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The one year anniversary of the WWE Network

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It’s been one year since the WWE Network went live. Registrations opened at 9AM EST on February 24, 2014, and at 9:04AM EST I had my account done and all paid. $9.99 is a steal considering what you’re getting, all the pay-per-views, all the stuff in the vault, original programming, etc. If you’re a wrestling fan it’s a no brainer.

I don’t understand how people can complain about the service. Or that it’s not worth the money. If you rather go and illegally stream pay-per-views and shows, then that’s your choice. Me? I’d rather pay 10 bucks and know that as soon as I hit my Apple TV everything is going to work in full HD.

Now mind you, the first month or so I was a very heavy WWE Network user. I watched something different every day. I was a big fan of the early 90s WCW so it was great to revisit all the old pay-per-views. After the second month, my enthusiasm went down a bit and while I still watch the Network every week, I don’t tune in every day. Lack of time is one of the reasons, but then again I watch like 12 different other television shows every week and there’s only so much hours in a day!

My favorite show on the Network has been the Monday Night War series. It brought back so many memories from arguably the best years professional wrestling has ever seen. It was a great production and even though sometimes it was super biased towards WWE, (well, of course, right?) I think the producers did a wonderful job in recapping 5 years of war into the series.

The Legends Roundtable is another favorite of mine. I’m not a fan of watching Mean Gene Okerlund’s giant right arm in full view every time, but I think Mean Gene is probably the best one to anchor such a show. The lively discussions about several subjects were interesting especially when Michael Hayes and Jim Ross were on hand as well.

WWE Countdown is another good show but eventually they will run out of topics to count down to. And WWE 24 has the potential to be one of the best shows on the Network if they keep up with what they did for the series debut. NXT is probably the best thing on the Network today as their shows continue to outshine Raw, Smackdown, and pay-per-views.

The pay-per-views are most likely the reason most subscribe to the Network. $9.99 for a pay-per-view and all the other stuff that comes along versus $44.95 is common sense, correct? When the rumors about the Network started popping up, many thought that the company would include some PPVs on it – mostly the “B” shows – but then they surprised us all by putting all the shows, including WrestleMania, on the Network. That alone was worth the price.

Was it a smart choice to kill the pay-per-view business in hopes of having a steady stream of subscribers every month? With one year gone, it’s too early to tell, and for now, WWE is still in the red with the Network. From a business standpoint, the launch of the Network was going to cost a massive, massive amount of money while killing a couple of revenue streams as well.

From WrestleMania XXX to TLC 2014, WWE did approximately 1,561,000 traditional pay-per-view buys in total. Out of those ten pay-per-views, nine of them cost $44.95, while one was $59.95. Excluding WrestleMania, WWE generated around $39.4 million in PPV revenue, and other $41 million of WrestleMania alone. WWE doesn’t get all that money as it’s split, most of times 50/50 with PPV providers, but still that’s a large sum of money.

In 2013, excluding Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber (for fair comparison with 2014 when Network launched) WWE did around 3,033,000 traditional pay-per-view buys when the Network did not exist. Nine of those ten pay-per-views generated $86.7 million, and WrestleMania 29 on its own did $66.1 million.

With the introduction of the Network, WWE sacrificed 47% of its traditional pay-per-view business in 2014 compared to 2013, and 2013 wasn’t even a knockout year for WWE pay-per-view.

In their latest 10-K filings with the Securities Exchange Commission, WWE revealed that they spent $14 million in programming and production costs, $16 million in advertising and $13 million in customer service for the Network. That’s $43 million that WWE still has to get back in addition to their lost PPV business.

In January, WWE announced that they have passed the 1 million subscribers mark, missing their target number by a month. Vince McMahon often stated that they projected to reach 1 million by the end of 2014, 10 months after the launch of the Network. It took 11 months, still not bad, but when you consider how many people decided not to renew the service, well, it’s not pretty either.

WWE had around 1,490,000 gross subscribers ever since launching on February 24. By the end of 2014, 674,000 of those apparently did not like the service and removed their subscription. The company generated $69.5 million in subscriptions for the Network throughout the year, way down from their 2013 PPV business revenue.

WWE will start to break even with around 1.4 million steady subscribers per month. That would gross around $167 million in revenue every year. Is it impossible? Not really, but it’s going to be hard!

The WWE Network is here to stay. Many are going to the over-the-top service route. Major networks already offer similar service and like it or not, this is the future of television. WWE might have jumped the gun a bit early but I think at the end of the day, when all is said and done, Vince McMahon will be the one having the last laugh.

Colin Vassallo has been editor of Wrestling-Online since 1996. He is born and raised in Malta, follows professional wrestling and MMA, loves to travel, and is a big Apple fan!

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