WWE Network’s First Big Test Is Coming: ‘WrestleMania 30’

WrestleMania XXX

First batch of subscribers will help determine whether WWE has a future in digital or should stick with its traditional PPV providers

A week from today, WWE will release an important number: How many subscribers have paid $10 a month to watch the WWE Network since it launched in late February.

It’s a certainty that the figure — no matter how big or small — will be closely analyzed by Wall Street, the entertainment industry and the blogosphere because it will provide the first official glimpse at whether going alone and spending tens of millions of dollars to launch its own digital-only network is breaking new ground for the company and giving it control over its content or turn into a risky move that could go bust.

Should it prove a success, however, you can be sure that it will serve as a model for other content owners looking to untether themselves from their traditional pay-TV partners — and for major online entertainment players looking to unplug their programming from YouTube and build up their own over-the-top networks through new digital platforms.

WWE has said it hopes to attract 1 million subscribers by the end of the year, and it’s counting on this weekend’s “WrestleMania” — its 30th — as a way boost sign ups to the network that’s available online, and through apps on a variety of devices from Apple TV and Roku set-top boxes, PlayStation and Xbox 360 video game consoles, Amazon’s Kindle Fire, and mobile devices that run on Apple’s iOS and Android. One million subscribers would enable the WWE Network to break even, the company has said. With 2 million, it could add $50 million to its coffers; 3 million turns that into $150 million — far more than the 20 cents per month it would have earned from cable, where most of its weekly shows currently air.

WWE produces 12 PPVs a year that cost around $55 to view via PPV platforms; “WrestleMania” is $70, turning the events into a carrot to attract subscribers.

Not surprisingly, WWE is filling the network with a programming lineup themed around “WrestleMania’s” 30th anniversary. The live event is the company’s biggest pay-per-view and moneymaker each year, with this year’s show held from inside the New Orleans Mercedes-Benz Superdome on April 6.

While the event itself attracts well over 70,000 fans from around the world, it typically generates around 1 million PPV buys, with up to half of the revenue split with PPV providers. Up until this year, that’s mainly been through cable and satellite services. Either way, the number of potential viewers of “WrestleMania 30” could put considerable pressure on the network on a technical side, although WWE says it’s bolstering its streaming capabilities in order to meet the demand.

With its WWE Network, that launched Feb. 24 and has been mostly well received so far, WWE will keep much of that coin. “WrestleMania 30” will still be offered on cable and satellite services, including Dish Network, which had considered dropping the big event from its lineup because of the availability of its PPVs on the new network.

Last year’s “WrestleMania 29” was bought by around 650,000 in the U.S., with the rest of the 1.039 million coming from foreign territories. The event, which took place inside New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium, set an earnings record for WWE when it hauled in $72 million.

In addition to offering “WrestleMania 30” live, along with a two-hour pre-show that will include a tag team championship match, the WWE Network will also stream the full WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony, on April 5, from the Smoothie King Center, during which Mr. T, the Ultimate Warrior, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Lita, Razor Ramon, Paul Bearer and Carlos Colon will be honored. WWE Network will also host a one-hour show from the Hall of Fame’s red carpet.

■ The themed programming kicks off April 1 with a WWE press conference, from New York City, during which “WrestleMania 30’s” headliners like Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan, Triple H and John Cena will promote their upcoming bouts.

■ “Legends of WrestleMania” launches April 4, featuring a round table discussion with “WrestleMania” stars as they look back at their favorite matches. “WrestleMania Today,” hosted by Booker T, Alex Riley and Josh Matthews, will premiere with three nights of coverage starting April 3, from “WrestleMania Axxess,” the company’s fan event.

■ And WWE Network will also host a “WrestleMania Weekend Marathon,” April 4-6, during which it will replay “WrestleMania 25,” from Houston, and blocks of “WrestleMania Rewind,” a series that takes a look at groundbreaking matches from past “WrestleMania” events.

SEE ALSO: WWE Studios Finally Finds its Footing in Hollywood

Much has changed over the last three years. In 2011, the WWE Network looked like it was going to be a traditional cable channel — something like an NFL Network filled with hours of past pay-per-views, packaged clip shows and a John Cena movie or two.

But WWE wound up bypassing TV for a more digital approach, launching an over-the-top channel through apps available on everything from smart TVs and set-top boxes to video game consoles.

The streaming network includes a slate of original series like “The Legends of Wrestling,” clip show “WWE Countdown” and upcoming reality show “Legends House” and “The Monday Night War,” as well as access to a vault of PPVs, and matches.

For WWE, the network is a way to capitalize on the rising value of programming and the global appeal of its brand, WWE chairman Vince McMahon has said.

Looking ahead, WWE said it will introduce new interactive features to enhance a growing number of shows, and sees the service as a platform to help it grow its brand overseas, as well. Major League Baseball Advanced Media handles the tech aspects of the service.

In the future, it anticipates streaming live shows from different locations around the world. Plans are to launch the network in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Nordic countries by the end of they year.

“It will be about getting onto new devices, geography, improving features and the content,” according to George Barrios, chief strategy and financial officer for WWE.

WWE has kept a close eye on what people are watching on its network, and so far viewers are splitting their time between new series like clip show “WWE Countdown” and digging through older library fare. Anything live also plays well, including “Main Event” and “NXT Arrival,” a two-hour special. Pre- and post-shows also perform well after “Raw.” Past “WrestleManias” also have been popular with the 30th anniversary coming up.

“Content that rises to the top is anything that’s live,” says Michelle Wilson, WWE’s chief revenue and marketing officer, who will announce WWE Network’s subscribers the day after “WrestleMania” next week. “We had the right content, which was critical, and the right user interface, but also the price is right. Once you get those things right, you’re in great shape.”

While there were some glitches out the gate, that’s not uncommon for new digital platforms.

“We continue to put a lot of resources into the technical side to make sure the fans have a great experience for “WrestleMania 30,” Wilson says.

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  1. Ash says:

    I am the great fan of wrestle mania although this post is little older but I found it very useful in terms of new information which is helpful for me in my next assignment specially the news you mentioned here “Wrestle mania30 bought in 650000” it shows these games are also sell :) keep up sharing the new info.

  2. mike says:

    My only complaint is the lack of shows like recent raw an smack down replays. I don’t want a hulu an wwe subscription. I can’t watch recent episodes of raw on the wee network!! That sux!

  3. Dennis Joyner says:

    WWE Network really sucks, we have it for the Xbox 360 and we cant even watch it. It keeps stopping and the picture sucks. Called for a full refund because they charged us since February and they did not get Xbox working til late March. WE WONT OUR MONEY BACK!!!!!!!!!

    • twhiting9276 says:

      I have to agree that the 360 implementation sucks.
      I have YET to get a stable, bug free viewing of anything on the 360 when it comes to WWE

      That said, I threw this up on the PC, no problems. Same with the Apple TV. PS3 is still a bit shaky as well
      If you have any alternative devices, try using those. I have to admit that the Apple TV experience was WAY better than the 360 one. Not a single miss (so far).

      There has to be something off with how the 360 processes this

  4. gerald e, peplinski says:

    I already paid for wwe network/and I couldn’t watch the inductions to the hall of fame’this pissed me off so what in the hell I’m I paying for.i don’t like this set up

  5. ollie says:

    Usgxhgxidyusyoeydehehdujeheuduetueheidgdjhdjdjdhdjd.

  6. Jonny Deme says:

    WWE’S Diehard fans ALWAYS overlook problems. They think they are somehow protecting the company and will harp on positives. The sad fact is WWE Network has a noticeable frame rate problem on all devices. It’s plain for all to see but fans are presently out in full force to drown this and other issues out because the perception is that WWE needs all the help they can get to drive sales. What these fans don’t understand is that if they don’t give honest feedback, and debate those who do, the problems won’t get resolved and people who are bothered by these fixable problems will grow frustrated and not subscribe after six months. This way nobody wins in the long-term.
    I used to be a diehard until the PG era kicked in around 2009 and I’ve witnessed the protector mentality firsthand (guys who will never admit the company can make any mistakes, particularly on the business/marketing side, unless their favorite wrestler is losing then they whine continuously). I’m a casual fan at best right now, but I would love if I could relive memories of the 1980s to early 2000s. The WWE Network frame rate hasn’t allowed me to yet because it’s so unusual and annoyingly film-like that I can’t watch it.

    • Jordan says:

      I’ve had no issues with frame rate (PS3, Kindle fire, desktop & laptop). Perhaps your internet is the problem?

      • Jesse Skeen says:

        It seems most people don’t notice the frame rate problem with internet video, and likely can’t even tell the difference between material produced on video and that of film. The truth is that I have NEVER seen any internet-delivered video able to display at 30 frames per second, which is the normal rate of live or recorded video. Movies look OK streamed because they are at 24 frames per second, but anything shot on video or shown live looks unnatural.

      • Tom Whiting says:

        Just because you haven’t doesn’t mean nobody else has.
        The reality is that PLENTY of people have had issues with the network

      • Jonny Deme says:

        Sorry friend. I wish it was my connection. Also, my UFC Fightpass looks perfect which means there’s nothing wrong with my connection. It’s the frame rate they’re streaming at.

        FWIW, It really isn’t unwatchable unless you’re paying really close attention to the action. Much of the technology is very impressive especially when you consider I’ve never seen it freeze up not even for a split second that you sometimes even see on digital cable.

        The problem is the frame rate used doesn’t look like live sports or watching wrestling on a regular TV channel and I can’t seem to get used to it. The motion looks as bad on the old stuff in the on demand portion as it does on the new shows seen on the streaming portion of WWE network.

        After a few minutes of watching I have to turn it off. I won’t be renewing my subscription.

  7. At least one Internet wrestling fan I ran into has the right idea. He promised his friend that this Sunday they’d either watch Wrestlemania or the meltdown of the WWE Network servers. Either way, there’s going to be beer.

  8. If you have a cable TV you would probably able to watch the relayed video feed. But for those who want to watch this program live and in HD, they can come to our website. There is no need to search How to Watch Wrestlemania 30 Live.
    Link: http://wrestlemania2014live.com/wrestlemania-30-live-stream-how-to-watch-wrestlemania-30-online-free/

  9. Kemmy says:

    Live from holland.I got the wwenetwork and no problem at all.Its HD..720 and thats fine with me.Love the network!

  10. AmmarNaeem says:

    WrestleMania XXX comes your way on April 6th. Every night, live exclusive matches will be broadcasted. Sounds perfect? Only problem is WWE have only made it available to US residents. Don’t let the geo-restrictions spoil the event for you. Equip your device with a VPN to get rid of them all and be a part of WWE Universe at the grandest stage of them all . Learn How to Stream WrestleMania XXX Live. http://www.vpnranks.com/how-to-stream-wrestlemania-xxx-live/

  11. Blair Watson says:

    Is it available in Quebec Canada

  12. Mitchell Laffey says:

    The WWE Network is going to build for the wwe what they should get.

  13. Jesse Skeen says:

    The REAL question here is will they be able to deliver live video at the proper 30 frame per second rate? I’ve NEVER seen that through any streaming video service, all video material is shown at a lower, more film-like frame rate, and that’s the main thing that keeps it from being a viable replacement for broadcast or cable TV.

    • Jonny Deme says:

      I couldn’t agree with you more on the importance of the framerate. If it doesn’t look right, I have NO interest in it at all. And, as it is right now, WWE Network DOESN’T look right on any system (Roku, AppleTV, Playstation and laptops). It doesn’t look like Raw on USA network. It has an improper framerate creating a film-like effect that makes it almost unwatchable to me whenever there’s any motion.

      But, one important thing to keep in mind is that THERE ARE streaming services streaming with the proper framerate. The NFL, UFC, NBA and UFC are ALL streaming with the proper framerate. They look as good or better than cable. The motion is fluid on every device. The company providing this streaming footage is called NeuLion.

      I believe MLBAM has the technology to stream with the proper framerate but have chosen not to. They’ve just signed a deal to launch the streaming 120 Sports network featuring NASCAR, MLB, NHL and NBA footage. If they even try to use the improper framerate producing the film-like effect on NHL or NBA footage, they’ll have such backlash it won’t be funny. Nevertheless, until MLB starts streaming WWE footage with the proper quality, I have no interest in the WWE Network even with the free PPVs.

  14. Tom Whiting says:

    Of course you mean their SECOND big test, right? They FAILED the first one (launch), and miserably.
    To date:

    COUNTLESS individuals still can’t access the network via their preferred method of choice (browser, etc).
    Those that CAN access often have massive lag issues, major network problems, etc.

    Their partnership with the MLB network in this has turned out to be really, really bad

    • Paul Solinger says:

      I’m not sure how many people can’t access the network via their preferred method of choice, but I doubt if it’s “countless”. After the first two days I have had no issues watching anything I wanted on my iPad, Kindle Fire, Android Phone, and laptop through Google Chrome. If anyone is continuing to have problems, it’s probably a very small minority.

      • Darren McCothsky says:

        @Tom Whiting:

        “I wouldn’t exactly call taking better than a week to get ANY sort of xBox integration out ‘quickly resolved’.”

        I was talking about my PS3 experience. So can’t comment on the xbox issues.

        “Out of the few people I know that have it, 75% of them have massive streaming issues, compatibility issues (even using Chrome), etc. My own experience is intermittent. With the PS3, it works about 1/2 the time, with the 360, it’s just unwatchable. With Chrome, it’s hit and miss.”

        Sorry to hear that. Ultimately I can only talk about my personal experience, and merely commentated on my positive experience due to add balance to the comments. Like I said, I’ve had the occasional hiccup with the PS3 freezing (which is actually linked to an issue with my modem) but more often than not I’ve been able to enjoy the Network’s content uninterrupted the majority of the time.

      • Tom Whiting says:

        @AndyC
        I wouldn’t exactly call taking better than a week to get ANY sort of xBox integration out ‘quickly resolved’.
        Out of the few people I know that have it, 75% of them have massive streaming issues, compatibility issues (even using Chrome), etc. My own experience is intermittent. With the PS3, it works about 1/2 the time, with the 360, it’s just unwatchable. With Chrome, it’s hit and miss

      • AndyC says:

        At the end of the day people are more likely to comment if their experience is negative. However my PS3 stream has been flawless and of a high quality. I know of others (in person and via a wrestling forum) who are also loving the experience.

        Have their been a few teething problems? Sure. But they we’re quickly resolved. For me personally it’s been a great experience and hope it’s a great success for the WWE.

      • Tom Whiting says:

        There are plenty that still can’t.
        xBox 360… Still shoddy at best
        PS3/4 … Still shoddy at best
        All you have to do is take a look at ANY post they make regarding the network on FB, you’ll see the complaints. They are overwhelming

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