Since the WWE Network is the driving force of revenue for the company, it only makes sense that all major decisions would revolve around the platform and how best to monetize it. To date, the network has fallen short of its lofty aim of two million subscribers, and in recent weeks the WWE, in general, has miscued in terms of their promises to shareholders and the expected net revenue for 2017. Still, the company is working hard to change that. One has to wonder, if viewers are the goal and profits are the objective, why the recent run of strange decisions?
The WWE continues to make choices as it pertains to the WWE Network that many would consider mind-boggling. From canceling some of the more popular shows to eliminating opportunities that give wrestlers a platform to get over to the WWE Universe in longer and less scripted interviews to the types of shows being produced. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to what's going on behind the scenes.
Fans everywhere sighed in unison as Talking Smack was removed from weekly programming, yet few noticed that Breaking Ground wouldn't be back. The WWE prioritized their social media channels to their own network and they decided against some of the easiest forms of shows to offer fans. In many cases, the company put all must-see action on free television and made pay-per-views largely irrelevant.
The good news is that most of these problems are fixable. With a quick change or directional shift, the WWE Universe could come back in higher numbers. That is, of course, unless the WWE continues to make some of the same idiotic decisions they made with WWE Network to this point.
15 Cancelled Talking Smack
Removing Talking Smack from the WWE Network might be the single biggest show specific decision the WWE has made to date. It's also likely the WWE biggest blunder. When Talking Smack left, the WWE Universe and the talent involved in the show were completely up in arms over the decision and no one seems to completely understand why the decision was made.
Some suggest that it was numbers driven; that the viewership was down. Others think Vince McMahon didn't like the unscripted nature of the show and he couldn't control a show of its format. Almost everyone else thinks it was a poor choice and taking it away removed a platform for WWE Superstars they didn't otherwise have. Talents like The Miz made the most of their opportunities and arguably became bigger stars than they ever would have otherwise.
14 Hasn't Aired Live Events
They did it with The Beast in the East and then never really did it again. With the success of that live event being aired, it's hard to understand why. Even if the WWE taped these events and aired them at a later date, it would be unique programming the WWE Universe couldn't see anywhere else.
The event is already set up, in many cases, the cameras are already rolling and the wrestlers are already performing. Why not air portions of the live events on WWE Network for fans who couldn't attend? This could be the type of programming the average fan never gets to see and could draw some eyeballs. Mix it with some footage of wrestlers traveling together and mixing it up from town to town (breaking kayfabe of course) and you could have something totally unique with little cost to the company.
13 Prioritized Social Media
Perhaps you can blame Zack Ryder for this one. Once Ryder showed the WWE that you could get over and popular just by using social media effectively, the company jumped on board and it became a priority to dominate every social media platform available. They went after Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and others, especially YouTube where the WWE has begun to broadcast news updates and important reveals for free.
Why would the WWE do such a thing if the idea is to draw people to both the television programs and, more importantly, the WWE Network? Why not reserve these reveals and news trinkets for the Network, requiring people subscribe to be up to speed? The social media platform should be used to tell the WWE Universe they can get those tidbits by signing up.
12 Produced Duds
That the WWE started out by promoting shows like Legends House and celebrities like Jerry Springer showed just how badly the WWE misjudged who would be interested in purchasing a subscription to the WWE Network. Instead of putting has-beens in a house, the WWE could have simply put collections of legends of the past on film with some documentary style commentary and they would have hit for a much better average.
The WWE Universe wants to see wrestlers on a personal level but doing what they do on a professional one. Legends With JBL was fascinating in many ways, but they canceled it. Unfiltered? Canceled. The WWE is choosing the wrong shows to ax. More Bring it to the Table and 30-for-30 style productions will draw more eyeballs. The WWE is going the other way.
11 More Work For Less Money
At any other job, if you increased the amount of an employees workload, that employee should receive a raise. So too, if you took away a portion of the money they were earning via residuals, you should replace that money with straight compensation. The WWE did neither when they introduced the WWE Network.
While some programs require talents be paid for their time, others talents are merely expected to volunteer their time for certain elements of the shows. They aren't accurately compensated. In other cases, the WWE has lowered the payouts for shows like WrestleMania and major events because there wasn't an accurate way to measure the returns like there were with percentages of pay-per-view buy rates which naturally went down when they were aired on the network for free.
Now wrestlers are looking at the independents or Japan to make more money. That never would have happened before. If the WWE wants to keep the best talent, they need to compensate them for the workload the Network creates.
10 Bad Balance of TV to Pay-Per-View
The WWE has overloaded episodes or Raw and SmackDown Live in an effort to make the weekly programming must-watch. In doing so, they've weakened the pay-per-views. A couple examples would be Battleground, a show touted as one of the worst pay-per-views in recent memory. Leading up to it, SmackDown Live was great. They threw everything great on tv and gave no one reason to watch the main attraction.
In the case of SummerSlam, which is only a few days away, Raw just aired two matches set for the card for free. Finn Balor versus Bray Wyatt was an interesting match because it was a first-time event. Now it's not. Pay-per-views need to be must-see events and that is how the WWE will keep people interested in coming back to the network to watch them.
9 Content is Over Edited
Shows like Table for 3 have been a revelation for those fans who want to see a much more intimate and behind-the-scenes look at how talents and WWE Superstars interact with each other. The stories they tell have been fun to watch and revealing, allowing the WWE Universe to get a bit more invested personally. Why leave so much out?
Apparently, these 30-minute programs are actually shot over multiple hours with over 75 percent of the show cut out. That makes absolutely no sense. No one is suggesting not to edit out portions the WWE doesn't want to be shared with the public, but why not make part two and part three? Fans would watch these segments for hours if they were permitted to. There are other shows just like this that should receive the same treatment.
8 Not Working Out Deals With Other Brands
Back when the WWE was working a deal with ECW, Paul Heyman kept his dealings with Vince McMahon secret. He did all that he did so that he could get exposure for ECW on WWE programming and earn some money to keep things going. There are other brands out there that could use similar exposure.
Tell me that companies like Evolve, GFW, ROH or independents actually believe they can compete with the WWE and I'll agree it's a bad idea, but why not air some of these promotions matches, (they have to produce them on their own) and introduce the WWE Universe to characters they may not have otherwise known. The WWE will get new subscribers who want to see the independents (but don't have a tv deal) and these promotions can use the platform to introduce their companies to a much larger audience.
Even with a few rules set by the WWE to minimize the potential for competing against itself, it could be a win for everyone.
7 No Ads
Why the WWE didn't add sponsorship or ads to the WWE Network from day one is amazing. It seems like a completely wasted stream of revenue that makes total sense to be in place from every possible angle. Take for example a platform like YouTube. Sure, YouTube users hate the ads, but they watch them and then watch their content. It's just part of everyday life as a YouTube user.
Other platforms are like this and the WWE should be taking advantage of easy revenue that doesn't have to be overly intrusive. Now, in an effort to make more money where the WWE fell short, they'll likely have to add the ads that users are now used to not seeing. This should have been in place from day one.
6 Searchable Content
The WWE Network has an amazing amount of footage, but to look for certain videos is not as easy as say, looking for footage on YouTube. In fact, the WWE Network is not a great option if you're looking for a quick fix or want to access something in short bursts. For that purpose, it doesn't serve that target market well enough.
To make matters worse, it doesn't help that the WWE loads other video platforms with footage from their shows. Almost every episode of Raw and SmackDown Live can be found almost in their entirety on social media channels.
This may be an issue as long as the WWE struggles to get archival footage of its product off platforms like YouTube. If you can find it free there, why subscribe to the WWE Network?
5 Original Movies
More than a place to see movies that came from the major studios, a platform like Netflix is as much about having a subscription to access Netflix created originals. Shows like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and Ozark have given people a reason to purchase Netflix. The WWE needs to learn from this.
WWE Studios division is a revenue loser for the company. It is being hemorrhaged by other areas and dramatically hurting net profits. There are rumors the WWE is considering canning it altogether, but pumping money into the division because they want to be seen as more than just a wrestling product.
If the WWE wanted to help out their own brand, why not air their films exclusively on the WWE Network instead of releasing them to Bluray or DVD? It would help if the WWE didn't make garbage films though and that could be a hurdle not so easy to jump over.
4 Announced Cancellations
It seems like a pointless exercise to cancel a program on the WWE Network that could be brought back at any moment. For example, why announce that Breaking Ground or Unfiltered is gone if you can bring it back if you want? Some users will cancel their subscription if their favorites shows are given the heave-ho. But, if there is a chance those shows will return after a break or a hiatus if and when new programming bumps it for a while, subscribers might stick around.
Even if the plan is to permanently cancel a program, there is no reason to let that news leak. Doing so creates work that comes with reacquiring subscribers. If a subscriber asks, the WWE can simply say something to the effect, "at this time, we are focused on our new and exciting schedule of WWE Network programming. We have no scheduled return time for (insert show here), but in the WWE, we never say never."
3 WWE 24
Shows like WWE 24 and other documentary style productions in the vein of ESPN's 30 for 30 series seems like the easy and logical way to take the WWE Network. Yet, the WWE does limited runs of programs like these and have been cancelling shows that give fans a behind the scenes glimpse of the industry they love.
The production values, the emotion, the passion, the attention to detail of every WWE 24 episode tells a story the WWE Universe can't get anywhere else. Every story is also unique.
The WWE literally should plan on doing one of these each week, not doing less of them. In fact, every show that looks at wrestlers going behind the scenes needs to be a priority. This includes Podcasts and exclusive interviews.
2 Free Trials
There's nothing like alienating your loyal and paying users by letting other new users in for free and slowing down the whole system. That's what continues to happen with the WWE Network and while the new users who use up their free trials don't sign up due to slow streaming, existing users get frustrated and cancel. That's exactly what happened with this past WrestleMania.
This strategy also allows new users to catch some of the biggest shows free of charge, then cancel their subscription and sign up again with different contact info and a new email address. It gives a false sense of the numbers for the network and it gives the middle finger to paid users, many of whom who leave out of spite.
Lucky for the WWE, its fanbase is among the most forgiving. If not for that, the WWE would have a huge issue on its hands.
1 No Direction
What is the WWE Network? Is it a place subscribers can go to watch behind-the-scenes footage, interviews and documentaries they can't see anywhere else? Is it an archive of the WWE's greatest matches and moments? Is it a place to eventually move their television programs and avoid cable companies altogether?
The fact that the WWE doesn't seem to know what the WWE Network is yet, describes why there is no rhyme or reason to the shows that get canceled or why the platform has trouble with its functionality. Other streaming services offer a much more user-friendly environment. If the company could figure out what it wanted to be, it could do a better job of functioning for that end user. As it stands now, it tries to do too many things for too many different people. That's always a recipe for disaster.