WWE ratings are bad, but there is hope in the Network

WWE ratings are bad. They have resorted to cutting back on Youtube content to drive fans to watch the shows live. In the age of streaming and digital content, it is counterproductive to lean so heavily into delivering your programming on cable tv. Currently, you can catch clips of Raw or Smackdown on the WWE Twitter page, as well as watch a shortened recap on Hulu the next day (for Raw specifically). The WWE shows are split between Fox, USA and their own WWE Network. So many disparate places to ingest the same product, no wonder their ratings are down.

You have a network. Use it

The WWE Network is a steal. $9.99 a month. You get all the wrestling. It sports a massive backlog of classic WWE programming, original shows, and insightful interviews. What it doesn’t have is live Raw and Smackdown. Instead, networks outside of WWE, pay them to show their flagship properties. This is a mistake.

The WWE Network is a potential boost for WWE ratings. A gradual move to the WWE Network being the only place to catch live WWE content is the most logical move. Own your own destiny and so forth. If WWE had opted to move Smackdown to their own network instead of Fox, the longterm financial benefits could outweigh a regular old TV deal. I am no financial guy. I am terrible with money, but I did see that one movie with the quote “If you built it, they will come.” I think it was called Field of Beans or something clever.

The fact is, if WWE moved all their programming to their own bloody network (read that in William Regal’s voice), they would be in a position to rent out the recap shows to TV networks. So Fox could show the truncated version of Smackdown, USA can play the shorted RAW (and make room for more shows to gain more revenue), while WWE shows the live events. WWE is an enormous entity, they can undoubtedly get advertisers to promote on their own network. All I am pitching is an invert of their current model. Own their live events, rent the recaps.

The possibilities are endless

Not having a corporate sponsor can allow WWE the space to create innovative marketing to appeal to a broader audience and get them interested in the WWE Network. The network app itself is a dream come true to WWE, and they don’t even know it. Leveraging their infrastructure, they can create fan participation directly on the app that can factor into their live shows. You can only participate if you are a Network subscriber. This could all be done on Twitter and other social platforms, but using their own digital platform to create unique experiences for subscribers is a fantastic way to gain new fans.

Performers like Xavier Woods and Sheamus have leveraged Youtube and their brothers and sisters in wrestling to gain a massive following online. What if WWE funded ventures like Up Up Down Down and Celtic Warrior Workouts and you only get them on the Network? Instead of creating reality shows like Legends House, why not develop shows that highlight the immense talents of the independent contractors you employ? When people sign up to watch their favorite wrestler do something different, they will tune in to watch them perform live as well.

WWE ratings need help

The above would in no way fix the other problems hurting WWE’s ratings. Better emotional storylines, character development, and meaningful matches are all things I feel are regularly missing. WWE’s properties are split between cable and network television. All in an age where people ingest the most content outside of traditional tv, is still an issue that should be addressed. WWE, and specifically Vince McMahon, are still chasing TV deals like its the 1970’s. It’s time to realize that WWE is big enough to have its own Network. I mean, they already do. They simply don’t use it to its full potential. How do you have a network without your live flagships?

Are you like WWE and need help retooling your business model? Maybe I can help. Give me a shout or find me on Twitter.

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