On Nov. 27 FloSports filed new documents for their lawsuit against WWN. The most interesting information coming out of the filings in the case is the iPPV buyrate spreadsheet breakdown that WWN owner Sal Hamoui submitted to FloSlam in an email exchange before they came to an agreement and the staggering amount of money FloSlam agreed to pay WWN over the course of a five year contract.
When the deal was struck in October of 2016, EVOLVE was seen as the centerpiece of the deal, so the figures Hamoui submitted to FloSlam before an agreement was made hinged on how well EVOLVE was doing at that time. EVOLVE’s product was hot in 2015, as the company introduced a new wave of stars including Drew Galloway (McIntyre), Zack Sabre Jr, Timothy Thatcher, Chris Hero, and Biff Busick.
News of WWE and WWN having an unofficial partnership broke in 2015 and EVOLVE began receiving exposure on WWE’s website. During this period, WWE began signing key EVOLVE talents to contracts. Rich Swann and Biff Busick were signed to NXT.
The numbers in the spreadsheet submitted as an exhibit indicate a large jump in the average amount of buys from 2015 to 2016. Without seeing the real numbers, it’s hard to make any final judgements about EVOLVE buy rates in terms of how much revenue the average EVOLVE show was generating in 2015 and 2016. When WWN runs an iPPV, they offer multiple pricing options for both years. A live iPPV buy only was $9.99-$14.99 depending on when the consumer purchased the show. A show that was purchased with the live and VOD option ranged from $14.99-$19.99 depending on when the show was purchased. Finally, a package that included the live airing of the iPPV, the VOD, and a physical copy of the show when it was released was priced from $24.99-$29.99. These price points were in effect for 2015 and 2016.
In 2015, the average EVOLVE show did around 712 buys. The notable exceptions were the WrestleMania weekend events (EVOLVE 39 and EVOLVE 40), which drew over 1,000 buys. An iPPV under the WWN banner called WWN Supershow on the spreadsheet sent to FloSports by Hamoui aired the same day as EVOLVE 40 and did over 1,500 total buys.
There was a big jump in 2016 in buys according to the spreadsheet. The spreadsheet reflects an average of 1,334 buys per show. WWN and WWE’s relationship was growing and EVOLVE began running shows the same weekend and in the same city WWE ran one of their big four PPVs (Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam, Survivor Series). Another big factor in the increase in interest in EVOLVE iPPVs was that the company hosted several matches related to the WWE Cruiserweight Classic.
Royal Rumble 2016 took place in Orlando, Fla. and EVOLVE ran three events the same weekend for the first time to piggyback off of all of the WWE fans in town and the exposure they were getting through WWE online. EVOLVE 53-55 saw a big jump in buys from the previous string of EVOLVE events in 2015 and according to multiple sources at this point, the WWE relationship with WWN was very strong. The spreadsheet claims that each show did close to 1,000 buys with EVOLVE 53 being the most popular drawing 1,107 total buys. The three previous EVOLVE events (EVOLVE 50-52) in comparison average 646 buys per show.
EVOLVE had momentum coming out of WrestleMania weekend thanks to their partnership with WWE. The company began hyping matches related to the WWE Cruiserweight Classic. On May 7, 2016 at EVOLVE 61, the company hosted two WWE Cruiserweight Classic Qualifying matches featuring Drew Gulak vs. Tracy Williams and Fred Yehi vs. T.J. Perkins. That iPPV drew over 1,000 iPPV buys and WWN benefitted from continued exposure on WWE.com and WWE social media during this period.
According to the spreadsheet, EVOLVE’s biggest buyrates came from WrestleMania weekend and SummerSlam weekend in 2016. Hamoui claimed on the spreadsheet that EVOLVE 58 drew 2,475 buys, EVOLVE 59 drew 2,318 buys and the WWN Supershow drew 1,940 buys. The numbers for SummerSlam weekend are also substantially above previous totals with EVOLVE 65 drawing 2,315 buys for Cody Rhode’s debut and EVOLVE 66 drawing 2,026 buys.
During the post-WrestleMania weekend period leading into SummerSlam, EVOLVE hosted several WWE Cruiserweight Classic spotlight matches. In addition, a TNA invasion angle with ECIII was launched as well leading into SummerSlam weekend with the debut of Cody Rhodes.
At the time SummerSlam 2016 took place, EVOLVE Champion Timothy Thatcher had lost some buzz feuding with Catch Point, but the WWE relationship was helping EVOLVE continue to build momentum and the numbers bear that out, but it is tough to make a final judgement without seeing the actual numbers.
The agreement between FloSports and WWN was signed on Oct. 21 last year by both parties. The numbers submitted by FloSports indicate the following payments were going to be made to WWN for the duration of their agreement, which primarily mandated that WWN broadcast five events per month on FloSlam.
The payments FloSlam was going to make over five years to WWN totaling $3.2 million dollars to WWN breaks down as follows:
- i) 2016 – $75,000
- ii) 2017 – $500,000
- iii) 2018 – $550,000
- iv) 2018 – $605,000
- v) 2020 – $670,000
- vi) 2021 – $740,000
In the attachment submitted, FloSports included a clause that said they could terminate the deal in January of each year beginning in 2018 and that the agreement would continue for 12 months prior to termination.
Given that WWN operated with a tight budget prior to entering into an agreement with FloSports, it brings into question why FloSports offered WWN so much money. EVOLVE was doing well thanks to their relationship with WWE at the time the deal was struck, but it is difficult to believe that EVOLVE alone was going to bring in enough interest to generate the revenue to justify a deal that paid $500,000 and beyond no matter what the actual numbers were even if you take the other EVOLVE promotions into consideration (FIP, Shine, ACW, and Style Battle).
The numbers seem to indicate that WWN might have been better off not taking the deal given the numbers of buys the spreadsheet indicates that they drew from January-September of 2016 massively trumped their average numbers from 2015 with events still on the calendar from October-December of 2016.
According to multiple PWTorch sources, WWN’s relationship with WWE cooled off after they signed the deal with FloSlam. There was still an unofficial partnership between the companies, but other companies like Progress and ICW based out of England and Scotland respectively saw their relationships with WWE grow, as they gained access to WWE talent to use on live events and market on VOD. WWN related mentions on WWE’s social media and website were scaled way back as well. WWN VP and EVOLVE booker Gabe Sapolsky has cultivated his own relationship with WWE and regularly attends NXT TV tapings and PPVs.
FloSlam management deserves to be scrutinized for entering into this agreement as well. They were never given officials numbers from WWN and there is no real way to tell how WWN’s iPPV/VOD buys from 2015 and 2016 would translate to FloSlam subscribers.
One key piece of information from multiple sources who worked at FloSports might shed some light as to why they expected EVOLVE to perform at a high level. By looking at the other verticals on the platform, FloSports expected WWN to perform at a certain level based on the number of buys they were given on the spreadsheet.
When acquiring content for their other verticals, FloSports saw a certain pattern to the increase in buys, and they applied that expectations to WNN. According to sources in FloSports familiar with the numbers and how they normally translated on different verticals, WWN far underperformed what was expected compared to other companies that submitted similar numbers. According to multiple sources, the launch of FloSlam was a disaster, as EVOLVE only added 150 to the vertical at launch
FloSlam’s original plan was to get companies like NJPW, ROH, AAA, and PWG under contract to broadcast on their platform. The problem with their plan came in the execution. They launched FloSlam with one major company under contract and never secured contracts with other major or indy wrestling companies. If FloSlam had launched with NJPW, ROH, PWG, AAA, and EVOLVE, it would likely have had no problem justifying paying WWN that kind of money to broadcast and promote events. Looking back now, it’s difficult to justify why a deal was executed between both companies without hard evidence.
On the other side, WWN likely signed the deal for financial security. Had they waited things out, their relationship with WWE would likely be in the same place as Progress and ICW, but the chance to make that kind of guaranteed money for potentially five years was too good to give up.
There wasn’t a noticeable leap in production from EVOLVE after they signed their deal with FloSlam. Before the deal between WWN and FloSlam was made, multiple sources pointed out the low paydays EVOLVE offered, which did not increase after the deal was made either.
As for the recent updates to the lawsuit that were filed, right now the lawsuit will be heard in district court in Texas. On Nov. 27 FloSports filed for a trial by jury, which multiple sources believe was a scare tactic by FloSports. According to sources,WWN is hoping to get the case moved to Florida. Whatever the outcome, WWN is waiting to see where the trial will be held before they file a countersuit against FloSlam.
It has been well documented how FloSlam dropped the ball when it launched, but it is not a shock that the company wanted to get out of their deal with EVOLVE as quickly as possible by filing a lawsuit back in September. Managing editor Jeremy Botter, who did a great job generating buzz for FloSlam when it launched, had a handle on how to use social media to generate interest as well. After Botter was fired in December of 2016, things began to go south quickly for FloSlam, as they no longer could effectively promote events on social media and they never struck any meaningful deals with big name indys. According to sources, this is due to upper management refusing to execute deals because of the production quality of the indys they were pursuing.
According to sources, the ultimate outcome of this lawsuit will be the contract between FloSports and WWN being dissolved at some point. Both sides will likely walk away from each other, although at this time WWN seems bullish on filing a counter suit.
WWN’s future seems to be up in the air at the moment. The future of the company going forward depends on whether or not EVOLVE can generate enough money to stay in business. The company is focusing on brining in several new roster members to save money and is experimenting with their formula by expanding their shows to include three undercard matches that feature new talent. FloSports stopped sending payments to WWN back in June of this year, which means WWN owner Sal Hamoui has been footing the bill for all of the events under the WWN banner since that time.
There’s no indication currently that WWN and WWE are going to heat up their relationship again, but the potential of that happening could certainly help EVOLVE become a buzz-worthy product in 2018. Otherwise, the company is going to have to rely on the creative mind of Gabe Sapolsky and the ability of new talent to break out.