The future of the WWE Network may see significant changes following yesterday’s major announcement that the company is evaluating “strategic alternatives” to its streaming service.
During Thursday’s WWE investor call, Vince McMahon noted that a potential deal with a new partner would be “transformative”, and that major players in the OTT business are clamouring for rights to their content. WWE moving PPV events off the Network would add signifiant revenue to the company’s bottom line.
Mike Johnson of PWInsider has confirmed that discussions began last month, and was not something that many within WWE knew about, including those working on the WWE Network itself.
Vince McMahon reportedly caught many by surprise, with some wondering what this meant for their future positions.
The Future Of The WWE Network
Over the last 24 hours, confirmation has been made by several people within WWE that the idea of shutting WWE Network down is not part of any strategic vision that the company has laid out. The company is continuing to work on a tiered version of the WWE Network, with work still ongoing as of this week.
The company silently rolled out a free version of the WWE Network on Q4 of 2019, featuring content already available through other social media mediums. Original plans had WWE rolling out a free tier, regular tier, and premium tier, which had added benefits including additional programming.
George Barrios, former WWE Co-President spearheaded a lot of the WWE Network overhaul scheduled for 2020. During an interview with The Verge, Barrios outlined details of a proposed tiered version of the service.
- Free: This will offer the same free-to-watch videos you’d normally find on WWE.com. Barrios said WWE might also offer timed previews of paid WWE Network content.
- Regular: The standard WWE Network experience, combining free content with subscription benefits like live pay-per-views, on-demand streaming, and original programming.
- Premium: “We think there’s also an opportunity to super-serve our most passionate Network subscribers with a premium tier that’ll bring together more content for them, more features for them, and also integrating some of our other non-video services like our commerce — potentially integrating something like free shipping, bringing together our digital ticketing efforts in there. It becomes the one place to experience everything WWE.” Barrios didn’t disclose how much WWE might charge for the premium tier.
With George Barrios gone from he company, and the idea that WWE PPV’s could be sold to another streaming outlet, it’s unknown how different any tiered version of the service will look compared the tentative plans made int he past.
Where WWE PPV’s Could End Up In The Future
If WWE decides to sell rights to PPV broadcasts, several major players could be in line to strike deals with the company. While no deals are currently in place, Vince McMahon noted that an announcement should be made before the end of the first quarter, which is on 3/31/2020.
Potential OTT Streaming Services
ESPN+: The sports streaming service, which is owned by Disney costs $4.99 per month, or $49.99 annually. The service currently broadcasts UFC pay-per-views at a cost of $64.99 per event.
Peacock: NBC Universal’s streaming service is set to launch on 4/15. Dave Meltzer noted in the latest edition of The Wrestling Observer Newsletter that “Sources in the industry have said that Peacock would look to WWE to be its key initial programming to draw subscribers from the start, very much as ESPN+ did with UFC.” The service will cost $9.99 per month. Given WWE’s relationship with NBC Universal, which owns USA Network, WWE would be a fit. PWInsider reports that WWE and Peacock have been in talks since last month.
DAZN: This service will fall more in line with WWE’s content, DAZN has become a destination service for combat sports. WWE had a deal in the past with DAZN in Japan to air RAW and SmackDown.
The big question now is whether WWE signs off rights to all or some of its PPV broadcasts to another provider, and how that will affect subscriber numbers for the WWE Network. Subscriptions were down 10% in the fourth quarter of 2019, and if any major content is moved, that number is expected to decline more.
While subscriptions for the WWE Network may decline, revenue could see an increase if a new OTT partner is willing to shell out millions per WWE PPV.