SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
If the future of pro wrestling revenue is subscription-based streaming, as WWE believes it is, a new competitor has emerged today with major funding to compete for rights to non-WWE content.
PWTorch has learned that FloSports, a rapidly expanding start-up with a recent inection of $21.2 million in funding behind it, is expected to announce today its move into the pro wrestling category under the title FloSlam with multiple wrestling brands affiliated with it out of the gate, and more serious negotiations under way.
FloSports describes itself as follows: “FloSports is a direct-to-consumer, subscription-based sports media company in Austin, Texas, that is unlocking a world of sports coverage that true fans have been waiting for.”
The short-term impact on the industry is that there could be actual bidding or competition between WWE and FloSports for pro wrestling content outside of WWE worldwide, including the companies WWE has asked its fans about in their recent surveys. This list of potential FloSports partners includes ROH, EVOLVE, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, the burgeoning U.K. indy scene, CMLL in Mexico, and New Japan Pro Wrestling or other Japan groups. FloSports is willing to inject a significant amount of up-front money to major indy groups that sign up, giving them the revenue necessary to better compete for indy wrestler salaries and hire international established stars for their bigger shows. This could mean indy wrestlers won’t be as quick to jump at WWE’s offers to join NXT if they can make a significantly better financial deal outside of WWE.
Wrestlers such as James Storm and the Young Bucks are among the small handful who could have signed with WWE’s NXT but have been given big enough offers from TNA and ROH, respectively, to decide to pursue their careers outside of the WWE environment. FloSports has the funding and economies-of-scale platform, with the network available to subscribers via an app on Apple TV and Roku, just announced two weeks ago, along with computer and phone streaming, to offer their affiliated wrestling companies a chance to market their product on a more reliable, accessible platform than ever before, to the widest audience yet. This means more offers can be made to keep top indy stars from signing with NXT, and perhaps even give some established WWE contracted wrestlers not gaining traction with WWE booking an opportunity to earn a better living outside of WWE.
Instead of the iPPV format some indy groups have struggled to gain traction with, FloSlam will be offering a flat rate monthly access in the $20 range per month (and less with a one-year subscription) to unlock and stream live and on demand all pro wrestling offerings on the network, which could also include library content of indy promotions, documentaries, and regional wrestling content not acquired by WWE Network.
FloSports, coincidentally, received funding from WWE earlier this year, but that does not mean WWE has influence over decisions they make. FloSports originally launched as a vehicle to offer niche sports to hardcore fans in various amateur categories such as amateur wrestling, gymnastics, tennis, track, basketball, and martial arts. In effect, it turns out WWE invested in a streaming service that could drive up the price of what they’ll have to pay to attain rights to indy wrestling on WWE Network.
WWE has surveyed their fans in recent weeks about their level of interest in streaming independent wrestling on WWE Network, including a higher priced tier featuring non-WWE content. This is, in great part, due to knowledge that FloSports was making offers to various non-WWE pro wrestling companies domestically and internationally.
FloSports is determined to create a mega-streaming headquarters for non-WWE programming worldwide, including hiring a full time managing editor who will attend and produce original content at the major weekend events, including backstage interviews. Some well-known names in pro wrestling took notice of the job listing and applied. There is talk of other initiatives that would create a connection between some of the major indy groups in other ways.
PWTorch has reached out to FloSlam for confirmation on when they plan to announce details officially. PWTorch sources indicate the announcement is expected as soon as this afternoon.
Keller’s Analysis: This development, at least in the short-run, will create viable career options that didn’t exist before for pro wrestlers outside of WWE, some of whom would prefer to make a living on the indy scene in the U.S. and internationally. This is an opportunity for indy wrestling to step up and prove it can attract a wider national fanbase who will pay for the convenience and reliability of live streaming events on a platform bigger and more well-funded than any previously.
For years I’ve spoken and written about this possibility, including on a PWTorch Livecast with ex-WWE Creative Team member Matt McCarthy – imagining an economies-of-scale platform that could give indy companies a real chance to earn game-changing revenue by putting on events that attracts subscribers and repeat routine viewership. The iPPV market has been riddled with technical issues and has reached only a niche market. FloSports has the platform, including their new Apple TV and Roku apps, to take away any excuse pro wrestling fans have who are disgruntled with WWE and really like alternative products but found accessing them inconvenient.
The money FloSports can provide to indy groups will create more sustainable jobs for pro wrestlers outside of WWE. If WWE responds by trying to aggressively acquire content rights instead, which is a possibility, that will mean more funding for indy wrestling also. Without FloSports making offers to acquire content rights, WWE would have little incentive to offer strong financial deals.
TNA attempted at its launch point a “weekly PPV service” with Jerry and Jeff Jarrett figuring “the Internet fan base” would support a $9.99 weekly PPV service. The numbers of customers were massively lower than the projections the Jarretts made, they lost a lot of money, and TNA eventually shifted to a more traditional business plan with national TV and monthly PPVs. FloSlam is betting the time is right to offer pro wrestling fans a chance to access live events every weekend on their TVs for a flat fee. They have the infrastructure in place technically, and are putting a lot of money on the line to make a big splash. They are moving from a 7,000 square foot headquarters to one ten times that size next year in Austin, Tex. due to the rapid growth and early success of the business.
If subscriptions end up very low and don’t grow, it might not last or might not have much impact, as eventually the revenue going to indy companies will be based on the actual subscriber base and viewership of the events. At the start, though, FloSports has the funding to bid more than WWE can justify for non-WWE wrestling content. If subscriptions are strong out of the gate and grow, FloSlam could end up being a legitimate game-changing platform that can create dozens of well paying jobs for pro wrestlers who didn’t have a viable option before when they had to piece together paydays from live events around the world based solely on ticket revenue or indy promoters with deep pockets.
WWE might not be thrilled they unwittingly invested in a streaming service that in essence will compete for streaming rights of non-WWE wrestling shows, but FloSlam’s success could help develop the next generation of indy stars who would otherwise not have gotten the seasoning outside of WWE or opportunity in NXT to become the next Daniel Bryan or Kevin Owens. As much as WWE values having their own feeder system and training center, it only boosts their future to have more companies developing the next generation of talent.
For pro wrestling fans, FloSlam looks to be the best opportunity to regularly see live non-WWE pro wrestling on a reliable, convenient platform for a reasonable price. For pro wrestlers, if FloSlam succeeds, it gives indy wrestlers more of a chance at sustainable full time careers and it gives WWE wrestlers negotiating leverage and more of them than ever a viable alternative to working for WWE full time – if the fan support ends up being there.