The Teacher: Doc, my friend, it’s been far too long. We’re a little late to do a proper RAW recap, so what say we just go through a few topics in only mild particular order. That work for you, sir?
Doc Manson: This isn’t going to be on the test, is it, Teach?
T: There’s always a test.
First off, today’s big news in the world of wrestling is that, once again, WWE Network subscribers are not coming in the droves Vince McMahon would like them to. I don’t want to spend too much time on the business end of wrestling, especially since I have next to no business acumen, but tell me, are you surprised or concerned about WWE’s seeming lack of financial support?
DM: Not too concerned, no. This is a large company with deep pockets. They are already executing on cost saving measures which should help them through this period of transition. If you look at the subscriber numbers, something like 700,000, they still have some room for growth. At the moment that’s something like 1 out of every 500 Americans currently have a subscription. There is definitely still folks left to sign up, but its going to take some time to build the type of subscriber base that the WWE wants to see. The good news? There is still active growth occurring in the subscriber base. Compare this with a lot of subscription services, like those present in video games (MMOs), and many of these products have peaked in subscribers 6 months out from the debut. I think the WWE Network is still in good shape.
T: I also don’t think it’s that big of a deal, especially since they have yet to release the Network to the International market. Folks on Twitter are salivating for the chance to subscribe, so the numbers will go up as soon as it’s released later this year.
Speaking of which, I got my first e-mail that says my 6-month period is expiring. Randy Orton suggests I renew my subscription quickly, so I don’t miss anything. Do you think we’re going to see a downtick in subscribers who don’t choose to renew?
DM: Possible, but I think the majority of people who currently subscribe are those that understand the value proposition when considering the cost of the WWE Network vs the cost of the live PPVs. I think the majority of these folks will continue with their subscriptions just for the live events.
I’d actually be interested to see how many people watch anything on the Network outside of the live programming.
T: I don’t think there’s a great number of us.
So while we don’t think there’s a major problem with subscriptions, I’ll ask you to put on your business / promoter hat anyway. If you were running WWE right now, what would you do to get more people to sign up?
DM: They needed to have a must-see SummerSlam card. Ideally, the defending champion Daniel Bryan seeing the conclusion of some multi-month storyline. Clearly, that isn’t happening. Cena v. Lesnar is a big match though, and I have to imagine with all the merchandise that Cena sells that there is an equally big audience for the match up. Is this the same audience likely to spend money on a monthly subscription fee? I don’t know.
Really, all they can do is hammer home the point that the WWE network, for six months, is basically the same price as SummerSlam alone. They have to play up the value proposition, like they did leading into Wrestlemania 30. The buy-count for Wrestlemania was announced today, something like 600,000, which is down from over a million last year. I didn’t look at the numbers too closely yet, but if that buy number doesn’t include Network subscribers, they still have a huge audience to sell to.
T: To me, it’s more than just the PPV value, though I agree that’s a major (if not THE major) selling point. Maybe it’s just the educator part of me shining through, but I think WWE should be taking more opportunities to teach the average wrestling fan about the history of the business. They have this incredible archive of footage, but unless you know specifically what you’re looking for, how are you going to sort through over 700 different events?
I’d be trying to do as many documentary-style pieces as possible, like the upcoming Paul Heyman DVD. Get the new fans interested in the history, and maybe lure some older fans back who don’t care as much about the current WWE product, but might pay $10 a month to be able to relive the Monday Night Wars, or the early days of Hulkamania.
DM: They’d need to actually have all the relevant episodes of RAW and Nitro on the Network, which they don’t have yet. You’re right there is a great back catalogue to mine for content, but you’re talking about a niche audience. How many people want to watch the NFL playoffs from 1984? Or play Atari 2600 video games? Most people care about what is happening now and aren’t looking to relive sports memories from over a decade ago.
T: You’re right, and now I’m so depressed I need a drink.
Moving rapidly along, if these cost-cutting measures you mentioned wind up including on-air talent, what 3-4 superstars do you see as being most likely to get ‘future endeavored’? Any huge names on your list?
DM: Putting me on the spot. Hm. Well, I think the answer is no. No huge talents. Any one that is worth money is going to stay, including Zack Ryder. I’d be more worried for some of the Divas that don’t regularly appear on television, as well as wrestlers that just haven’t been able to get over, like Tyson Kidd. Still, even Tyson looks safe right now with his current NXT relevance.
T: I really don’t know that we’re going to notice a lot of the cuts on our television screens. Looking at the WWE list of Superstars, there are guys like Hunico, who I haven’t seen on TV in. . . . You know, I may have never actually ever seen Hunico.
DM: Sin Cara seems to be doing fine though.
T: I feel like I’m about to be taken to school. Is Sin Cara Hunico?
DM: I won’t ruin it for you. Read a book, Teach.
T: Well, this is awkward.
What do you think about guys who are big stars, but aren’t going anywhere? RVD comes to mind in that end. Is Vince going to keep paying him to help along Neville on NXT?
DM: RVD is probably only around on a short term contract. I suspect he will disappear and then be back in a year or so anyway. I’d be worried for injury prone talent, like Christian, Darren Young, and, I’m sorry to say that I’ve got some BAD NEWS, but Wade Barrett as well.
T: Agree on Christian and Young, though I think they’ll give Barrett a chance to heal up and stick around.
OK, one last question before I go read up on my Hunico History, apparently. This is based off of a difference of opinion I had on Twitter yesterday. (A social medium, I might add, that Doc Manson is currently and conspicuously absent from…)
Does WWE owe it to Santino Marella to keep him employed for the next 6 months or so, or could he be let go in an attempt to cut costs?
DM: To my knowledge, the WWE has a good history of supporting past talent in terms of medical needs. They will likely support Santino Marella through rehabbing his current injury, although I don’t know that his current contract has to remain in tact for them to provide that support. Santino is a fun personality, however, and may have a future in a non-physical role. In a world where Brad Maddox is still employed, I’d like to think Santino will be sticking around, at least for a while.
T: When this Authority schtick has ended, I want Santino as my RAW General Manager.
Alright, wrestling fans, that’s going to wrap up what quickly turned into a State of WWE / State of WWE Network discussion.
Lesson of the day, though this time it was learned and not taught by the Teacher: Hunico is Sin Cara.
For Doc Manson, I’m The Teacher. Class dismissed.