The NFL Looks to WWE for the Future of Their Distribution
NY Times – On Sunday night, WWE, the publicly traded company that operates professional wrestling, put on WrestleMania 32, which is essentially its Super Bowl. (Actually, WWE never uses the phrase “professional wrestling,” preferring “sports entertainment.”)
A four-hour-plus extravaganza, WrestleMania 32 culminated with a title match that pitted Roman Reigns against Paul Levesque, a.k.a. Triple H, a villain turned fan favorite who is also a top WWE executive and is married to Stephanie McMahon, the daughter of Vince McMahon, WWE’s billionaire chief executive. Although Triple H controlled the match most of the way, he lost the world championship after his wife leapt into the ring, which flustered him, allowing Reigns to win. Boos rained down as the victor hoisted his championship belt.
Although professional wrestling does not exactly qualify as a real sport, nearly 102,000 fans showed up at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex., to watch WrestleMania 32, which grossed a record $17.3 million from the live event alone. Tens of thousands of additional fans paid $59.95 to watch on pay-per-view television. Many more watched it on a streaming app called WWE Network, which costs subscribers $9.99 a month.
In mid-February, during its quarterly earnings call, the company announced that the WWE Network had 1.22 million subscribers. After WrestleMania 32, that number jumped to 1.82 million. Although some of those subscribers will fall away — the WWE Network offers a monthlong free trial to potential customers, some of whom undoubtedly signed up just to watch WrestleMania for free — that is still nearly a 50 percent increase in six weeks. (continued on site)
Who would have thought we’d see the day where the largest professional sports league in the U.S. is looking to Sports Entertainment giant, WWE, for ideas on how to present their content. While the WWE Network is still a work in process, there is no arguing that it has largely been a success. With a great price point and more content than one person could ever possibly consume, the online streaming service is fast approaching two million subscribers worldwide.
Between Netflix, Hulu, HBO plus and all the other countless streaming services, WWE was smart to be ahead of the curve. We live in a fast paced, instant gratification world where anything and everything is at your fingertips, and the NFL and other major, professional sports league would be smart to follow the model. People are accustomed to getting what they want as soon as they want it and if you don’t offer a product that will satisfy the instant urges of the consumer, you risk losing them.
While the original programming WWE Network currently offers leaves a lot to be desired, you can see that they are trying to figure it out. Frequent surveys to subscribers and a constant flow of new shows is evidence of that. If I’m away on business, or just not able to be in front of my TV for a WWE Event, I can pull it up instantly on my device. The same cannot currently be said for the NFL, unless you’re a DirectTV Subscriber. It’s quite possible that the man who once revolutionized the pay-per-view industry, Vince McMahon, could be the same man at the forefront of changing the way we watch live sports.