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.

WWE Streaming Video Service Tops 1.59 Million Subscribers

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Feb. 7 reported a 7% (110,000) increase in fourth-quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2018) subscribers to its WWE Network over-the-top video streaming service. The platform ended the period with 1.59 million subs.

Media revenue grew 40% to a quarterly record of $205.3 million, primarily due to the distribution of certain live, in-ring programming content in international markets, which was partially offset by the timing and performance of the company’s portfolio of original movies.

Additionally, media revenue reflected the contractual escalation of core content rights fees, including license fees from the distribution of WWE’s flagship programs “Raw” and “SmackDown,” as well as increased sales of advertising and sponsorship across platforms and the continued growth of WWE Network.

“In 2018, WWE generated the highest level of revenue and earnings in the company’s history by leveraging our brand strength to increase the monetization of our content worldwide,” CEO Vince McMahon said in a statement. “Our long-term growth strategy will continue to focus on content creation, digitization and international development.”

 

Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu Lead Parks Associates Top 10 OTT Services List

Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu, in that order, lead Parks Associates updated list of the top 10 subscription over-the-top (OTT) video services in the U.S. market. The list, released Nov. 7, is based on estimated number of subscribers.

The full list in order is:

  1. Netflix
  2. Prime Video Users (Amazon Prime)
  3. Hulu (SVOD)
  4. HBO Now
  5. Starz
  6. MLB.TV
  7. Showtime
  8. CBS All Access
  9. Sling TV
  10. DirecTV Now

 

“Which company is the leading OTT video subscription service remains a topic of debate,” said Brett Sappington, senior director of research, Parks Associates, in a statement. “According to our estimates, Amazon has more Prime Members than Netflix has subscribers. However, when you consider only those Prime Members that use Prime Video, Netflix is the largest. Hulu remains the third largest but continues to grow its subscriber base.”

The firm noted the rise of a second tier of OTT video services from services with recognized brands, including several with high profile original content. Online pay-TV services Sling TV and DirecTV Now round out the top 10, ahead of similar services Hulu with Live TV, YouTube TV and PlayStation Vue. Online pay TV has been one of the fastest growing segments in the OTT video space, with aggressive marketing by all, according to Parks.

“HBO, Starz, Showtime, and CBS All Access demonstrate the powerful attractiveness of original content through series like ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Star Trek: Discovery,’” Sappington said in a statement. “This pattern suggests new services such as WarnerMedia’s DC Universe and the forthcoming streaming service from Disney could achieve success quickly.”

The top subscription sports OTT video services are MLB.TV, WWE Network and ESPN+. MLB.TV continues to lead the sports OTT subscription category, benefiting from its long tenure as a streaming service and popularity among dedicated baseball fans, according to Parks. WWE also has a dedicated fan base and publicly reported having more than 1.2 million U.S. subscribers at the end of Q3 2018, according to Parks. ESPN+ is a newcomer to the OTT video marketplace but recently announced that it had exceeded 1 million subscribers.

Other findings include:

  • OTT video subscription penetration has reached 64% of U.S. broadband households, with more than two-thirds subscribing only to one of the top three services, Netflix, Prime Video, or Hulu;
  • The online pay-TV audience is similar to the OTT audience — they are younger and quicker to adopt new technologies when compared to traditional pay-TV households; and
  • Over the past three years, OTT churn rates have gradually fallen each year from 31% of OTT subscriptions cancelled each year in 2015 to 28% in 2018.

World Wrestling Entertainment Ups Q2 SVOD Subs 10%

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) said second-quarter (ended June 30) over-the-top video subscriptions of WWE Network increased 10% to 1.8 million from 1.62 million during the previous period.

Digital engagement continued to grow through the first six months of 2018, with video views up 58% to 14.4 billion and hours consumed up 71% to 509 million across digital and social media platforms.

The staged wrestling entertainment promotor completed agreements with USA Network and Fox Sports, effective Oct. 1, 2019, which increase the average annual value of WWE’s U.S. distribution 3.6 times that of the prior deal with NBC Universal.

Revenueincreased 31% to $281.6 million from $214.6 million, driven by the increased monetization of content as reflected in the media segment.

Operating incomenearly doubled to $21.2 million from $10.7 million in the prior-year quarter, reflecting increased profit from the media segment, which was partially offset by an increase in management incentive compensation based on anticipated strong full-year results and the rise in the company’s stock price.

Operating income margin was 8% as compared to 5% in the prior year quarter.

Through the first six months, operating income ballooned 192% to $43 million from $14.7 million on revenue of $469.3 million, which was up 16.5% from $403 million last year.

“We’re pleased with our continued success in increasing the monetization of WWE content globally,” chairman/CEO Vince McMahon said in a statement. “This success is evidenced by the completion of our new U.S. distribution agreements with USA Network and Fox Sports, the staging of another record-breaking WrestleMania, and the development of a 10-year strategic partnership with the Saudi General Sports Authority.”

Indeed, WWE produced more than 165 hours of content in the quarter, including versions of its “Best of WWE”series in Spanish, Portuguese, and German, and plans to launch a new series, “WWE Now”in Arabic.