WWE Network launched in February 2014. It became apparent within a few years that despite WWE continually touting how their product reached into 50+ million homes in the United States, their streaming service was failing to attract even two million paid subscribers.
When WWE Co-Presidents George Barrios and Michelle Wilson were fired by Vince McMahon in January 2020, it became clear that WWE’s business strategy changed. Barrios and Wilson were the two biggest proponents of the WWE Network model. McMahon, on the other hand, decided it made more sense to license the network content out to another streaming service. His vision came to fruition one month ago, when WWE reached an agreement with NBCUniversal’s Peacock service that will bring far more money into WWE than they were making as their own content distributor.
This pretty much ends WWE Network in the form that we knew it from 2014 until now. Analyzing WWE Network subscriber numbers will soon become a relic of the past. WWE is going all-in now on urging their viewers to subscribe to the Peacock service, where they can check out Fastlane 2021 on Mar. 21 (unless you prefer to still watch it on WWE Network).
That all leads me to this amazing quote from WWE Chief Financial Officer Kristina Salen. She was asked by the Wall Street Journal about the reason behind WWE Network’s lack of growth. The premise of the question is wrong, you see, because WWE wasn’t actually trying hard to grow those numbers:
“I would argue against the idea that the WWE Network struggled to grow. From our perspective, we didn’t actively and aggressively go after subscribers in the way that a large, mass-audience streaming platform would.”
Here is a WWE executive actually arguing that WWE wasn’t aggressively going after new subscribers for their Network.
It’s not like WWE pounded us over the head with the $9.99 price over and over again, even incorporating it into wrestler promos on television. They also had all the promotions for getting the first month of your subscription for free. Hell, they even devalued their most recognized event of the year, WrestleMania, by only asking you to pay $9.99 to watch it on WWE Network. The commentators would actually insult fans during Raw for ordering events through traditional pay-per-view. I could have sworn they did all of this because growing the Network subscriber numbers was priority number one.
Salen goes on to say that WWE’s strategy to reach new viewers focuses on YouTube, TikTok, toys, and video games. Call me old-fashioned, but I erroneously assumed that the best way for WWE to attract new viewers is by producing compelling content on Raw and SmackDown each week. Perhaps I’m mistaken again, and WWE isn’t aggressively or actively trying to do that either.
Salen is trying to get around the the reality that WWE Network’s numbers were disappointing, instead of acknowledging the truth. And I get it. For years, I’ve been listening to corporate executives and politicians master the art of dodging questions, twisting words around, and addressing the media with long-winded answers full of polysyllabic words that say nothing at all.
But when they insult the fans’ intelligence with that corporate speak nonsense, I get to point out the absurdity of their words. A WWE executive actually explained away WWE Network’s disappointing subscriber numbers by saying that WWE wasn’t aggressively or actively trying to go after new subscribers. That’s just hilarious.