During this weeks Monday Night Raw, you could have been forgiven for thinking that it was no longer a wrestling show but a 3 hour commercial-athon.
Plug after plug of the WWE Network was sandwiched by plugging of WWE sponsors. Perhaps the biggest sign of desperation came when the CM Punk documentary was advertised as one of the selling points of the Network, despite the fact that Punk has now walked away from WWE and shows no signs of signing a new deal any time soon.
The reason for the desperation is because WWE knows that the renewal date for Network subscriptions is fast approaching, and fears are that there will be a substantial hit in numbers. With many fans signing up simply to watch Wrestlemania for the bargain price of 10 dollars, the deal seemed too good to turn down. But now, months down the line, fans aren't so keen to spend 10 dollars a month on a product that is without both CM Punk and Daniel Bryan for the foreseeable future.
WWE has not been this short on star-power in a long time and they know it. They have tried reverting back to their tried and tested method of putting the title on John Cena, but it is extremely doubtful if this will be enough to keep the majority of paying fans happy.
With Vince McMahon losing over $750 million in the last couple of months through share prices plunging, it really could be make or break as far as the Network is concerned. WWE need to pull out an absolutely stellar Summerslam and Night of Champions if they want to keep the paying fans on board.
While Vince McMahon has been discussing the potential growth of the network. The Company estimated that the WWE Network, on a global basis, will require 1.3 million to 1.4 million subscribers at "steady state" for the WWE Network's incremental OIBDA to offset the complete cannibalisation of the Company's Pay-Per-View and SVOD businesses. However in reality they ended up getting around half of this, and if this is to decrease even further, the future is not too bright for the WWE.
Road to Recovery
Although there is still time to get things back on track, the WWE needs to realise that the key to subscriptions is not to incessantly beg the fans as they have been recently, but to put on a better quality of product that is worth paying for in the first place.
Thankfully, the WWE is large enough that it is able to take a significant loss over a single year, as long as there is some sign that the revenue starts heading in the right direction. It is a difficult balancing act, as the WWE tries to take risks and build new stars on a roster severely lacking in star-power, but at the same time tries to use what stars it does have to sell the network to the fans.
The ball is firmly in Vince's court now, and how he decides to act could be massive in the future of WWE.