WWE | Pro Wrestling

WWE Network Needs To Prioritize Retention

The WWE Network numbers are out and people are talking. The WWE officially announced the newest numbers last week to the laughter of doubters and critics around the world. The numbers may be disappointing but there are still plenty of opportunities to turn business around.

The WWE released the numbers on Thursday and according to the company, 731,000 fans are subscribing to the network. Digging deeper, the company only netted 31,000 subscribers, a mere 4% increase since the last quarter. 286,000 new fans subscribed, while 244,000 fans cancelled their subscriptions. These numbers wouldn’t be so terrible if not for the fact that they added 170 new countries since the last quarter. The availability in new countries was expected to boost the numbers much more than a net 4% gain.

I talked about this night before on the Between the Ropes podcast and needless to say I am not surprised by the numbers. Brian Fritz and I made our predictions and I was on the low end. My reasoning was that most fans getting the network are hardcore fans. The hardcore fans in these other countries were likely already subscribing, circumventing any barriers to get the channel. Thus those fans the new countries would have brought in were already getting the network. I am shocked that nobody internally saw that coming in WWE land.

The Network is a disaster on multiple levels. First and foremost, it’s a money loser for a company that has been profitable for many years. It’s embarrassing and has damaged the value of the stock. It has cannibalized otherwise steady sources of revenue the company could generally have counted on, specifically pay-per-view buys. It has also backed the WWE into a corner that they have no way out of right now. It’s not a fun time in Titan Towers.

I have subscribed to the network from day one and I can tell you this much. If it weren’t for my blog and need to cover live events, I would have never renewed. It’s tough to argue with a $9.99 price point on the special events but again, I need this for my job. That said, my customer experience has been pretty poor from get-go.

Before I get into the marketing of the network I want to talk about the technical flaws. The WWE can have the greatest marketing campaign ever for the network, yet a bad customer experience is going to result in an eventual unsubscribe. This network will die with a lack of sustainability. Here are just a few technical fixes that could at least keep current customers happy.

Note: I watch the Network 99% of the time online so these issues refer to the PC experience. I should also note that I have a fast connection and a beefed up customized PC.

– The first thing that needs to be fixed is the navigational bar. It is one of the worst navigational bars I have ever seen on video in 2014. It’s terrible! It is impossible to move to a specific point in the video. You either wind up going too far back or moving too far ahead but users can’t get to the exact point they want to watch the video. The viewing experience is absolutely horrible in that regard. I can’t tell you how many times I have just thrown my hands up and given up after multiple failed efforts to watch what I want.

– They need a resume function. I can’t tell you how many times I watch something partially, then come back and forget where I left off. I never wind up watching again because I don’t remember where I left off. I recall during the big unveiling in Las Vegas that the option to resume where you last left off was pushed heavily. I can get it on the Roku but not the PC and that’s disappointing.

– I rarely have issues with the live stream yet ironically I always seem to run into buffering issues with the On Demand content. How odd is that? I have even reached out to the Network Support team and while they have been courteous, I can’t say that they’ve been helpful. Again my connection is fast, my PC is a beast, and I have zero buffering issues with any other live or On Demand video content on other sites. It’s extremely frustrating.

From a marketing standpoint, I haven’t seen a worse campaign in my life. This whole $9.99 campaign is cute but it does nothing to sell the network. Quite frankly it makes those pushing it look like fools. As a cynic I am saying, “Is that all you got?” They have three hours on RAW and two on SmackDown. Instead of pushing the price, how about pushing the product, highlighting old matches, spotlighting old cards, marketing around a specific star or show (example: Steve Austin on March 16 should have had a special day on the network). Marketing a new product on price makes no sense if prospective customers don’t even know what it is. I have never seen a Netflix commercial messaged simply on price.

They need a stronger commitment to adding content. My gosh do they need more old school content. The Network came out of the gate with several old school events, added a few more, and then all of the sudden stopped. I can understand that you don’t want to add everything at once but they have put up less than a handful of old school events in the last several months. That’s unacceptable! I spend more time watching old school wrestling on YouTube than I do on the network and that shouldn’t be the case.

I also think they need more exclusive live content on the network. I think the reason the UFC Network has been so successful is that fans get much more than one live event per month. I think the WWE Network needs more live programming such as broadcasting one or two live events per month, a live call-in show, maybe a live variety show in the spirit of TNT, something more than just one live event and NXT.

I could go on but the point is that this network is not dead and it can be salvaged. Instead of getting cute with $9.99 slogans, the WWE first and foremost need to revisit the customer experience and work on retaining the customers they have as opposed to grabbing new ones. Failure to do so will produce a cycle that ends badly for this project at some point. Keeping customers isn’t as easy as they thought and until they make that a priority, the numbers will continue to get worse in the new year.

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric's work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

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