WWE Networks Adds First Streaming Video Subs Since 2018

Following months of decline, WWE Network, the pro-wrestling subscription streaming video platform, saw paid subscriptions increase 6% in the second quarter (ended June 30) to finish the period with 1.69 million. It was the first quarterly video sub increase since the fourth quarter of 2018.

Spearheading a return to subscriber growth was the June 1 launch of an ad-supported free version of WWE Network that teased viewers with a portion of WWE’s content library to expand reach and engagement of its direct-to-consumer streaming service.

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Indeed, pro wrestling has proved to be popular during the coronavirus pandemic, with digital video views increasing 10% to a record 9.9 billion views and hours consumed up 15% to a record 374 million hours across digital and social media platforms.

Overall, net income reached $43.8 million, from $10.4 million in the second quarter of 2019, primarily reflecting improved operating performance due to reduced costs associated with live events. Revenue decreased 17% to $223.4 million from $268.9 million in the prior year quarter primarily driven by decreased sales of tickets and merchandise that resulted from the cancellation, postponement and relocation of live events due to public health concerns related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

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“We continue to adapt our business to the changing environment, focusing on the development of new content for global distribution platforms and increasing audience engagement to drive growth and value for our shareholders,” CEO Vince McMahon said in a statement.

WWE Launches Free Streaming Site

WWE Network is dipping its toes into the ad-supported VOD market with the launch of a free version of its streaming network — dubbed “Free Version of WWE Network.” The platform, which will not feature advertising initially, is an extension of the $9.99 monthly SVOD service with 1.46 million subscribers.

The free version will feature catalog shows from “Monday Night Raw” and “Friday Night SmackDown,” in addition to 15,000 other episodes.

“The launch of WWE Network’s Free Version is a key component of our company’s digitization strategy and a new way for all fans to be able to experience premium WWE content,” Jayar Donlan, EVP, Advanced Media, said in a statement. “As we continue to reimagine WWE Network’s offering, the Free Version will serve as an effective way to reach a broader group of consumers and allow them to experience the history and spectacle of WWE.”

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Since launching WWE Network in 2014, the platform has seen subscriptions decline, leading management, including CEO Vince McMahon, to acknowledge in the most-recent fiscal call that the company was seeking strategic alternatives/partners for the service.

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WWE has aggressively sought to offer new home entertainment content during the coronavirus pandemic since live stadium wrestling events have been put on hold. The free version will feature weekly highlights, talk-centric “Raw Talk,” “The Best of WWE,” and original series “Monday Night War,” “Ride Along” and “Table for 3.”

WWE Q1 Surprise: Home Entertainment Revenue Surges

Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) reported $62.5 million in “other” media revenue for the first quarter (ended March 31) — a category that includes disc sales. That compared to $9.4 million in revenue during the previous-year period. The revenue surge was largely due to the favorable timing of the company’s large-scale international event “Super ShowDown,” in addition to theatrical and direct-to-home video DVDs sold at Walmart, Target, Best Buy and other big-box retailers.

Separately, WWE Network, the company’s subscription streaming video platform, saw average paid subscribers decrease 8% to about 1.46 million, consistent with company’s guidance. McMahon and senior management are attempting to restructure the $9.99 monthly SVOD, including expanding distribution internationally.

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McMahon said the quarter’s financial performance was largely unimpacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, but added the situation could change going forward.

“We are in the midst of unprecedented times, which require us to be especially nimble, creative and efficient in order to ensure the long-term value of WWE,” McMahon said in a statement.

Indeed, the executive earlier this month permanently shuttered his pet pro football project, the XFL, for the second time with no plans to bring the league back in 2021. Featuring former college football players and NFL rejects, the XFL lasted halfway through a 10-game season before being shut down due to concerns about COVID-19.

The WWE also relocated its annual Wrestlemania event, slated for late March, to its Orlando training center, holding matches without any crowds.

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Interim CFO Frank Riddick said that ongoing uncertainties of the potential impacts of COVID-19 on the business have resulted in reduced employee, talent and other costs and delayed approximately $140 million in capital spending related to the WWE’s new headquarters.

“This was done to strengthen our financial performance going forward and to ensure we have the resources necessary to execute our value creation strategy,” Riddick said.

‘WrestleMania 36’ Potential Lifeline for Slumping WWE Network SVOD Service

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.”

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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%.

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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.


WWE Network Streaming Subscriptions Decline, Company Looking at ‘Strategic Alternatives’

World Wrestling Entertainment’s flagship subscription streaming video service, WWE Network, Feb. 6 disclosed it lost 10% of its subscribers in the fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31, 2019.

The SVOD platform, which launched in 2014 and costs $9.99 monthly, ended the period with 1.42 million subs, compared with 1.56 million during the previous-year period. For the fiscal year, subscriptions fell 6%.

Network revenue, which includes pay-per-view, dropped 12% to $41.6 million, from $46.8 million. For the year, revenue fell less than 8% to $184.6 million, from $199.3 million.

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In a statement, WWE said it is pursuing several strategic initiatives that could increase the monetization of its content in 2020 and beyond. Options include distributing content in the Middle East and India, and re-evaluating alternatives for WWE Network.

“At this time, the outcome of these initiatives is subject to considerable uncertainty,” wrote the company.

Separately, revenue from other forms of media monetization, including live in-ring programming content in international markets, scripted, reality and other programming, as well as theatrical and direct-to-home video releases, declined 12% to $56.1 million from $63.5 million.

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New WWE Network programming in the quarter includes “Steve Austin: The Broken Skull Sessions” series, featuring conversations with WWE wrestlers and celebrity guests; “Survivor Series”; and new podcasts “After The Bell” and “The New Day: Feel the Power,” which debuted on Oct. 30, 2019 and Dec. 2, 2019 respectively.

WWE Streaming Video Service Losing Subs, Pins Hopes on Linear TV

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has new TV broadcast deals with Fox and Comcast, which couldn’t come at a better time for the showbiz promoter.

That’s because WWE’s forays into subscription-based over-the-top video to supplant waning packaged-media sales are flatlining.

The company’s flagship WWE Network averaged 1.51 million paid subscribers the third quarter (ended Sept.30), consistent with downward guidance through the first nine months of the fiscal year.

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Average paid subs decreased 9% primarily driven by the impact of lower subscriber additions earlier in the year. For the fourth quarter, WWE projects average paid subscribers of approximately 1.43 million, representing a year-over-year decline of 10%.

Digital video views increased 12% on a year-over-year basis to 25.6 billion and hours consumed increased 14% to 957 million hours across digital and social platforms.

Media revenue increased to $146.1 million from $142.1 million in the prior year quarter, primarily due to the contractual escalation of core content rights fees, including license fees from the distribution of flagship programs “Raw” and “SmackDown,” as well as the timing and performance of WWE Studios’ portfolio releases.

That’s music to the ears of WWE founder/CEO Vince McMahon.

“With our flagship programming now spanning both broadcast and cable throughout the week in the U.S. and our expanding roster of international distribution partners, we remain excited about our ability to deepen the engagement with our fans around the world,” McMahon said.


WWE Network Adding Download, Free Viewing Options

WWE Network, the $9.95 monthly professional wrestling subscription streaming video service/app with 1.58 million subs, is reportedly rebooting the platform.

WWE’s YouTube channel touts more than 50 million free “subscribers.”

The entertainment service will soon offer WWE Network users a free option, in addition to two paid tiers, WWE co-president George Barrios told The Verge.

Barrios said the changes come as WWE’s relationship with Disney-owned BAMTech changed. The backend software provider, which also supported HBO Now, among other third-party streaming services, is now focused on the pending Disney+ service.

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As a result, WWE has partnered with Endeavor Streaming and Massive Interactive for backend support.

“We made the decision to move off, but [Disney was] incredibly professional,” Barrios said. “[Disney Streaming Services president] Michael Paull and his team, I couldn’t speak higher of.”

The rebooted WWE Network will offer free videos exclusive to the WWE Network app. The basic subscription will feature free content, in addition to live pay-per-view events, on-demand and original content.

The yet un-priced premium option will offer additional content, in addition to free shipping on all merchandise shipments, among other features.

Barrios said the platform is finalizing a download option enabling users to stream content without access to Wi-Fi. The executive said all content would be streamed in 720p resolution, with forays into 4K resolution not panning out.

“4K, I think that will be driven more by the penetration of 4K devices and then 4K consumption,” Barrios said. “We’ve experimented with it, but I wouldn’t expect a significant amount of video content in 4K this year certainly.”

WWE Network Streaming Video Subscriber Loss Expands

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) July 25 disclosed that its branded subscription streaming video service, WWE Network, ended the second quarter (ended June 30) with 1.69 million subscribers, which was down 6% from 1.79 million subs during the previous-year period.

WWE expects subscriptions of the $9.95 monthly service in the current third quarter to drop nearly 10% to 1.53 million, or 8% year-over-year.

“Given the actual and projected subscriber declines, the company does not expect to achieve record subscribers for the full [fiscal] year,” WWE said in a statement.

During the quarter, WWE said it made progress on “critical strategic initiatives,” which included completing content distribution agreements in key international markets and developing the foundation for the next iteration of WWE Network.

Specifically, the company completed content distribution agreements with BT Sport in the U.K., Fox Sports in Latin America and PP Sports in China.

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WWE contends these partners will help it reach its fan base on a global basis. The company also initiated the transition of WWE Network to a new operating system on July 24, which will it believes will provide users with a more intuitive interface and enhanced search functionality.

The new platform enables the addition of free and premium program tiers as well as content in multiple languages.

WWE continued to produce branded TV shows, “Monday Night Raw” and “Smack Down Live,” while developing other original programs across platforms.

These included new seasons of “Miz & Mrs.” and “Total Bellas” for USA Network and E!, respectively; new series, “Fight Like a Girl,” for the mobile platform, Quibi, and live-action family movie, The Main Event, premiering on Netflix in 2020.

WWE Streaming Video Service Sub Count Down Slightly

World Wrestling Entertainment saw its namesake WWE Network subscription video streaming service generate 1.58 million first-quarter (ended March 31) subscribers — up 2% from the same period last year, but down slightly from 1.59 million subs in Q4.

For the current second quarter, WWE projects average paid subscribers of about 1.7 million, representing a year-over-year decline of 5%.The company’s primary focus for WWE Network is the launch of a new OTT platform partnership with Endeavor Streaming and Massive.

The enhanced platform promises to bring new “features and experiences,” to viewers including delivery of content in multiple languages.

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Media revenue, which includes OTT, transactional VOD and digital retail, increased to $135.4 million from $133.4 million in the prior-year quarter, primarily due to the contractual escalation of core content rights fees. The growth was partially offset by lower advertising sales, particularly on YouTube, and the unfavorable timing of advertising and sponsorship sales across other platforms.

The segment’s operating income declined nearly 55% to $16.3 million from $35.9 million.

WWE YouTube Channel Reaches 40M ‘Subscribers’

World Wrestling Entertainment announced on Twitter that its YouTube channel has generated 40 million subscribers and 30 billion lifetime views.

A YouTube channel subscriber is typically generated when someone clicks to follow for free.

The channel, which essentially markets WWE pay-per-view events, branded pay-TV channels (“Raw,” “Smackdown Live”) and WWE Network subscription streaming video service, streams highlight clips, interviews and promotional PPV segments.

“Thank you to everyone that chooses to watch http://YouTube/WWE!” tweeted chief brand officer Stephanie McMahon.

WWE earlier this month disclosed that its SVOD service had topped 1.59 million paying subscribers.