Can The WWE Network Ever Become Profitable?

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Can the WWE Network ever become profitable? A loaded question; one that the WWE needs to answer as soon as possible. The WWE Network is an amazing bargain for us fans, but how profitable can it be for WWE corporate? We get to view not only countless hours of rebroadcasts of WWE, WCW, and ECW television and pay per views, but we also get to view all the WWE’s newest pay per views all for only $9.99 a month. The WWE however states they must gather 1,000,000 subscribers before the end of 2014 to become profitable; the network is well under that number reaching only over 600,000 as of April 7, 2014.

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It is now true that all WWE fans must have cable or satellite TV to tune into Raw and Smackdown. This wasn’t true before 2008, when they aired on the broadcast television network, the CW. Even after that the WWE still broadcast over the air in larger markets, on MyNetworkTV until 2010. After 2010, Smackdown aired on the SYFY network giving them the ability to have all programing on cable, satellite TV or the WWE website.

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The ability to air all programing on cable or satellite television, and their website, was calculated in their decision to begin a network of their own; one where they could air classic wrestling programs, reality series, and other original content. The idea evolved from a few incarnations, first it was to be a paid channel, following that it was to be a pay per view service, eventually evolving to the idea of creating a video on demand service that could be accessed via their website and smartphone apps.

I believe the idea began with the notion that since all WWE fans now watch their programing via cable or satellite TV, they must have also ordered some sort of internet service via their choice of paid television. This notion may be the WWE Networks downfall, not all viewers can afford internet service, many only being able to keep up with the WWE at their local library or a business that offers free Wi-Fi. Many other fans may take a less moral route and view their cable illegally barring them from ordering any other service from their cable company.

Another problem lies in the competition with the WWE’s own pay per views. Prior to the network many fans ordered the WWE pay per views through their cable and satellite providers, the fee for which would be added to their next monthly bill; allowing them to pay for the show they ordered when they pay their bill, and not on a specific date as the network demands.

So far I have only covered the US market. The international market would require much less than the one million subscribers mark they only need 250,000 subscribers. This number gives the WWE plenty of reasons to focus on the US market. Most notably the fact that international fans could just access the WWE’s website as the US fans would and sign up in the same manner as their US counterparts. This would pad the US subscriber numbers while lowering the future numbers internationally.

There are a few problems endangering the WWE Network’s future. There are also many more reasons that the network should become profitable, about 650 million reasons. On the company’s corporate website they boast that they broadcast to over 650,000,000 homes worldwide in 150 countries. Dividing 650,000,000 homes by 150 countries means roughly about 4,333,333 homes in each of the 150 countries watch the WWE. The fact that the network only needs 250,000 subscribers internationally, from that 4,333,333, means that 4,083,333 remain for the US market. These numbers are not exact; they don’t account for the actual number of homes per country i.e. how many homes in the US watch the WWE? This issue is moot however, keeping in mind that some international audiences can access the WWE’s website as any US fan can per my previous paragraph. So for all of the numbers, all of the less moral fans, and for all of the current subscribers, the WWE Network should become profitable before the end of this year.

  • Jamie

    Nice piece Ed and I think for sure the Network will become a profitable model within a few years but I think the big test is going to come when all the 6 month commitments come to an end and how many people renew. The international markets will allow and make up for some of the drop off but to make the Network more profitable for me WWE needs to address the issues around the fact they don’t have Raw and Smackdown replays on there instantly after the show has aired on TV. That’s something for me that will help attract a lot more people to subscribe going forward.