. They can combine what works for ESPN to cater to their own audience and, simultaneously, attempt to draw new members to their Universe. Professional wrestling can move into a new era in the process.
With this new mindset, I went back and read some of the older rumors and you can see the gears turning if any of these rumors can be substantiated. Do they scrap the PPV concept altogether? Do they air Wrestlemania and Summerslam and Royal Rumble for free on their network and just turn the other 8-9 PPVs per year into, borrowing from the football analogy, the NFL Playoffs culminating in the Super Bowl (in terms of ratings)? Tell me that isn’t a wildly off-the-wall, but at the same time totally engaging thought process! The WWE has done things a certain way for the better part of three decades and their considering flipping the script. Color me intrigued! Then, the rumors move to having something similar to the Big 4 (Rumble, Mania, Summerslam, Survivor Series) on PPV and moving the rest to TV. I think that, at first glance, this seems to be the most economically sound idea in the short-term. I know for a fact that people would tune in for these big cards every month if they didn’t have to pay for them. I say FACT because I’m one of those people. I don’t feel like the WWE is worth $45-55/month anymore. I used to, but I was also in college and stupid and had nothing better to spend money on. If I can go in the living room once a month and see supercards for FREE, my interest level in those cards would skyrocket. I’d then be happy to spend my money on those four PPVs per year because that’s what I spend on PPV each year already.
The problem, though, could be in the long-term, as the WWE would be potentially conditioning their fans to expect free. If you make people expect free and then ask them to pay, then eventually that mindset may bite you in the rear. It could end up costing the WWE down the road. The thing is that there’s only one way to find out. To just do it…
How long have we, collectively, as a viewing group that is arguably the most passionate congregation of fans for any sport or entertainment entity, clamored for a return to the old days of fewer PPVs? If the WWE moves forward with this, then we could end up with the best of both worlds – fewer PPVs, but the same amount of annual super cards (the other 8 just being free).
What do y'all think? Feedback it below or answer on Twitter @TheDocLOP