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WWE Network Grows to 731,000 Subscribers, Drops Contract Requirement

WWE is dropping the six month contact requirement to sign up for its WWE Network as part of an effort to attract more subscribers, the company said Thursday.

The streaming service added 31,000 paying subscribers during the third quarter, with 28,000 of those signing up overseas. Another 3,000 were in the U.S. WWE has said it aims for 1 million subscribers by the end of the year.

The network became available in more than 170 countries on Aug. 12, when it also introduced a $12.99 plan which had 23,000 subs signing up with the ability to cancel anytime.

The network will become available in the U.K., one of WWE’s top markets, in November.

To get more people to sample the network, new subscribers who sign up will receive the network for free starting Nov. 1, giving them access to upcoming pay-per-view “Survivor Series,” on Nov. 23

The price to subscribe will remain at $9.99 per month, but viewers will now be able to cancel the service at any time.

WWE Network, a streaming service available on mobile devices, smart TVs, set top boxes and video game consoles, launched in February and offers WWE’s PPVs, as well as original programming and access to it vast library of shows. It has started to add a limited number of advertisers to the service on Oct. 13, starting with Pepsi, Mattel, K-Mart, Take-Two Interactive, and Pure Talk USA as the network’s initial sponsors.

The launch of the network has taken an expected hit on PPV buys, which were down 56% during the third quarter, with three events earning $3.7 million from 294,000 purchases through cable and satellite providers.

Close to 90% of its subscribers access WWE Network at least once per week and 99% do so at least once per month, WWE said.

“We are excited to offer new WWE Network subscribers the month of November free to experience all of our live programming, explore thousands of hours of video-on-demand content, and watch ‘Survivor Series,’ one of our most popular events,” said Michelle Wilson, WWE chief revenue and marketing officer. “Our research combined with best practices in digital subscription businesses affirms our belief that a simple, single price plan will help us continue to grow WWE Network’s subscriber base.”

WWE reported third quarter results on Thursday, with the company posting a new loss of $5.9 million, compared to a $2.4 million profit in the same period a year ago. Revenue came in  6% higher to $120.2 million.

The WWE Network boosted network segment revenue by 68% from last year’s quarter and 26% year-to-date.

“During the quarter, we delivered stronger financial performance than anticipated and surpassed our guidance while making significant progress on the execution of our WWE Network strategy,” said Vince McMahon, chairman and CEO. “To capitalize on the substantial opportunity created by WWE Network, its time to remove all the barriers to those that want WWE. We are excited to introduce a new simplified price plan at $9.99 per month, and like Netflix with no commitment to cancel anytime. This reflects our belief in the broad appeal of WWE Network content. Additionally, we continue to develop the international platform for WWE Network and plan to make the network available in the U.K. on an OTT basis in November. WWE Network continues to be the single greatest opportunity to transform WWEs business model and we remain optimistic about our potential to drive long-term growth.”

Ratings for “Raw” and “SmackDown” rose 2% and 3%, respectively, during the quarter that ended Sept. 30. Seven new distribution deals for the company’s shows are expected to increase from approximately $130 million in 2014 to around $235 million in 2018.

Its film arm, WWE Studios, saw revenue increase to $1.9 million from $1.8 million mostly from its 2013 releases. The company’s more focused film strategy helped narrow losses to $400,000 during the quarter, compared to $7.4 million last year.

Meanwhile, the company’s videogames boosted licensing revenue to $10 million from $5.7 million during the quarter, helping the consumer products arm increase sales to $18.5 million from $12.6 million.

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