On July 31, 2014, Rogers Communications and WWE announced that they had signed a ten year agreement that would make Rogers the exclusive distributor of WWE programming in Canada. Rogers will be the sole provider of all Pay Per View events and will be bringing the WWE Network to Canada beginning August 12, 2014 as a subscription on one of their channels on cable or satellite TV. It’s unclear at the moment whether this will extend to gaming platforms as an app as it does for the United States, but it’s safe to say that plans for that are surely on someone’s table. This is great news for the WWE, who is bleeding out money and is said to be trying to cut twenty million dollars from their budget. My husband previously wrote about WWE’s financial woes in his post The Fall of Rome. And still the fallout continues.
It was only last month that the WWE released quite a few of their Superstars, including two-thirds of 3MB and Aksana, who had been featured on Raw and Smackdown just days prior to the abrupt contract termination. Now, Ricardo Rodriguez can add his name to the list of previously employed WWE personalities. His release was confirmed July 30th, with the WWE releasing a canned statement wishing him well in his future endeavors. On his Twitter account, Rodriguez thanked them for a great four years, but stated that he misses wrestling. He is one of many, as the WWE has fired 7% of their current employees (60 in total over two days) in order to cut costs. (I previously wrote about the last round of layoffs HERE.)
In addition to the talent cuts being made, the WWE has reduced the pay of independent workers/television extras from $200 per day to only $100 per day. These are people who, after being personally selected or going through a formal submission process, spend their entire day at the arena and are called on if that day’s script requires it. If one of these indy workers is called on to take part in a match or be part of a physically demanding promo, the WWE is said to pay a higher fee based on that work, but that amount is also expected to be cut. $100 as a day’s wage isn’t too shabby, but it’s quite a bit less than what I make for an easy eight hour day sitting in front of a computer and writing things like this in between my actual duties. I get paid more than the guy being thrown through a catering table by Ryback.
WWE stock closed at a low on July 30th, but saw a 10% increase the following day. They lost $14.5 million during their second quarter, which was slightly less than what they were predicted to lose. The Network is now up to 700,000 subscribers; this is an increase of only 33,000 since April due to slightly over 100,000 subscribers leaving the network as new subscribers join. Given the six month commitment, I suspect the subscriber loss is from people declining to commit after the free trial period terminates. There will also be more flexibility in Network membership in August; you can either pay $9.99 per month with a six month commitment or simply pay an increased price of $19.99 per month and have no commitment to keep the Network. Either way, both prices are a bargain simply for the live PPVs. The Network will also be adding a “resume play” feature in the next few months, similar to Netflix, which is something that I am excited to have.
By October 2014, the United Kingdom will have the Network. The plan is to expand Network access to countries in both Europe and Asia; over 170 countries and territories in total will have access in three months time. This will likely help Vince McMahon reach his goal of 1.5 million profit-making subscribers (although I expect that number to increase as the Network rolls out to more areas), but in the meantime it puts many lower level Superstars on edge. Last month, I’m sure the only one surprised by JTG’s release was JTG himself, but the fans weren’t shy about expressing outrage about Curt Hawkins, Brodus Clay, Jinder Mahal and Drew McIntyre, all four of who have been doing fantastic on independent circuits ever since. As of the first of August, NXT is down five wrestlers (Garrett Dylan, Travis Tyler, Slate Randall, Mac Miles, Dani Jackson), and is in danger of losing even more talent, plus losing in-ring time as the lesser popular circuit can afford to be scaled back without alienating fans.
I love the Network. It has its issues, but it’s well worth my money. For the price of two PPVs, I get every single one for the entire year, plus more extras than I know what to do with. My son has discovered Chyna and ECW, two things that have blown his mind and are readily available whenever I want to turn them on. That said, it seems that what benefits me is doing nothing but hurting nearly everyone in WWE. With the exception of a few superstars, the locker room has got to be nervous when it comes to wondering whether or not they’ll have a job next week or even tomorrow. With pay decreases for extras, I’ve got to imagine that quality will suffer by recruiting lesser talents for lesser pay. With careless cuts that receive zero explanation on-air (3M…who?), the fans are going to get even more frustrated than they already are with the state of the company. $14.5 million is a lot to lose, regardless of how many millions are left. There is a bizarre barrier keeping fans from flocking to the Network, and the entire company could be in serious danger unless someone figures out how to break it down.