Originally published at https://www.postwrestling.com/2020/02/24/pollocks-news-update-the-wwe-network-six-years-later/
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**Rewind-A-Raw will be up on the site later tonight with Wai Ting and I chatting about tonight’s edition of Raw from Winnipeg, Manitoba and the final show heading into Super ShowDown this Thursday. Plus, we will discuss today’s news items and go through your questions & feedback at the end.
**Tickets for POST Wrestling’s LIVE in Tampa show are available now. The Q&A Show will begin at Noon on Sunday, April 5th at the Art Institute of Tampa that is minutes away from Raymond James Stadium where WrestleMania takes place. VIP tickets include lunch with us, a limited-edition POST-t-shirt for the Tampa event, and a meet-and-greet after the show. Plus, a VIP ticket will also get you a parking spot that is good for the entire day with the stadium walking distance and will cover your parking for WrestleMania.
**The latest edition of Thunderstruck features WH Park being joined by Mike Murray to chat about Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Black Tiger II (Eddie Guerrero) from June 1996.
*Tonight: Rewind-A-Raw with John Pollock & Wai Ting
*Tuesday: ASK-A-WAI mailbag show (Patreon)
*Wednesday: Rewind-A-Dynamite with John & Wai
*Wednesday: upNXT with Braden Herrington & Davie Portman
*Thursday: Café Hangout – WWE Super ShowDown POST Show (Special start time at 9 pm ET for all Patrons)
*Saturday: Rewind-A-SmackDown with John & Wai (Patreon)
*Saturday: AEW Revolution POST Show with John & Wai (LIVE for Double Double, Iced Capp & Espresso members)
*Sunday: Thunderstruck with WH Park & guest Mike Spears (Jushin Thunder Liger vs. CIMA, April 2000)
**Tonight’s episode of WWE Raw takes place from MTS Place in Winnipeg, Manitoba and will feature Brock Lesnar appearing on the show. Lesnar is scheduled to return on next week’s episode from Brooklyn, New York. The following matches have been announced for tonight:
*Aleister Black vs. Erick Rowan
*Humberto Carrillo vs. Angel Garza
**The talent will be flying on a charter out of Winnipeg to Saudi Arabia after Raw.
**Today marks six-years since the WWE Network was launched in 2014 and comes at a time when the strategy of the streaming platform is being debated. This was sparked by the remarks made by Vince McMahon on the company’s last earnings call opening the idea of selling off its core content on the platform, which would indicate a potential outside partner to distribute some or all of their pay-per-view events. McMahon went so far in the call to state talks were far enough along that an announcement could come as early as the present quarter.
The idea behind the WWE Network goes back years before its launch with the idea of having a safeguard for a worst-case scenario. A story that doesn’t get focused on enough is the abrupt halt to WWE’s negotiations with Spike TV (now Paramount Network) in 2005 where Spike publicly backed out of the negotiations and left WWE to scramble for a new home that fall.
It led to a return to the USA Network, although with a weaker television deal without a share in advertising revenue. While it seems crazy in today’s landscape given the huge contracts WWE has scored, it was a different climate in 2005 and a huge ‘what if?’ can be asked regarding USA Network president Bonnie Hammer and if she was not in a position to serve as a lifeboat for their flagship program. In time, WWE became integral to maintaining USA’s position among cable networks with the caveat that Raw would draw great viewership, but ad rates were not commensurate to those numbers.
NBC Universal doubled down on wrestling with the addition to SmackDown to SyFy and later onto USA in prime time. When the rights for the programming came due in 2014, it was thought that WWE could cash-in with the television rights bubble growing and growing but McMahon set expectations so high with an ill-fated comment essentially promising double their rights that the eventual deal failed to meet the market’s expectations. It was during this period that the WWE Network launched and included were their monthly pay-per-view events. This created problems on several fronts from Sky TV already airing the shows and led to a delay in the network’s launch in the U.K. WWE was also in the midst of domestic television negotiations and had just undercut the carriers by pricing the pay-per-views at a cheaper rate on their service.
The network went through many iterations before launching with the plan of creating a linear channel shelved in favor of the streaming platform. The initial launch was planned for 2012 to coincide with WrestleMania and put off another two years.
The impact of the WWE Network six years later can be viewed in different ways:
–The projections of 3-4 million subscribers was a pipedream from the minute that figure was mentioned. The peak was WrestleMania 34 in April 2018 where they had 1,808,000 paid subscribers the day of the show and 2,124,000 including free subscribers. Those figures decreased to 1,767,000 and 2,000,000 for last year’s WrestleMania.
-There is no doubt they cannibalized their pay-per-views revenue. Remarkably, the company has still maintained a level of business with traditional pay-per-view during the past six years. Hindsight would suggest that placing all the ‘B’ level shows on the WWE Network and perhaps a Survivor Series and/or SummerSlam would have been the better play allowing WrestleMania and Royal Rumble, if not the major four to stay on traditional pay-per-view.
WrestleMania has been the biggest growth factor throughout the year for the service, but the real game has been enticing subscribers to sign-up for their free 30-day trial and converts enough free subscribers to paying ones. The trend of minimal growth appeared to be the pattern emerging for the network until 2019 where we saw repeated declines quarter after quarter that suggested the network had stalled in terms of growth potential.
-Because of the network, it has allowed for more talent than ever to be under contract. It is hard to imagine WWE investing to the degree it has in NXT if not for the investment of that brand as a pillar on the network. Conversely, while NXT UK was clearly a reaction to ITV’s World of Sport re-launch, it took the brand three years to get on traditional television in the market through BT Sport and Paramount while serving as a loss leader for network programming and signing up key talent from the European scene. That talent has been relegated to monthly tapings without touring and then augmenting their schedule with outside dates that come at the discretion of WWE.
-As a service that runs a live feed 24/7, it has never been a destination beyond the home of live pay-per-view events and TakeOver shows. In the early days, they attempted such ideas as pre- and post-shows for Raw and SmackDown, and press conferences after pay-per-views were shelved.
Organic drivers such as breaking news occurring on the network, natural bleed over from Raw’s exit sending people to the network for the conclusion are examples that hardly ever happened. The latter is a tough proposition with the USA Network spending so much money and would be hard to imagine they would be happy with WWE sending viewers to their network after the show as opposed to whatever program immediately follows on USA that they are hoping to build from the strong lead-in of Raw.
I always felt when WWE had breaking news – whether it be a big match announcement, a suspension, Hall of Fame induction, etc. – that an experiment should have been taken where their own news is broken on the network with a 30-60 minute promotion ahead of time and they spread the news across your social channels ‘as revealed on the WWE Network’ with accompanying reaction coverage from their production facility and getting the relevant parties to the story on the air.
The network has not been presented as a service for company news with that kind of immediacy that tells the average fan this service is a ‘must-have’ year-round. The driver is the pay-per-view and live content, and perhaps that’s a more realistic supply to offer for the demand of its audience.
-From the standpoint of programming, the network has been a platform for the outstanding production team they employ. Series such as ’24’, ‘365’, ‘Day of’, ‘Chronicle’, and ‘Breaking Ground’ have been able to showcase talent in a forum that is much more conducive to creating stars in the modern age than many tropes still employed on their regular programming. This area should only develop further with the type of programming seen on the WWE’s PC YouTube channel and the work of Shaun Ryan, who was the lead behind many of OTT’s tremendous pre-event videos.
-The success of the network will be weighted by this potential streaming deal for content. If WWE is able to navigate a deal where some or all of their pay-per-views can be sold for distribution while also mitigating the inevitable loss of subscribers that such a deal would encourage, then you have to look at the company coming out ahead. It will not be cheap for a streaming service to upset the WWE Network’s strategy but for the right amount, it’s the time to strike such a deal. What form the network takes after such a deal will be telling – will they finally pull the trigger by adding outside content from EVOLVE, Progress, ICW, etc.? Are there enough fans that will hold onto the network without the pay-per-views as the key driver?
Please share your thoughts on the success and failures of the WWE Network in the comment section below.
**AEW has announced that they will be going to Houston, Texas for the April 29th edition of Dynamite. The show will take place from the Fertitta Center on the campus of the University of Houston with tickets going on sale this Friday.
**Friday Night SmackDown finished 2,484,000 viewers from this past Friday on Fox. The show did a 0.7 in the 18-49 demo and a 0.5 in the 18-34 category, which was both the highest of all network shows that night.
**DDT has announced that Kenny Omega will be part of their annual Peter Pan show on Sunday, June 7th at the Saitama Super Arena.
**Following an increase on Friday, the WWE stock fell almost 3% on Monday with a close at $48.73.
**The upcoming autobiography of ‘The Young Bucks: Killing the Business from Backyards to the Big League’ is now available for pre-order. The book will be released in the fall.
**Game Changer Wrestling has announced a show for Las Vegas on Friday, May 22nd (the night before ‘Double or Nothing’ in the city). They are running a venue called The Space with only 300 tickets available. The show will stream at 11 pm Eastern that night on Fite TV.
**WWE Cruiserweight champion Jordan Devlin is dealing with elbow bursitis and was pulled from Sunday’s Progress Wrestling show due to the elbow issue. Devlin tweeted that he will be fine ‘in a week or so’ and was concerned with the risk of infection or making the issue worse. Devlin wrestled last Wednesday on NXT defeating Lio Rush to retain his title.
**LA Park and Hijo de LA Park have been added to MLW’s ‘Intimidation Games’ on April 18th at Cicero Stadium in Chicago.
**The WWE Network will premiere a new edition of ‘24’ this Thursday on R-Truth. On Sunday, there will be a new episode of ‘Break it Down’ focusing on Trish Stratus.
**Below is the lineup for Tuesday night’s edition of AEW Dark at 7 pm Eastern on their YouTube channel:
*Joey Janela vs. Kip Sabian in a Falls Count Anywhere match
*Dark Order vs. CIMA & T-Hawk
*Jimmy Havoc vs. Marko Stunt
*Shawn Spears & Peter Avalon vs. Dustin Rhodes & QT Marshall
**Shinsuke Nakamura turns 40 today and Corey Graves turns 36.
**This week’s edition of Being the Elite includes the announcement of the pre-sale for The Young Bucks’ book and the continuation of the Dark Order storyline involving Christopher Daniels:
**The attendance at the MGM Grand Garden Arena for this past Saturday’s rematch between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder was 15,816 with a gate of $16.9 million. They noted it was the highest-grossing gate for a heavyweight boxing fight in the state of Nevada. The previous heavyweight record in the state was for Lennox Lewis vs. Evander Holyfield in November 1999 that did $16,860,300.
**ESPN’s Brett Okamoto has confirmed that Henry Cejudo is set to defend the UFC bantamweight championship against Jose Aldo at UFC 250. The event is set for Saturday, May 9th in Sao Paulo, Brazil and has been heavily scrutinized since word of the fight began to circulate.
Aldo cut down to bantamweight for the first time in his career and lost to Marlon Moraes by split decision. While Aldo has a level of star power for the main event in Brazil, it comes at a time that the division is full of deserving contenders including Petr Yan, Aljamain Sterling, and Cory Sandhagen. While none of the contenders represent a blockbuster main event in terms of business, it’s not like Aldo is going to draw significantly more on pay-per-view. It would seem the location of the show is as big a factor in making this fight considering a loss, that I personally didn’t feel that was a bad decision as I scored it 29-28 for Moraes.
Cejudo has not fought since June of last year where he stopped Moraes in the third round of their championship fight. Since then, Cejudo has been inactive due to a shoulder injury.
Aldo, 33, fought in the UFC’s featherweight division for eight years. He was the first recognized UFC featherweight champion when he came over from the WEC as their 145-pound champion and defended the title seven times. He lost the title to Conor McGregor at UFC 194 in 13 seconds in December 2015. Since the McGregor loss, he had gone 3-3 and made the decision to move to bantamweight after a decision loss to Alexander Volkanovski in May 2019.
**UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya has issued an apology following a poor decision for a joke at Friday’s UFC 248 press conference in Auckland, New Zealand. Adesanya in promoting the March 7th title defense with Yoel Romero stated that the challenger would ‘crumble like the Twin Towers’, referencing the 9/11 terrorist attacks from 2001. On Monday, Adesanya issued the following apology in an Instagram story:
I never made a joke about people dying or made light of the tragic event that was 9/11. I was simply rambling and my brain worked faster than my mouth in a moment to chose the wrong euphemism. You speak on the mic enough times and you’re bound to miss the mark with some bars. I did on this one and for that I’m sorry. I’ll be more careful in future with my words.
**Saturday’s UFC Fight Night event from Auckland, New Zealand had a tremendous main event involving lightweights Dan Hooker and Paul Felder. Hooker won the fight by split decision in a very close fight that most saw coming down to how you scored the fifth round. I had it even after four rounds with Hooker winning the first and third rounds while Felder won round two and had a great fourth round, which to me, was the most decisive round of the five. Round 5 was close with Felder landing in the first half of the round but nothing that appeared to have the significance of his big shots in the fourth. Hooker took him down for the final minute and was trying to be active on top. At the end of the fight, I felt Hooker had taken the fifth round but it’s one of those rounds you would have to look back at. Judges David Lethaby and Howard Hughes scored it 48-47 for Hooker and Barry Foley had it 48-47 for Felder.
The judges all agreed that Hooker won the first round and Felder won the fourth. They were split on the other rounds. Hughes gave Hooker the first, third, and firth and Lethaby gave Hooker the first three rounds and Felder the final two.
This was an excellent fight and to, was right next to Jon Jones and Dominick Reyes for the best fight this year. Afterward, Felder indicated this may be the last time he fights but kept the door open to go home and discuss it with those around him. Felder, 34, looked in fantastic condition heading into the fight and put on a stellar performance that you could certainly argue he won. He is among the top echelon at lightweight, so it would be tough to see him walk away when he’s fighting at such a high level. It will be interesting how he feels after watching the fight and if that changes which way he is leaning.
Hooker wants to fight Justin Gaethje next and that’s up to Gaethje if he wants to take a fight that is dangerous or continue to wait. The reality is that Gaethje and Hooker may as well fight or risk waiting for a long time. Khabib Nuramgomedov and Tony Ferguson will fight on April 18th and then, it’s up to Conor McGregor and what he wants to do next. If McGregor fights the winner, that means Gaethje and Hooker would likely have to wait until 2021 before they’re talking about a title fight. Dustin Poirier is in the same boat as Gaethje and Hooker and recently stated he would be willing to take a fight at welterweight if it made sense.
**This weekend’s UFC card will see a new flyweight champion crowned after Henry Cejudo vacated the 125-pound championship. The card from Norfolk, Virginia features Joseph Benavidez and Deiveson Figueiredo fighting for the vacant title in the main event. This will almost surely be the final opportunity Benavidez will have at a UFC championship.
He’s been cursed with being the second-best flyweight in the world since the UFC launched its division in 2012 when Demetrious Johnson came down from bantamweight to his natural weight and dominated the division until losing to Cejudo in August 2018. During that stretch, Benavidez fought Johnson twice where he lost in September 2012 to crown the division’s first champion and was knocked out in a December 2013 rematch. Since the second loss to Johnson, Benavidez has gone 9-1 including a split decision win against Cejudo prior to the Olympic gold medalist defeating Johnson. After a split decision loss to Sergio Pettis in June 2018, Benavidez has registered victories against Alex Perez, Dustin Ortiz, and Jussier Formiga going into this fight.
Figueiredo, 32, made his pro debut in February 2012 at the same time UFC was beginning its tournament to crowd their first flyweight champion. The Brazilian fighter started his career 11-0 before joining the UFC in 2017. He has gone 6-1 with the promotion with his lone blemish against Jussier Formiga last March. Since then, he defeated Alexandre Pantoja and submitted Tim Elliott.
The rest of the care is bare with the notable presence of two women’s featherweight fights. The division is sorely lacking in depth. Felicia Spencer will be fighting Zarah Fairn dos Santos and Megan Anderson takes on Norma Dumont Viana on the main card. Spencer holds a victory against Anderson but is coming off a loss to Cris Cyborg last summer. Anderson bounced back from the loss to Spencer when she submitted dos Santos last October at UFC 243. Realistically, a win by either Spencer or Anderson could set up a title fight as it all depends on what weight class Amanda Nunes wants to fight at next as dual champion. Nunes has few options at either weight class with Irene Aldana at bantamweight or fighting anyone they can find at featherweight.
**MMA Junkie’s Nolan King reports that Steve Garcia will take the spot of Alex Munoz for his fight with Luis Pena this Saturday at the UFC Fight Night card in Norfolk, Virginia.
**Here are the main card results from Bellator 239 on Friday night from Thackerville, Oklahoma:
*Valentin Moldavsky def. Javy Ayala by unanimous decision (30-25, 30-24, 30-24)
*Tim Johnson def. Tyrell Fortune by KO at 2:35 of Round 1
*Myles Jury def. Brandon Girtz by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
*Yaroslav Amosov def. Ed Ruth by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
**The following night, Bellator ran a card from Dublin, Ireland with a combination of Bellator 240 and their latest European Series installment with the following main card results from both:
*Oliver Enkamp def. Lewis Long by KO at 4:10 of Round 1
*Ricky Bandejas def. Frans Mlambo by KO at 1:25 of Round 2
*Bec Rawlings def. Elina Kallionidou by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
*Kiefer Crosbie def. Iamik Furtado by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
*Brent Primus def. Chris Bungard by rear-naked choke at 1:55 of Round 1
*Austin Clem def. Aaron Chalmers by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
*Charlie Ward def. Kyle Kurtz by TKO at 4:24 of Round 3
*Leah McCourt def. Judith Ruis by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
THUNDERSTRUCK: Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Black Tiger II
WH Park and Mike Murray (POST Wrestling’s ROH reviewer) discuss Jushin Liger vs. Black Tiger II a.k.a. Eddie Guerrero from the final round of the 1996 Best of the Super Juniors tournament.
REWIND-A-SMACKDOWN 2/21: Goldberg Returns, Café de Renee, Wai vs. Rogers
John Pollock and Wai Ting are back to review WWE SmackDown featuring Bill Goldberg’s encounter with The Fiend. Plus, Lacey explains her heel turn and the latest in the Wai vs. Rogers saga.
BRITISH WRESTLING EXPERIENCE 2/21: Josh Bevan (RIPTIDE Wrestling) Interview
Jamesie is joined by owner and promoter of RIPTIDE Wrestling, Josh Bevan for an in-depth interview about running a wrestling promotion in 2020, the unique “Cinematic Independent Wrestling” look they’ve created, the pros and cons of WWE on the UK wrestling scene, and more.
Café Hangout: Women’s Wrestling w/ Kristen Ashly & Your Calls
John Pollock and Wai Ting are joined by Kristen Ashly from Bell to Belles discussing the launch of her website, her style of coverage, and the state of women’s wrestling. Plus, your calls, WWE NXT, ratings and more.
upNXT 2/19/20: HangOver VIII – “Not Tonight”
Braden Herrington and Davie Portman are back reviewing the February 19th edition of WWE NXT!
REWIND-A-DYNAMITE: AEW’s First Battle of Atlanta
John Pollock and Wai Ting review AEW Dynamite with the promotion’s first steel cage match at their debut in Atlanta.
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