Friday, 21 November 2014

WWE Analysed - Why I think the Network is struggling



So once again I return for another ramble about the WWE and it's fucking network.  Now yes I could talk about TNA and its recent announcement about their new TV deal with the Discovery network but lets face it the entire company is buggered beyond belief.  We all know that despite the best efforts of the people in the ring every week the pure mismanagement of TNA from the top down has resulted in a slow miserable death for a company that by all rights should have been the new competitor to the WWE.

The WWE however interests me more because this company that survived the monday night wars against WCW, dodged the US government in the mid nineties and arguably became the biggest professional wrestling company in the world, is now doing things that WCW were doing back in their darkest days.  The entire situation regarding the network just looks so out of touch with today's online world.  The first slogan I remember hearing in regards to the network was "it's like Netflix but better" a slogan that made zero sense because Netflix offers a very wide variety of video entertainment.  The WWE network however offers a filtered version of WWE programming and nothing else.  By filtered I mean certain themes are changed from their original televised or even video release versions.  Matches are shortened or edited out and entire pay per views are altered to fit certain restrictions imposed by WWE officials.

Of course today's slogan is "9.99" which sounds great and everything but considering they originally charged a much higher price because you were locked into a minimum six month contract with no option to cancel your subscription, another reason Netflix was better by the way.  Now they have reversed their decision to allow subscribers to cancel anytime and are even giving away their Survivor Series 2014 show for free to try and bring in Subscribers.  The main issue though is that the service just doesn't seem to be retaining the numbers they aimed to achieve.  When it launched they expected to be hitting at least a million in North America and then going further still when it went international.  The truth is that it struggled to achieve seven hundred thousand subscribers in North America and the international launch which was expected to create the remaining number to push them over the vaunted one million mark in fact only levelled them out at around seven hundred and fifty thousand subscribers.  This means they lost subscribers when it went international and only managed to claw in roughly sixty thousand subs.

Now these figures are old but are the most up-to-date available.  No doubt the current free month of November has brought the number up and maybe they will retain some with the new options available for subscribers, however they are still making mistakes.  Over here in the UK the network is still not available and the UK is arguably the second or third largest audience for the WWE.  When it was due to launch earlier this month the deal suddenly fell through and it was further delayed, not pleasing many fans at the recent live RAW and Smackdown tapings who boo'd the news and purposely chanted things that WWE would have to edit out.  Maybe you could lay some of the blame at the feet of SKY broadcasting but since the network is available in other European and Asian countries why is the UK so different? 

Probably their most egregious action though is treating those people who do not subscribe but still pay for the television pay per views as idiots even going so far as to mock them for paying the $50 or $60 price tag for the show compared to the network price.  Yes the price is good by comparison but since it's online only and many people out there still have very spotty or slow connections, it might not be viable for them to do this.  WWE however seems to think that isn't good enough as an excuse and give it a few more months and its likely that all pay per views will be network exclusive anyway considering how much they are pissing off every cable provider systematically.  They have put nearly all of their eggs into this network basket and the financials aren't showing as black just yet.  Hell they even trimmed twenty million dollars in costs to try and stay profitable this year.  This of course meant people had to lose their jobs, all because the network has been such a colossal failure in its ability to bring people in to becoming subscribers.

When you look at why that might be you only have to look at the product they are currently putting out.  It's very bland and nothing seems to be changing to really make you want to watch or more importantly pay to watch their shows every month.  The last two months have been virtual re-runs of RAW with the same matches only this time the title is on the line.  Feuds that should have been amazing to watch play out only fizzled with the likes of Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins being complete wash outs despite their being two of the more entertaining wrestlers on the roster today.  Cena feuding with Orton for the umpteenth time bringing absolutely nothing new to the table with their match.  The same tag teams fighting endlessly over belts that WWE don't give a flying fuck about any more.  It isn't like the Rhodes brothers are bad but seeing them face off against the Uso's time and again is just plain dull.

The company does have strong talent in the wings waiting to be the new main eventers but the company is too afraid to move out of this comfort zone and embrace a new younger group of wrestlers.  It's likely one of the reasons the company is suffering financially because of the fact that even when the company is at it's most electric people just don't want to see the same matches again and again, and when Cena is involved the match is a foregone conclusion that the match will end in his favour.  WWE also suffer from having a champion who doesn't appear very often on the show.  I know the champ doesn't have to be on RAW every night, he has more important things to do in kayfabe land, but he should be defending the belt at every pay per view.  Come this Sunday we will have two months where Brock Lesnar has failed to defend his title, a massive error on the part of the WWE since people want to see the drama and excitement of a title bout much like boxing or MMA it's all about seeing that main event and the potential of a new champion being announced at the end of the night.

I know Lesnar is something of an odd choice for champion considering his limited schedule anyway along with his rumours of returning to UFC in the near future, but if McMahon is happy to sign the guy and make him this unstoppable monster to create big money events, then he should be paying Brock for the dates he needs to bring in those ticket sales and not relying on old horses like Cena and Orton and to a lesser extent Triple H to bring in the money.  The network also needs to offer more non wrestling content and by that I mean shows that look at stuff behind the scenes of the WWE.  Wouldn't it be cool to see a documentary series that follows the unseen people of the company who work tirelessly to create an event like Wrestlemania?  All of the drama and dilemma's faced by these people as they coordinate and organise such a massive event.  Why not create a series similar to their round table discussions with some serious debate about decisions of the past, feuds that didn't go well and a myriad of other events within the WWE and WCW world.

As it stands the network just isn't worth investing in right now.  Sure it offers a massive amount of wrestling that covers several companies across decades but it's not like there isn't already a lot of that available elsewhere on the Internet and most people who want to re-watch their favourite matches already have them on DVD or tape to begin with.  It's cool to have this on demand but they really need to open up with more varied content to bring in the viewer who wants something a little different from the WWE.  When a small company like Kayfabe commentaries can bring out some highly entertaining and very interesting products from simply interviewing wrestlers, you know WWE have missed the mark with the network when it comes to content.  They should be producing content along those lines in tandem with the wrestling programming too.

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