Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Questions to ask at tomorrow's WWE Network launch event...

It's really all but confirmed that tomorrow evening's "groundbreaking announcement" will be unveiling of the WWE Network.  Today, WWE released a bland PR announcement (mentioning business personalities including Chief Revenue & Marketing Officer Michelle D. Wilson, Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon, Executive Vice President, Talent & Live Events Paul Levesque, Executive Vice President and Digital Media Perkins Miller).  More interestingly, there was a bit of a misfire as the Corporate Site also added an event for 1-08-2014 called, "WWE Network Announcement".  (This also triggered an email blast to IR Alert subscribers with a broken link.  Correct link is here.)

I expect tomorrow's event will cover the basics:
Yes, WWE Network is launching in 2014 prior to Wrestlemania.  
Yes, WWE Network is launching as an "over-the-top" network and will be available on a variety of platforms (akin to Netflix).  
Yes, this new "network" will include live WWE Pay-Per-View Events.
Yes, WWE Network will only cost a fraction of the current WWE PPV retail price as a monthly subscription.
Yes, this is an exciting and groundbreaking development for Sports Entertainment Fans.

But WWE is going to CES and has invited journalists to attend.  Let's hope we get specifics.

Here's some of the questions I'd love to have answered:
  • What happened with the negotiations with MVPD (Multi-channel Video Programming Distributors) to launch the WWE Network as either Premium Channel or as a part of the normal tier of channels (taking the place of something that already had coverage like G4)?
  • What specifically did WWE learn about Netflix's success that led WWE to believe that an over-the-top network was now viable in 2014?
  • What is the relationship with MLB Advanced Media and WWE Network?  Are they providing any backbone and tech. support or were they just consulting on the process?
  • How does the WWE Network service compare and contrast to UFC 'Fight Pass' network?
  • What is the rationale behind the Network pricing?  Are you comparing to the monthly Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, Hulu  or against traditional PPV costs?
  • What is the roll-out schedule for this in terms of international expansion?  Do you anticipate issues with Canadian customers due to ISP data caps?
  • How does this launch correspond with Television Rights negotiations (both domestically and internationally)? 
  • In your projections do you expect to draw mostly from active WWE viewers or do you anticipate this service will be attracting a substantial percentage of lapsed fans?
  • How soon will replays of current WWE programming be available on the Network?
  • How does the percentage of monthly subscription cost that WWE receives through an over-the-top WWE Network compare against what they would have done with normal channel clearance and with premium channel subscriptions?
  • How similar is programming an "over-the-top" network akin to programming a traditional television network?
  • What's the timetable for remaining committed to this project?
  • What portion of domestic PPV and Home Entertainment Sales are expected to be cannibalized by this venture?
  • Is there a strategic direction concerning the future of Wrestlemania as either a PPV event for 2015 onwards?
  • Given the rash of streaming event failures in the past with other companies what safeguards are being put in place to prevent buffering and crashing for major events?
  • How soon will subscription numbers be available?
  • How will the spending for original content compare to the production costs for a show such as Total Divas on E!?
  • What are the licensing and royalty issues involved with airing old footage on the WWE Network and with on-demand content?
  • What are the reasonable subscriber metrics for the 30 day, 90 day, 180 day marks?
  • What is the annual investment for the Network going to look like in terms of re-occurring and one-time costs?
  • Will the Network revenue and expenses be split into a separate revenue division for reporting?
  • What's the relationship between WWE Films/WWE Studios and the WWE Network?  Will WWE remain in the movie business?
  • Does this signal a forever departure from the monthly PPV cycle?  How many more years do you expect a sizable portion of viewers will continue the traditional ordering methods?  Will this change how television is programmed, especially alongside large new TV rights deals starting in 2015?
  • For international distribution, will there be a focus on English-speaking countries first?
  • How robust of a marketing campaign outside of the "normal" WWE channels will there be to advertise the WWE Network service?  How much has WWE committed to spend for marketing?
  • How do the demographics of the normal WWE Network subscriber compare to the normal WWE television viewer?  (How do they reconcile the split between strong skew of younger folks using streaming services compared to older people still with Cable & Dish TV subscriptions?) 
  • How will the WWE Network launch affect the availability of WWE material on Hulu, Netflix and Youtube?  (Also, what's going on regarding Yahoo!?)
  • Has the WWE completely given up on the idea for a traditional channel to be launched alongside the over-the-top WWE Network?
  • How will these events affect payments to talent?  How can you estimate "buys" for PPVs and will that matter in the future?
  • Will there be any advertising or commercials on the network?
  • Are you expecting to have live interactive programming such akin to WWF LiveWire?
  • What role does the WWE App play in this Network launch?  
  • What future on-demand options do you anticipate offering?
  • Will the launch of the network correspond with additional interactive advances in the WWE portfolio?
  • How do you reconcile any contractual issues that might arise about exclusivity on PPV airings - especially in international markets?
  • What about content that may seem especially vulgar or distasteful in current television norms (racist, homophobic or xenophobic topics from territorial archives) - will there be selective editing around these angles?
I know that the majority of these questions would just receive a normal PR answer of "it's going to be great; how do we know yet? everything happened just like we planned!" but maybe one or two of them would actually give us some real insight to the past, present and future for this ambitious project.

What questions do you have which you'd love to see answered?


Bix said...

- What caused the large scale streaming problems during WrestleMania this past year and what changes have been made to make sure they don't happen again?

- What changes have been made to cable/satellite PPV deals to remove pricing parity hurdle that has been an issue for years and remains an issue for UFC?

- How much is editing a hurdle in terms of old shows with music they don't own and stuff like that?

Mary Patric said...

Great article. I love watching RAW and Smack Down. For those who can’t access WWE Network due to geo restriction like me, you can use UnoTelly or similar tools to get it in your country.