When World Wresting Entertainment announced it would go ahead with WrestleMania 36 on April 5, the caveat was that no spectators would be allowed in to see professional wrestling’s annual marquee event due to concerns regarding the spread of the coronavirus.
“In coordination with local partners and government officials, WrestleMania and all related events in Tampa Bay will not take place,” the WWE said in a March 16 statement. “However, WrestleMania will still stream live on Sunday, April 5, at 7 p.m. ET on WWE Network and be available on pay-per-view. Only essential personnel will be on the closed set at WWE’s training facility in Orlando, Florida, to produce WrestleMania.”
While the 2019 event drew 82,000 fans from more than 60 countries, according to WWE, WrestleMania in the COVID-19 era affords the organization an opportunity to jumpstart the WWE Network subscription streaming platform.
Launched in 2014, the $9.99 monthly platform recently enacted its first price hike (to $10.99). The move apparently didn’t sit well with consumers as the service lost 10% of its subscribers in the fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31, 2019. It ended the year with 1.42 million subs, compared with 1.56 million during the previous year. For the fiscal year, subscriptions fell 6%.
The decline had WWE officials considering strategic changes for the SVOD service, including distributing content in the Middle East and India.
“At this time, the outcome of these initiatives is subject to considerable uncertainty,” wrote the company in February.
With the coronavirus suspending all professional, college and high school sports, pent up consumer demand for competitive sports (even staged wrestling) could deliver WWE Network the fiscal/viewer stimulus it needs, according to some observers.