BREAKING NEWS has hit the fan, as the WWE has agreed to dissolve the WWE Network and place all of their Network-related content on Comcast/NBC/Universal's streaming service Peacock. Reportedly, the WWE will earn $200 Million per year over 5 years for this major deal ($1 billion total). Thus, the WWE is earning over $400 Million per year from the Comcast Corporation over the next 4 years when combined with their TV Deal signed during 2019. Holy cow...
OK, let's first figure out how we arrived at this point. In my opinion, Comcast is attempting to make adjustments towards the changing Television and content providing landscape. For years, they sat idle while Netflix ruined their rerun market for USA Network and while ESPN/TBS/TNT dominated the Cable/Satellite channel market for LIVE sports. They were definitely behind the curve. These recent moves are to play catch up:
(a) Ending NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) by the end of 2021. This channel, despite being placed on basic Cable packages and being available to almost 80 million homes has very low ratings. This network has performed poorly for years upon years. If you compare the ad revenues coming in versus costs to maintain television rights for sporting events, it doesn't add up.
(b) USA Network has been struggling for years. USA used to bank on reruns of popular shows to maintain solid viewership. However, when Netflix arrived and gave consumers the ability to binge shows without commercials, USA Network could not compete. If you look at weekly ratings charts, USA Networks hardly ever appears with the exception of WWE content. This channel has been unable to create successful new content for years.
(c) Peacock is off to a slow start. Right now, they have claimed to have 25 million but it's very likely that the majority are either free members or paying the slightly expanded version of $4.99 to see commercials. Compare that to HBO MAX which has almost 30 million paying $10-$15 per month or Netflix having 200 million subscribers, it doesn't compare at all. Disney+ is closing in on 90 million subscribers!
Thus, Comcast is closing NBCSN by the end of 2021 and shall move any live sporting events to the USA Network. That is a GODSEND to this channel, as they need something else that can draw ratings. NASCAR, Premier League, and NHL should do reasonably well there for a channel available to just over 85 million homes. On top of that, that places more male viewers watching USA Network and that will help cross-promote WWE shows on those live sporting events. Win-win, except for the NHL Playoffs probably pre-empting RAW on occasion and the regular season will probably bump NXT off USA Network for good.
And then you have today's BLOCKBUSTER announcement: Effective March 18th, the WWE Network will cease to exist and all of its content will now belong to the Premium Tiers of NBC/Universal (NBCU)'s Peacock streaming service. $4.99 if you can endure Ads, $9.99 if you can't. Thus, the $9.99 that you paid for WWE Network can now be used to pay for Peacock. And you get to watch the episodes of The Office that you didn't catch on Netflix for the last 5 years, too. I'd suggest that you could catch NBC classic hits like Friends or Seinfeld, but those great shows weren't owned by the channel and stream elsewhere. Oops.
IN MY OPINION, we'll be seeing a streamlined version of the "WWE Network" on Peacock. There is NO WAY that NBC Universal is willing to pile on all of those old World Class, Mid South, AWA, or other older programs. You'll likely see a very streamlined version of the WWE Network to save on bandwidth costs. Besides, the real value to YOU as a WWE Network consumer is to watch newer documentaries and LIVE Pay Per View events. You'll still get that... But watching an older Mid South event, probably not. But hey, you've got the the rest of the Peacock channel to enjoy, right... All of those hipster comedies that NBC keeps telling you are funny but aren't. Oh, and all of those brands of Law & Order... Just awesome, right?
Let's move on to the WWE because in my opinion, they won this deal BIGTIME.
The 2020 numbers are still being computed by the WWE, so thus let's look at 2019's data on the WWE Network:
- "Media" Revenues for 2019 = $743.1 Million
- "Media" Operating Expenses for 2019 = $475.7 Million Net Income on "Media" or WWE Network = $267.4 Million
That sounds like a great profit margin... But remember, the will no longer be paying $475.7 Million in Operating Expenses any longer. All of that data storage and bandwidth is on NBC/Universal's dime now. That's a HUGE difference. Now granted, they won't see that WWE Network revenue and Net Income, either, which did result in something higher than $200 Million per year.
Just the hassle of the dealing with a streaming company directly and having additional IT personnel on hand to help probably increased the WWE's expenses elsewhere. It probably evens out for the WWE but it gives them less headaches since NBC/Universal is absorbing more network related stuff.
With NBC devoting $400 Million per year to the WWE for the next 4 years (5 for WWE Network), they'll have no choice but to advertise the WWE's existence on NBC repeatedly which is available in over 100 million homes.
Don't be surprised if NBCU's Peacock streaming service becomes the final resting place for the WWE and possibly where WWE resides for the rest of its existence. When Vince McMahon finally retires or passes, the content that he created for the past 40 years be replayed for years later on NBCU services. It would not shock me to see Comcast buy the company, probably through buying McMahon shares of stock (much cheaper route) and letting Stephanie/Triple H continue to run the operation after Vince leaves.
Is this WWE Network on Peacock a win for fans?
Depends on what remains on the WWE Network for Peacock... If you're like me and primarily watch just the newer documentaries, the live Pay Per Views, and occasionally dip into the older Pay Per Views for a specific match, you'll be OK. However, if you're constantly binging through the older stuff, I believe that disappointment is coming your way. Much of that older stuff that is just sitting on the servers and barely being watched is likely to go away.
And here is a bigger worry for me... Since the WWE is receiving a FLAT RATE of $200 Million Per Year... What is their incentive to create QUALITY documentaries now?
Remember, 2020 caused the WWE Network to compete heavily with other streaming services that ramped up their content offerings during the COVID-19 pandemic. We had the Last Ride, new episodes of Chronicle, new episodes of Untold, new episodes of Stone Cold's Podcast, just absolutely LOADED for the year. After all, the WWE knew that people were stuck home and in need of something to watch. Furthermore, they had to compete with Netflix and the newly arriving Disney+ and HBO MAX. With the Pay Per Views being tougher watches without crowds in place, the WWE Network had to step up its quality.
So what incentive is in place now for the WWE to even care about stocking the WWE Network with newer documentaries? They have a guaranteed 5 year, $1 Billion contract. What do they care? That's more work for them at the same rate. I wouldn't be surprised if the only NEW offerings on the WWE Network wing of Peacock was just Pay Per Views and NXT.
I really believe that we're going to get LESS of a WWE Network than we've been enjoying for the past year... I really do. Take away that incentive when it's your own money invested and things change.
I guess we'll see what is offered on March 18th when the WWE Network dissolves and Peacock becomes your new WWE Network content provider.
7 long years, folks... WWE made that Network work and gave fans INCREDIBLE bang for their buck. The price NEVER changed from $9.99 from day one during 2014 and the WWE only just gave you more and more content to enjoy without taking any of it away. For anyone who complains about the WWE, think about what the WWE Network gave you for your dime. Before, you paid anywhere between $45 and $60 per Pay Per View to paying $120 for an entire year but you received so much additional content plus a gigantic archive of stuff to watch whenever you wanted on ANY device that you wanted.
A big THANK YOU should be given by wrestling fans to the WWE for the WWE Network. It was truly a bargain for the wrestling fan. For years, they talked about adding new pricing tiers but it never happened. They also talked about moving Wrestlemania and other larger Pay Per Views off the channel but it didn't happen. They even broke the initial 6 month requirement and changed it to MONTHLY... Also gave out free 1 month trials for a while.
How can anyone complain? And you'll still be paying $9.99 for essentially the same service, though maybe not as deep in content for the older stuff. When you get tired of the wrestling content, you can check out older episodes of Saved By the Bell like it was Saturday Morning again when you were a kid... You can just tune in and be in awe of how Tiffani Amber Thiessen plays Kelly Kapowski all over again!
I believe that this is a WIN for the WWE to save costs and hassle over running a network, a win for the fans to still pay $9.99, and I like the fine tuning that Comcast is doing to their channels and streaming service.
I just hope that Comcast realizes that they just paid $200 Million per year for about 1.5 Million WWE Network subscribers...
Many will call Vince McMahon a "genius" over this deal and I'd somewhat agree... BUT, the fact is that WWE could get more than $2 Billion form Comcast & FOX for RAW and Smackdown along with $1 Billion from Comcast for the NBCU Peacock streaming if they HAD MORE VIEWERSHIP for their shows. Think about this... NBC is paying $200 Million per year for the NHL that draws FAR LESS viewers than WWE programming and NBC has to provide the camera crews, producers, announcers, and other staffing to support the NHL. WWE does their own show production and all USA Network has to do is broadcast it.
During early 2015, Monday Night RAW had just over 4 million viewers. Through early 2021, they are UNDER 2 million. WWE Network was trending upward with paying subscribers through the 2nd Quarter of 2018 and then they ran the angle between Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar for SummerSlam which saw Roman constantly slamming Brock for being a "part-timer" and then Roman finally vanquished him at SummerSlam 2018. WWE Network subscribers declined for the latter half of 2018 and throughout 2019 until stabilizing during 2020 thanks quality content offerings ("Last Ride" was a big draw).
FACT is that these deals should be BIGGER than what they are... Comcast in particular and recently FOX are only throwing WWE large sums of money because they are desperate for original and live sporting event content. Thanks to Netflix and other streaming channels, Cable/Satellite and Broadcast channels are becoming obsolete. These channels are desperate enough to pay $200 million per year for shows that draw 2 million per show. Yikes.
Imagine what the WWE's deals would be if RAW was still drawing 4 million... If they Network had more subscribers.
Vince McMahon - You have to do better than this. Improve the quality of your shows by hiring sound wrestling minds to join your Creative and trained wrestling professionals to scout and train wrestlers in a more traditional style of working (psychology, cutting promos, etc.). Get better ring music for God's sake! And come up with better gimmicks and names that aren't mouthfuls to say. Stop shortening people's names, too. Antonio Cesaro sounds cooler than "Cesaro", as does Big E Langston over just "Big E".
Many of he WWE fans can keep shoving $ figures in front of me and then I'll point to them what the NBA, NHL, UFC, NASCAR, MLB, and NFL are all earning for television rights and most networks have to send camera crews, announcers, and producers to those events while the WWE already has that taken care of in-house.
The only sound business that I see WWE doing is putting Comcast into a position where they have become more invested into the WWE's television product. But again, if the WWE had more fans still tuning into watch wrestling, they could gouge more money out of them. FACT!
So just chill... Until the next episode!
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