Tech issues hamper WWE Network launch

February 26, 2014

On Monday the WWE launched its much heralded Network which it advertised to be available on almost every platform imaginable. The good news is that number of those signing up exceeded expectations. The bad news is that it is experiencing technical difficulties across most platforms.

The WWE’s technological partner in the venture, MLB Advanced Media, indicated that it had not expected the demand it has received from people signing up. The WWE released a statement Monday regarding the issues upon signing up and the subsequent technical issues subscribers found once they were able to attain access.

The WWE also stated that MLBAM was aggressively working to resolve the matter on Monday morning. Although not directly, the WWE inferred that the fault lay with MLBAM for the tech issues. At least, that’s how it is being interpreted in the press. One would think that a part of this has to do with the one week free trial. Even as of Wednesday, there are still problems with logging in.

In my own experience, I was able to sign up at 6:01 a.m. on Monday via PC, one minute after the promoted launch, but was only able to watch last year’s Wrestlemania in the first hour. I was not able to go through the library until mid-morning. Later that day, the stream was fine for me on the PC but I experienced issues on my iPad. Notably, I have experienced more buffering issues on the PC on Tuesday night and today.

Certainly, these issues are being worked on but the technical issues are a concern for the WWE going forward since its heavy investment in the product. The WWE and MLB Advanced Media must make the fixes soon. If the free trial ends with the problems persisting, its likely that the WWE will lose a lot of potential customers.

Payout Take:

Tech issues were a given as to challenges facing this network. The question is how fast can the WWE and ML BAM fix them. If we are to spin this in a positive light, the overwhelming demand for the Network reflects the fact that its promotion of its product created a swell of interest. But, the tech issues could make folks concerned and they may decide not to subscribe if they feel that these issues will be an inherent part of being a subscriber.

The Wrestling Post – 02.17.14

February 17, 2014

Welcome to another edition of The Wrestling Post.  In this post we talk about the looming WWE TV rights fee deal and a new toy deal for the company.

Exclusive rights period ends between WWE-NBC Universal

Friday was the last day for the exclusive negotiating period between the WWE and NBC Universal to come up with a deal for the WWE’s television rights.  The WWE’s existing contract with NBCU ends this fall and the organization hopes to improve upon its current $139.5 million television licensing fees for its stable of WWE shows.

Although it identifies itself as a sports entertainment company, it hopes to score a television deal that mirrors some of the recent sports television rights fees contracts.  The most recent sports rights fee deal had CBS earning the right to 8 NFL Thursday night games throughout the regular season for $250 million according to the NY Times.   Notably, the NFL did not give up exclusivity as the games aired on CBS will also be available on the NFL Network.  Many believe that the rights fee deal could rival the NASCAR deal which drew a total of $820 million over 10 years from Fox and NBC.  Others believe that it may be able to double its current fees whish would still be a great improvement.  WWE stock has gone up in the past month as it is trading in the $20 dollar range – a benchmark never seen by the company since it went public.  This is due in part to the hedging that the rights deal will break the bank.

Payout Take: Losing exclusivity to deal with the WWE was a likely scenario as the WWE wants to field offers from others.  We should see by the end of February where the WWE may land.  It still could end up with NBCU but for a bigger price tag.

WWE-Mattel ink new deal

Variety reports that the WWE and Mattel have entered into 5 year agreement for Mattel to be the primary toymaker for the company.  The agreement will go through 2019 and will encompass toys and video games.

Notably, the WWE obtained the trademark for CM Punk late last year for use in toys, action figures, dolls, etc. The WWE has had the use of the CM Punk mark for wrestling since 2009 and for use of clothing since 2011.  It filed for the Daniel Bryan trademark for use with toys last week.

Payout Take:  The deal is an example of how the WWE’s choice to more PG content has aided its business outside of the wrestling ring.  Without the move to more family friendly content, it would not have landed Mattel.  If you were wondering, if the rumors are true that CM Punk is gone from the WWE and Phil Brooks decides to wrestle again somewhere, he’d have to use his own name or else be subject to a lawsuit from the WWE.

The Wrestling Post – WWE Network will make “Over The Edge” available

February 8, 2014

Welcome to another edition of The Wrestling Post.  In this post, we take a look at the WWE’s decision to release the Over The Edge PPV which included the accidental death of Owen Hart.

Many wrestling fans are anxiously anticipating the launch of the WWE Network which will occur on February 24th.  This past week, the WWE released a list of the PPVs that will be made available to subscribers.  Among the more than 400 PPV events from the past is the 1999 Over the Edge PPV which will live in infamy as the event where Owen Hart, dressed as his character at the time, The Blue Blazer, fell 70 feet to his death in the ring as a result of a harness malfunction.  The accident, which did not occur on camera, caused controversy for how the WWE handled the situation.  Rather than stop the event, it continued on despite not knowing of Hart’s condition.

The event has never been released on home video and there have never been any official showings and/or replays of the event.  There is YouTube, but the WWE has never released the PPV via On Demand or DVD/Blu Ray release.

The WWE confirmed the release of the event on the network to a CBS affiliate in Pittsburgh (via Cageside Seats):  “WWE Network will be airing the 1999 Over The Edge pay-per-view. However, portions of the event will be edited out of respect for Owen Hart.”

Payout Take:  One of the reasons that this event, which was eerily ironically entitled, “Over the Edge,” has been sheltered away from public viewing was due to the lawsuit filed by the Hart family over the fall. I find the inclusion of this event an interesting decision by the WWE for the reason that it reminds people that despite the tragic accident that occurred, the company decided to continue on with the event.  Even with the editing, it leaves the question of why put this on the network?  Certainly, from a historic standpoint, it’s a part of the company’s history.  Yet, why remind people of this terrible incident at the onset of its biggest venture?

The Wrestling Post – CM Punk…MMA Fighter?

February 1, 2014

Welcome to another edition of The Wrestling Post.  This week we take a look at one of the WWE’s stars leaving the company at a time that the stock’s price is at an all-time high.

CM Punk leaves WWE

Big news in the WWE as one of its top stars, CM Punk, has left the company.  Apparently, this is not a part of the script as Punk has been written out of the WWE for now.  In a recent interview with Ariel Helwani Punk revealed that his contract with the WWE ended in July.  Speculation grew about whether he’d re-up with the company or just walk away.  Recent storylines were not going his way and he did not want to appear at Wrestlemania XXX unless he would be in one of the main events.  This became one of the factors why Punk decided to leave.

Punk is a BJJ practitioner and left open the idea of competing in MMA.  According to The Wrestling Observer, Bellator expressed interest in the 35 year old pro wrestler.  When asked about Punk during the UFC 169 media scrum, White indicated that the two had talked…just not about fighting.  White stated he was a “nice guy” and did not outright dismiss Punk from competing in the UFC.  Of course, seen another way, one might infer that White was politely deferring comment on someone that is 35 years old, who he has no knowledge of his fighting ability and a guy he thinks is nice.

Payout Take:  Realistically, if Bellator were interested in Punk it would only be as a publicity stunt perhaps on a PPV as there’s no way that Punk gets involved in any tournament held by Bellator.  Brock Lesnar has a better possibility of fighting in the UFC that does Punk and the question about him at yesterday’s scrum was gratuitous albeit proper for the forum.  What’s more likely is that Punk, like many wrestlers that have retired/stepped away in the past, comes back after a hiatus.

WWE Stock Continues to Soar

After reporting a 52 week high just a week ago, the WWE has surpassed last week’s stock price as it reached a high of $24.19 per share.  The stock is up thanks in part to a television rights deal with BSkyB in the UK and Ireland according to Variety.

Payout Take:  It’s a great time to be a holder of WWE stock as the stock price continues to rise.  It will likely sustain if not surpass the current 52 week high as new will come down of its new rights deal in North America is announced in the coming weeks.

White talks WWE, Mayweather on Arsenio

January 29, 2014

Dana White appeared on The Arsenio Hall show on Monday night and proceeded to call out the WWE and its new network.  White also took a jab at Floyd Mayweather.

Dana on WWE

Dana on Floyd in UFC

Payout Perspective:

White always seems to hold back on the criticism of Vince McMahon despite McMahon taking shots at the UFC and MMA in general.  Even here, he doesn’t go after Vince and his business unless you consider him calling followers of WWE fans of “male soap operas.”  Certainly, the two organizations will have two competing online services when the WWE Network goes live next month.  This may inhibit subscriptions to the UFC Fight Pass.  So, we may see a little more animosity between the two although White indicated that they were “cool” in the interview.  As for the Mayweather comments, this is nothing out of the ordinary.  White had called Mayweather a racist when he had made some comments about Jeremy Lin during the “Linsanity” era.

The Wrestling Post – 01.25.14

January 25, 2014

Welcome to another edition of The Wrestling Post.  In this edition we talk about WWE stock and an actual WWE Hall of Fame.

WWE stock hits 52 week high

On a day in which the Dow Jones U.S. Media Index fell nearly 2 %, the WWE stock hit a 52 week high and was up slightly at the close of trading on Friday.  WWE stock was as high as $21.05 and fell off slightly to $20.84.  Even at a company high, it is still listed as “Buy” by several research firms. Its current market cap is at 1.57B.

Payout Take:  Remember when you could have bought WWE stock for $12?  The positive press from the WWE’s upcoming network has helped raise the company profile.  But the stock gains may be attributed to the upcoming rights fee deal that will likely happen by the end of February.

NBCU sweetens deal with WWE Hall of Fame

Speaking of the WWE rights fee deal, NBCUniversal, seeking to retain the WWE is offering the company a Hall of Fame at its Universal Studios theme park in Orlando, Florida.  According to the New York Post, the Hall of Fame is part of a “final pitch” to Vince McMahon as its exclusive negotiating period ends February 1.

Payout Take:  The WWE rights fee deal will be something to watch next month.  While a Hall of Fame is nice, it will not substitute for the monetary value the WWE seeks for its signature franchises (i.e., Raw and Smackdown).

How does Court ruling on “Net Neutrality” relate to the WWE Network and UFC Fight Pass?

January 14, 2014

A District of Columbia Circuit Court ruled that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) could not prohibit internet providers from blocking or discriminating against traffic to lawful websites.   The ruling which impacts “Open Internet” (aka net neutrality) may mean issues for the UFC Fight Pass and WWE Network in the future.

In Verizon v. Federal Communications Commission, the Court held that the FCC is not able to impose “anti-discrimination” and “anti-blocking” rules on Internet providers.  The Court ruled that, “…even though the Commission has general authority to regulate…it may not impose a requirement that contravenes express statutory mandates.  Given that the [Federal Communications] Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the Commission from nonetheless regulating them as such.”

CNET breaks down the ruling:

In plain English, the court rejected Verizon’s argument that the FCC had overstepped its authority to regulate broadband access, instead acknowledging that the FCC has general authority to impose regulations on broadband and wireless service providers. But because the services these providers offer are classified differently from traditional telecommunication services, the justices reasoned in their decision that they are not subject to the same statutes, which guide the agency in forming its regulatory policies.

The general theory of “Net Neutrality” regulation is to keep a public right of way to access certain services.  As stated in the CNET article, for the internet, it means that the infrastructure used to deliver web pages, video and audio-streaming services is open to anyone accessing or delivering the content.  It would thus be illegal for an ISP to block a competitor’s internet traffic simply because they are competitors.  With the Court ruling, it would seem to imply that blocking competitors may be an option.

If you are a proponent of “net neutrality” what may happen as a result was recognized by the Court in its opinion:

“…broadband providers might prevent their end-user subscribers from accessing certain edge providers (those providing content (i.e. UFC and WWE)) altogether, or might degrade the quality of their end-user subscribers’ access to certain edge providers, either as a means of favoring their own competing content or services or to enable them to collect fees from certain edge providers.”

There was no immediate word whether there would be an appeal of this decision.

Payout Perspective:

So what does this mean from a combat sports perspective?  With the UFC Fight Pass and WWE Network relying heavily and essentially depending on internet streaming services in order for its services to be viable, we could see internet providers being able to regulate the bandwidth and streaming of these services.  ISP providers may affect UFC and WWE subscribers as identified in the Court opinion.  The UFC and WWE might have to “play ball” with these ISP providers in order to obtain the best access to the end-user.

With the ruling occurring today, it’s still too early to know what may happen but MMA Payout will keep you posted.

WWE Announces Network Details

January 8, 2014

The WWE announced the launch of its much-anticipated launch of its Network Wednesday night at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas as part of the Consumer Electronics Show occurring this week.  The details impressed most and many instantly compared the WWE Network with the UFC Fight Pass.

-The network will be $9.99 month requiring a 6 month commitment.

-All 12 live WWE PPVs including Wrestlemania (which was $70 alone on PPV last year) will be on the network.

-The launch officially occurs with the RAW post-show at 8:05pm PST on February 24th.

-Similar to the UFC Fight Pass, you will get a free trial period.  However, the WWE will give you just one week starting on the morning of February 24th at 6:00am PST.

-It looks like the complete WWE library will be available on-demand including past WWE, WCW and ECW PPVs.

-The network will also feature original content although Total Divas will likely stay on E! for now.

-The network will be available across almost all platforms including PS3, Xbox360, Roku, smartphones, desktops and laptops.

-MLB Advanced Media will operate the network as well as provide tech support.  MLBAM also distributes all of ESPN’s online video and March Madness live games for Turner and CBS.  This is in addition to what it does for MLB.

-The network will not be available around the world although it is scheduled to launch in the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Nordics by the end of the year, early 2015.

(H/t: The Wrestling Observer)

Payout Perspective:

It’s safe to say that tonight’s announcement will turn out better than the XFL.

The WWE estimates between 800K to 1 Million subscribers to break even on this endeavor according to The Wrestling Observer.  According to the LA Times, the WWE has spent over $40 million in the development of the network.  There are many big things with this announcement.  The first is the variety of platforms it will be available on.  This will allow fans the opportunity to choose the platform they possess or desire to use for access to the WWE Network.  The second is that all WWE PPVs, including Wrestlemania, will be on the Network.  This is huge although many believed that this is where WWE PPVs were heading.  The PPV buys for most of its B-scale PPVs were doing so-so numbers.  However, many believed Wrestlemania would be left off the network because it did the best in PPV sales annually.  Perhaps the decision to include it in the Network is that it would attract more subscribers, something it needs to break even here.

The $9.99 per month fee seems to be the consumer sweet spot.  It’s not the price of an HBO or Showtime which may have soured fans.   The six month commitment does not seem to bother anyone at this point but we will see how retention goes after the first year.

All in all if the WWE delivers February 24th, the many delays will have been worth it.  More than just sports-entertainment fans will take notice of this venture.  It’s another step in the direction of over-the-top content as a way around the traditional cable and satellite distributors.

In after-hours trading, WWE stock is up slightly to $16.35.  The stock is at an all-time high at this point and the company is looking up as it goes into its bid for a new rights fee deal.

Obviously many have immediately compared this to the UFC Fight Pass.  While there was an initial buzz for the Fight Pass, the Network now overshadows the UFC’s offering and for those that are fans of both we may see a competition between the two over which company gets their $9.99 per month.

The Wrestling Post – 01.03.14 Edition

January 3, 2014

Welcome to the first edition of The Wrestling Post for 2014.  But before we dive into this year, there are a couple issues to follow up from 2013.

WWE shopping rights fees

Last month, Variety wrote an in-depth article on the WWE’s mission to seek out a rights fees deal for its product this year.  Its existing deal with NBC Universal (the owners of the USA and SyFy Networks) is set to expire and WWE hopes to improve on its $139.5 million it receives in TV licensing fees and align itself with the deals from the NBA, NHL and NASCAR.  Notably, NASCAR’s deal with NBC and Fox is worth $820 million a year.  The NBA’s deal is not up for a year although it is prospecting this year for a new deal with Adam Silver taking over as Commissioner on February 1st.

The WWE has been waiting for this moment for some time having aligned all of its properties to be sold as a package.  And while it sees itself as an “entertainment-based” company, it hopes that its rights fees are comparable to sports properties.  The WWE’s contention is that its television shows, “RAW” on USA and “Smackdown” on SyFy are as attractive as sports properties that have been driven up due in part to the access to a target male demo and its “DVR-proof.”  In addition to its male demos, 44% of fans are under 34 which appeal to advertisers.

According to the Variety article, negotiations and bids can take place until Feb. 15.  At the time, NBCU can accept or reject WWE’s final offer with other bids by the 28th of February.  The WWE will be selecting by March 4th.

Payout Take:  Will the UFC be taking notes from the WWE?  It may be too early to determine whether the UFC will command value when its deal is up with Fox but the WWE’s rights will be a unique acquisition.  Coupled that with the upcoming WWE Network, we will see what 2014 will hold for the company.  At the end of 2013, investors seem to think, that the company is going in the right direction.

Total Divas ends second half of first season

One of the surprises of 2013 was how well WWE’s Total Divas was received by audiences.  The season finale on December 15th received an average viewership of 1.29 million viewers.

Episode 9:  1.25

Episode 10: 1.41

Episode 11:  0.92

Episode 12:  1.44

Episode 13: 1.20

Episode 14: 1.29

Payout Take:  The second half of the first season came to an average of 1.25 million viewers.  Total Divas will have a second season and its likely this will be an ongoing franchise for some time to come.

The Wrestling Post – 12.10.13

December 10, 2013

Welcome to another edition of The Wrestling Post.  This week we take a look at the location of the next two Wrestlemanias as well as the latest ratings from Total Divas.

Wrestlemania 31 in Bay Area

The WWE announced that Wrestlemania 31 will take place at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California in March 2015.   Levi’s Stadium is still under construction and is estimated to open August 2014.  It will be the permanent home of the San Francisco 49ers.  The stadium’s capacity is set for 68,500 but could be expandable to 75,000.

The NFL has committed Super Bowl L in 2016 (L is the Roman Numeral for 50) to the site.

Wrestlemania has been an economic boon for the cities that host it.  Aside from the event itself, there are week-long activities which bring in thousands of WWE fans to the city.  The WWE announced that New Jersey received an economic impact of $101.2 million received from non-locals spending that were visiting specifically from Wrestlemania 29.

For those wondering, Wrestlemania 30 is in New Orleans this year and Wrestlemania 32 will be held at Cowboys Stadium although no official announcement has been made.

Payout Take:  Cities clamor to host the WWE’s biggest event of the year.  Certainly the hospitality industry does well during Wrestlemania week and the reported economic impact is something that every city desires.  The WWE’s announcement makes sense as Levi’s Stadium will be less than a year old with enough capacity and a healthy surrounding region to support the event.

Total Divas drop to 1.2 million viewers this week

This week’s Total Divas episode this past Sunday was down as it received only 1.2 million viewers according to The Wrestling Observer (subscription recommended).  The ratings may have taken a slide due to the lack of lead-in since “Keeping up with the Kardashians” season ended.

Payout Take:  The ratings for the second half of the first season are as follows via TV By the Numbers:

Episode 9:  1.25

Episode 10: 1.41

Episode 11:  0.92

Episode 12:  1.44

Episode 13: 1.20

Even though last week’s ratings have dipped, its overall ratings have been pleasing and a second season is on its way.  The season finale airs December 15th.

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