How bad was it?
When the network launched, WWE forecast that it would have 1 million subscribers in the United States by the end of the year. In April, just 42 days after launching, it had 667,287. In reality, however, the total was disappointing — the period covered included the largest PPV event of the year, Wrestlemania.
Ordering Wrestlemania alone on traditional PPV costs roughly the same as a six-month subscription to WWE Network. The pricing should have made the hundreds of thousands of casual fans who buy only Wrestlemania sign up for the network. Instead, nearly 400,000 customers ordered Wrestlemania through their cable providers. That would be OK for WWE if those customers kept buying PPVs in the old way, but that has not been the case.
The company last week did not break down PPV sales between the U.S., where the network is available, and the rest of the world, where it isn’t. But it did provide worldwide totals. Globally , WrestleMania did 690,000 buys, Extreme Rules did 108,000, Payback did 67,000, and Money in the Bank did 122,000. Those are huge drops from 2013, when WrestleMania did 1.1 million buys, Extreme Rules did 245,000, Payback did 198,000, and Money in the Bank did 223,000.
Those drops would be fine if the network was making up the difference, but it’s not. During the same July 31 call, the company said it had 700,000 subscribers at the end of June. That’s an increase of only 33,000 subscribers since April. While the original 667,000 subscribers more than made up for the revenue drop due to losing 410,000 Mania buys, the added 33,000 customers does not begin to cover the revenue drop from losing roughly 370,000 buys on the next three PPVs.