The WWE Network's Rocky Start
World Wrestling Entertainment is not exactly setting records for signing new subscribers to their six month long commitment known as the WWE Network. There are a plethora of reports that the WWE Network is facing various problems, the most telling of which is directly attached to the lack of subscribers- money. Vince McMahon has shown in the past with his investment in, then eventual ownership of, Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) that thinking outside of the box is not out of the question for the Connecticut based sports entertainment goliath. The problem the Vince and company are facing is more a brand problem than it is a lack of interest from the fans.
The Network So Far
The Network started with a two week free trial to new subscribers. That proved to not be as fruitful as they would have liked. There is original programming on the Network such as Legends House and fans have not come in droves. There is a ton of old shows available but they are simply offered in a haphazard way making it hard for fans to find the content they want.
Recent Developments for the Network
A few months ago the WWE tried shoving the Network down the throats of fans to the point that it became an Internet meme. Regularly throughout WWE programming such as Monday Night Raw and Friday Night Smackdown fans were reminded that the WWE Network was available for $9.99- fans reacted in the usual fervor that only they can. The WWE retired this advertising method soon after they started it.
Most recently though, new subscribers to the Network get the whole month of November for free, including the popular pay per view, Survivor Series. Sting, a popular wrestler from the WCW days, finally debuted on WWE programming at Survivor Series. This still has not brought in record numbers of subscribers. Sting's best years are already available to subscribers and in the weeks following Survivor Series, Sting has only appeared via his intro video and replays- not live nor with new appearances. The WWE are pulling out most of the stops to bring in new subscribers, while keeping the ones they have already.
What Can Be Done to Improve the Network
What the World Wrestling Entertainment marketers need to do to bring in more subscribers is pretty simple but the execution is not as easy. Fans have been vocal about wanting more of the “Attitude Era” which was the mid to late 90’s. During this period of wrestling history fans had edgy content to watch from WWE, WCW and ECW (the latter being the company that forced this genre onto the bigger companies). During this period fans were left wanting more through storylines that involved wrestlers breaking “keyfabe” or their onscreen personas, unexpected action with run ins (interruptions) and characters that weren’t scared to tell the boss off (such as Stone Cold Steve Austin).
WWE has been showing their third weekly show, WWE Superstars, on the Network almost exclusively for several months now. Superstars is an hour long program and is recorded prior to Friday Night Smackdown. WWE NXT is also shown exclusively on the Network and is filmed prior to Monday Night Raw. This proves that the WWE are not scared to invest money and time into making original content only for the network, content that speaks to their fanbase. The problem is that they are focusing on the wrong fanbase.
WWE probably does not revert back to their “Attitude” days due to advertising partners. That type of programming is hard to sell advertising through, wrestling itself is hard enough, add in tons of blood and violence and it becomes a double jeopardy situation. With the Network though, WWE could offer an edgier show that is more in tune with what they offered in the Attitude Era. Fans are vocally calling for this type of content, why not give it to them?
By keeping a more edgy show on the Network it would solve two problems that the WWE are facing right now. First, it would be void of having to worry about the regular television sponsors (and avoid TV censors) and it would satiate the WWE fans who want the more edgy content. By giving the fans what they want in this manner, it would drive more fans to the Network. Fans that want edgier content will gladly pay $9.99 a month to access it if it was made available.
Bringing in more fans is the biggest problem that the WWE are having right now with the Network. With more fans onboard money problems would slowly be eradicated and then bigger and better content can be made available.