It is no secret that Vince McMahon has always had an ambition to succeed outside of the wrestling business, whether it is football, restaurants, movies or music. The WWE has had a go at them all and for the most part they have all been failures. However last year the WWE made the announcement that plans were in effect for them to start the WWE Network Channel, there were rumors of a release around the time of WrestleMania 28.
This decision to promote the WWE TV network so early without any staff, show line ups, advertising, or even hosting plans and proper infrastructure backfired. Add in the fact that the WWE did not had sufficient research or marketing for the launch, suffice to say the Network did not receive an April release.
The WWE Cable Network Channel as an idea in and of itself is a relatively logical and relative one, because if the WWE’s contract with USA isn’t renewed, well then they would have a problem and that’s why they would need a back up plan in the WWE Network Channel.
Plus you also have the issue of declining WWE PPV buyrates especially on the B-shows, even shows that were once thought of as A-shows have declined over the past few years. Look at Survivor Series last year, a show that featured the return of one of the biggest stars in the history of wrestling in the United States and it didn’t do even close to what it should have. Yes this was also due to the lackluster build, but the show even with that taken into account did bad business.
The Money in the Bank show from last year, which had a white hot build, only did marginally better than the year before, so maybe the WWE Network Channel would help these shows. But, I am not sure if the loss of the PPV buys from the B-shows would be balanced out by advertising revenue.
In the mean time while the Network has been left in development, the WWE have revamped their YouTube channel with exclusive shows. These shows haven’t been received well by critics, but have garnered a decent amount of views, but if this is the kind of programming that the WWE will be putting on the WWE Network Channel, only on a larger scale then we are going to have a problem.
First of all the amount of views that the WWE gets on YouTube are irrelevant, these shows are short and may even be entertaining for some people in small doses. But, if you are vaguely familiar with YouTube you will probably know of channels like Fred’s which get millions of views with little to no valuable content. But, once they are subject to “real world” scrutiny such as the movie business, then they fail. So the argument of YouTube views becomes almost as redundant as the “trending on twitter” argument as a benchmark for interest and viewership.
As for shows like WWE Legend House, (extremely dull name) they could garner some sort of viewership and it could be entertaining, but as far as the show being a major draw for the WWE Network Channel, I doubt it. Plus I would imagine that the potential market for a program such as Legend House is probably very limited.
Then there is also the question of cost. The WWE’s earning reports for the last quarter came in a week or two ago and it was the first time in a very long time that the WWE has lost money. Yes, the WWE has a lot of money invested in their movie division and we know that it’s not bringing in any money. But, even with that and the presumable costs of setting up the WWE Network Channel taken out of the question, the WWE’s net profit for that quarter would have still been very low.
Funnily enough the WWE Classics on Demand service is actually one of the most stable revenue streams that the WWE has right now, however we are talking about a million dollars more or less, which isn’t going to make or break the WWE. It shows that there’s an audience for classic programming, but this audience is small and will not be able to keep the WWE Network Channel afloat financially just in and of itself.
In the WWE’s current financial state, along with the overall state of the wrestling business, I can’t help but think that the WWE Network Channel is a big risk. And although risks can obviously pay off in a big way, I don’t see major strides being made by this Network. Yes, they could have actual wrestling programming such as the rumored cruiserweight or junior heavyweight show, but even if the show does make it onto the Network it will probably be a televised version of Superstars and nothing else.
Even if the WWE Network Channel turns out to be a colossal failure, the assumption that the WWE would go under would be a leap of faith at best. Don’t get me wrong, if the WWE launches the Network as it was intended and then they are forced to shut it down, it would incur massive financial loss. But, the thought that the WWE would go under from such a thing is a very naïve assumption, which has not been fully tested yet. But, if the WWE Network Channel in its currently intended state does fail, then the WWE will be in some kind of trouble. As for what degree, it will be bad, but as far as the sheer extent I don’t know.
The WWE Network Channel at most seems like a gamble, experts in the field seem hesitant, plans have not been made and it could have been badly rushed. But, depending on public interest, exposure, platform and a multitude of other factors it could be a success. However there is also room for a colossal failure of the Network in its current form, but at the end of the day with the lack of concrete information this is nothing but speculation. We can learn from the WWE’s past failures and successes, but as far as the WWE Network Channel goes a lot is up in the air as of right now.
Thanks for reading about the WWE Network Channel, you may like to share this article or leave your comments below.
By Ryan Clingman