KELLER INTERVIEWS ROB VAN DAM FOR FIRST TIME...
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WWE announced today that WWE Network ended 2017 with 1.471 million paid subscribers, up from 1.403 million paid subscribers at the end of 2016. That breaks down to 1.065 million in the U.S. and 406,000 outside of the U.S. at the end of 2017. That compares to 1.033 million in the U.S. and 370,000 outside of the U.S. at the end of 2016.
The total subscribers at the end of 2017 were 1.547 million, up from 1.473 million. That reflects 76,000 free trial subscribers as Dec. 31, 2017 compared to 70,000 free subscribers as of Dec. 31, 2016.
Although not part of 2017 data, it’s worth noting WWE offered a three month subscription to WWE Network for 99 cents to former subscribers in January. That would presumably count as a “paid subscriber” even though they’re paying 33 cents per month, so ultimately the key metric ultimately is the total revenue earned as some “paid subscribers” might be contributing negligibly to revenue but be counted as a paid subscriber in any given quarter.
WWE Network revenue in 2017 totaled 197.9 million compared to $180.9 million in 2016. Looking at just the fourth quarters of each year, 2017 Q4 drew $46.2 million compared to $43.7 million in 2016 Q4.
Looking back another year, at the end of 2015 paid subscribers in the U.S. were 940,000 and International was 277,000. At the end of 2014, paid subscribers in the U.S.. were 772,000 and International was 44,000.
U.S. PAID SUBSCRIBERS:
End of 2014: 816,000
End of 2015: 1,212,000 (up 396,000)
End of 2016: 1,403,000 (up 191,000)
End of 2017: 1,471,000 (up 68,000)
End of 2014: 44,000
End of 2015: 277,000 (up 233,000)
End of 2016: 370,000 (up 93,000)
End of 2017: 406,000 (up 36,000)
Keller’s Analysis: For WWE, this data indicates a sharp, if not alarming, decline in year-to-year growth. This isn’t highlighted by WWE in their release, but going back to the prior two years and adding that data to today’s release, it’s indicative of a leveling off of interest in WWE Network, and that they have fewer and fewer people to convert from “WWE fans” to “WWE Network subscribers.” In their release two years ago, they boasted WWE Network growth of 49 percent and 72 percent compared to the prior year in terms of paid subscribers at the end of the quarter and average paid subscribers during the quarter respectively. The boast this year was noting a WWE Network subscription revenue increase of 5 percent.
What is going to cause growth in WWE Network subscriptions at this point is going to be either growing the pool of people following the WWE product in a way that would lead to a desire to pay to see more content, or among the current pool of WWE fans, present a compelling change in the product or the stars being featured so a larger percentage felt the need to see more content on WWE Network. A reduction in the “free” offerings could also lead to fans subscribing to WWE Network. Five hours of originally programming on cable TV and a ton of free content on YouTube and WWE.com can also satiate “WWE fans'” desire for WWE product.