It’s true that some MVPDs are upset that WWE, which for a time was considering launching a linear network, is now going the OTT route. However, not all operators were worried, and some have expressed support for WWE and its programming.
Discontent MVPDs include the pair of satellite ops. Following DirecTV’s less–than–enthusiastic statement, which said the OTT network will only accelerate the steady decline in viewership for WWE events, DISH issued a similar one. “Just as others in the industry have publicly stated, we will re-evaluate our relationship with WWE,” it said. “As WWE enters the increasingly fragmented media world by themselves, DISH may need to re-focus our own efforts to support partners that better serve DISH customers.” And, we heard a few other MSOs are looking at the WWE OTT decision closely and potentially re-evaluating their relationship with the company.
Verizon FiOS is one MVPD that’s content with its relationship with the programmer. The telco will continue its WWE offerings, according to a spokesman. He did note that WWE will discontinue WWE Classics, an SVOD package of old WWE shows, which had a small, but “passionate” subscriber base. Otherwise, Verizon’s portfolio of WWE events remains largely the same “at the economics we’re comfortable with,” he said. In Demand, provider of PPV and SVOD services jointly owned by Comcast, Cox, Time Warner Cable and Bright House, continues to talk with its cable partners about a long-term PPV strategy, a spokeswoman said. The company and its cable affiliates have had “a strong and mutually beneficial relationship for more than 25 years” with WWE, she said. In Demand is looking at numerous options regarding carrying WWE events “that would continue to make sense for our subscribers,” she said.
As for WWE, it has no intention to cut ties with cable: “WWE will continue to make our pay-per-view programming available to cable and satellite providers” and “hopes to continue to be in business with our PPV distributors, ultimately giving fans a choice between traditional PPV and a WWE Network,” Michelle Wilson, chief revenue and marketing officer, told us. Wilson was promoted as part of WWE’s recent senior leadership restructuring. WWE’s flagship programs, “Monday Night Raw” and “SmackDown,” will continue to be fully distributed on cable reaching more than 100 million homes, Wilson said. “We see these two flagship programs as very important platforms to drive interest in WWE Network.” WWE currently has no plans to move either show to WWE Network. However, it will air replays of both shows on WWE Network within an agreed to window, Wilson said. The streaming network will have its own groundbreaking programming including “WWE Monday Night War” and “WWE Countdown,” pre- and post-shows for “Monday Night Raw” and “SmackDown,” and a live studio show launching this summer, according to Wilson.
WWE hasn’t disclosed international revenue expectations. However, the number of total broadband homes in the initial launch countries, (UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Nordics) is about 55 million compared to the approximate 90 million in the U.S., Wilson said. The company is offering the service at $9.99 a month, representing incremental OIBDA between $50-150 million.