The latest WWE Network subscriber numbers have been released by the powers that be in Stamford, and just as regular as the sun rises every morning, the all empowering wrestling news sites are busy releasing yet more stories of doom and gloom and ultimate failure of the best thing to happen to the wrestling industry since WrestleMania.
Let me get one thing perfectly clear from the get go. I’m not just another WWE fanboy sounding off. I own shares in WWE. I have invested money in the success of the WWE Network and so it is in MY best interests that the Network is as successful as it possibly can be, and so when I read these stories of doom and gloom, needless to say it’s very disheartening.
That being said I’m not looking at the WWE Network through rose tinted glasses either. I’m all too aware that the current product isn’t exactly the best it’s ever been, so it’s obviously going to be difficult to entice fans to spend $9.99 a month on a product that’s not delivering it’s greatest hits. However I’m constantly finding myself going back to what SHOULD be the WWE Network’s biggest selling point – PPV’s are included. A saving of $40, every single month. Even though the weekly TV product WWE puts out isn’t exactly changing the face of wrestling, it’s hard to argue the fact that on the PPV shows, the in-ring product is some of the best we’ve ever seen from them.
Let’s delve then, for a little while and have a look at just what $9.99 every month gets you:
1. Every single WWE, WCW and ECW PPV ever – That in itself is huge. Of course, the WWE Network should never be reliant on it’s archives, and original and up-to-date content is always going to be King, but come on, $9.99 for EVERY PPV ever produced!? You’re already saving thousands of dollars if you were to buy them all on VHS/DVD. Sure you might already own most of them, but being able to access every single one of them at the touch of a button is a thing of beauty.
2. NXT – The absolute best thing about WWE today.
3. Every current PPV – A traditional PPV costs $45. $60 for WrestleMania. Even if you don’t watch WWE PPVs on a regular monthly basis, and even if the only PPV you ever “legitimately” buy is WrestleMania, it’s still worth every penny. In fact that ONE PPV purchase would pay for a WWE Network subscription for 6 months. And you get the PPV you originally wanted. Plus 5 more.
4. WCW Nitro – I was never a fan of WCW Nitro growing up, but I know a hell of a lot of people who were. Sure, a lot of episodes are available in full on YouTube and other services (which is something WWE need to address), but the quality of these varies massively. Included in your subscription you get these episodes at the quality that they originally aired on TV.
5. Original Content – Some of the original content on WWE Network is nothing short of pure brilliance. Legends House is worth the $9.99 alone, but so far some of the original content includes: WWE Countdown, WrestleMania Rewind, Legends House, The Monday Night War, WWE Rivalries, Total Divas (perhaps not a selling point having said that), WWE Main Event, Legends of Wrestling (which is absolutely fantastic) and more!
6. You can watch it anywhere – On your laptop, on your TV, in the bathroom, on the bus, on the subway. Wherever you are, you can watch WWE Network with the touch of a button.
Yes, I sound like a salesperson. People who already have the WWE Network already know this stuff, but I feel sometimes a lot of people don’t realise JUST how much content is on there – and they’re constantly adding more.
Conversely to that, there are several reasons as to why people have not got the WWE Network yet. I’m going to tell you why every single one of those is an excuse, and not a reason at all.
1. It’s unreliable – The WWE Network is only as reliable as your internet connection is. In the beginning there definitely were a few issues with streaming, but they have virtually all been addressed and I’ve been running my Network on my PS4 virtually glitch free for months now. People constantly say “I have 200MB broadband speed. It’s the Network”. There are many factors as to why this is false. If it works perfectly for me, and thousands of others, but not for you with the faster internet connection, why is that? Well your broadband provider for one might be throttling your speed. Especially if you also happen to be one of those wrestling fans who torrent a lot. There are plenty of technical reasons why this might be, and it’s far too easy to say it’s WWE’s fault.
2. Everything I want is available online for free – While this might be true, the same can be said for most movies and TV shows, yet this doesn’t seem to stop people signing up for Netflix. Netflix wins out over illegal downloading because of the price point and the convenience. At such a low price, it’s not WORTH illegally downloading stuff. The same should apply for the WWE Network.
3. I can’t watch it on my TV because it’s not on Cable – This is the biggest issue I have, and WWE haven’t exactly done a great job at advertising just how versatile the Network is. Almost everybody has a games console which is hooked up to the very same TV they claim they can’t watch the WWE Network on. A simple download of the WWE App on your games console will solve that problem. If you don’t have a games console, then a Roku box has HDMI full HD connections which will fit into ANY modern TV. There’s also Apple TV and a bunch of other adapters that will hook your smartphone up to your TV. You CAN watch the WWE Network on TV.
4. I’m waiting for WCW Thunder – Really!? The absolute worst wrestling show ever produced is the deciding factor?
5. I can’t get the Network – The only legitimate excuse you have (other than you just can’t afford it).
WWE haven’t done themselves any favours by leaving their second biggest market in the world until last on their release schedule, but this isn’t WWE’s fault. Their contract with Sky has several clauses in it that prevented them from launching the WWE Network in the UK until now. The pathetic Canadian launch certainly hasn’t done them any favours either, but these are the only legitimate gripes one should have with the WWE Network.
WWE Network will in fact launch in the UK in November and will be exactly the same as the US version, so that’s good news. UK fans will lap this up, I am fully confident in that.
However, as the title alludes to, I think the single biggest factor as to why the WWE Network hasn’t taken the world by storm is wrestling dirt sheets. They LOVE to put a negative spin on things. Since the day the WWE Network was announced I haven’t read a single report that put the WWE Network in a good light. Whether it was PPV providers dropping WWE, “low” subscriber numbers or whatever negative spin they’ve put on it, dirtsheets are ultimately to blame.
The reason is this: Dirtsheets have far more power than they realise, and far more power than they have any right to have. A hefty portion of fans will believe anything they see on wrestling news sites. If a dirtsheet reports that a wrestler had a backstage fight with somebody, then this is reported as gospel truth, and people believe it without researching the facts for themselves. This in turn spreads like wildfire due to the “copy and paste” nature of dirtsheets who simply don’t do ANY research into what they’re posting. Because of this, within hours the news is everywhere and wrestling fans worldwide are already hurling abuse at the Superstar in question, with no facts other than what news sites have told them.
This is absolutely true for the WWE Network. Because there hasn’t been a single positive story about it, people are therefore automatically conditioned to be negative about it, and have already had their minds made up for them because of this negative reporting. The $9.99 gag on TV certainly doesn’t help matters. This causes people to not sign up for it simply out of protest because they are having it rammed down their throats every 5 minutes. But back to the dirtsheets – if someone is constantly telling you something is awful and it isn’t worth your money, or it’s a complete failure and a disaster, your brain is automatically conditioned to believe it. There’s scientific proof behind this. Negativity breeds negativity.
I know first hand from one of our staff members that the head of a particular news source of wrestling actually TELLS their staff to post negative stories for the purpose of website clicks, which obviously generates them revenue. The problem with that is, other websites then copy their negativity and before you know it, the whole world is shitting on something.
Take for example the very first time the subscriber numbers were released. WWE announced 667,000 people had signed up for the WWE Network. This was the night after WrestleMania 30. Just 2 months after the WWE Network had launched. Instantly the wrestling news sites wrote the Network off, deeming it a complete failure. The budget cuts certainly didn’t help, but this wasn’t because the Network was failing and WWE were bleeding money, but it was simply because they needed to offset the initial costs of setting up the Network in the following tax year.
But let’s go back to that initial sign up number again. 667,000 in just over 2 months. WWE initially announced a year one target of 1 million. After 2 months they were OVER 50% of the way there. Yet this was posted all over the world as a “terrible number”. Over 50% of the way there, with 10 whole months left to go? Anybody using their brain could see that this was an incredible achievement and we said on our podcast that it shouldn’t have been looked at anything other than a success. Yet the dirtsheets blasted it as a complete and utter failure.
Let’s look at this another way. WWE RAW gets 3million viewers each week on average. At 700,000 subscribers that’s almost 25% of their ENTIRE audience. That’s actually amazing. Let’s compare that to Netflix (which in my opinion is not a fair comparison, but I digress). Netflix could only dream of having 25% of the world’s population signed up. I say the world’s population because EVERYBODY watches TV and Movies right!? Right. So on that basis, WWE and Netflix are actually on a pretty level playing field, and when you compare the subscriber number of the WWE Network to the amount of people who actually watch WWE TV on a weekly basis, it suddenly becomes a very good number.
The issue with the dirtsheet negativity though is that the everyday wrestling fan reads it, and assumes the worst and therefore decides that there’s no point in investing money in something that’s “doomed to fail” anyway. I mean would you buy a product that’s about to be taken off the market? And don’t get me started about those “The WWE are ready to pull the plug on the Network” stories. Georgios Barrios has already stated that WWE is 100% committed to the WWE Network, and so they should be.
Granted 6 months later the subscriber number has only risen by 100,000 but that to me is the key. The overall number has RISEN. Regardless of how many cancellations there were inbetween, the number is still higher now than it was 6 months ago. That to me can’t be looked at anything other than a success. Slow and steady wins the race. The number has gone up, and that’s the bottom line, no pun intended.
If that overall number happens to FALL, then the dirtsheets have all the ammo they need. However at the moment, the WWE Network is receiving an absolute battering for no reason whatsoever.
Having said all that, here are 3 suggestions that I have for WWE to restore faith in the washed masses.
1. Stop with the $9.99 gag – This just puts people off. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional advert for it on WWE TV, but integrating it into promos and storylines is not a smart move.
2. Improve the weekly product – Quite obvious, and easier said than done of course, but ultimately the regular TV product is going to determine whether people shell out a monthly fee to see more. They’re not going to pay for something they aren’t fully enjoying for free.
3. Regular special offers – Netflix offers free trials on a regular basis. WWE should employ the same and in fact during the composition of this article, WWE announced that the entire month of November would be FREE for new subscribers. Yet with the nature of dirtsheets and wrestling fans, people are complaining that it doesn’t apply to existing customers. Netflix don’t give existing customers a month free when they launch that offer, so why should WWE get hassle when they don’t do it?
So in closing I say this:
Make up your own mind. WWE Network is FREE for the entirety of November, and after that the 6-month commitment has been completely dropped. It’ll cost you absolutely nothing other than 2 minutes of your time and you get a month’s worth of amazing content for free.
Sign-up and judge for yourself and if this article makes even one person get the WWE Network, then it will have achieved its goal.
You can’t say fairer than that, can you?
Have you subscribed to the WWE Network? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below!