Last Friday, September 15th, FloSports, the parent company of wrestling subscription streaming service FloSlam, sued WWN Inc., the parent company of the World Wrestling Network family of promotions, in Texas’s Travis County District Court. In the complaint, Flo is alleging that last year, when they made a deal with WWN to become the exclusive streaming home of all of their in-house promotions, they were not provided with accurate data about internet pay-per-view buys and video on demand purchases. According to the complaint, FloSports is asking for in excess of $1 million in damages.
“WWN induced FloSports to pay it hundreds of thousands of dollars based on data that was not only inaccurate and unreliable; it was just plain false,” reads the complaint. “When pressed for the data that backed up WWN’s spreadsheet of viewership, WWN originally claimed it had lost or deleted that information. Ultimately, WWN sent records listing many subscribers more than once and including purchasers of DVDs instead of broadcast services. Even with that artificial inflation of viewership, the numbers WWN attempted to account for were far less than those represented in its initial spreadsheet.”
FloSports is suing on grounds of breach of contract and negligent misrepresentation. WWN’s lawyer, who owner Sal Hamaoui has been referring reporters to, has not yet responded to a request for comment as of this writing.
“The lawsuit isn’t to get out of the partnership,” FloSports Senior Vice President and General Counsel Paul Hurdlow told Fightful. “It really is our hope that we’ll get back to talking to WWN and kind of work things out outside of the litigation….Sometimes you have to file a complaint to sort of protect your interest in particular situations. We’re not apologizing that we did it—we chose to do it—but it’s really our preference to have dialogue and work things out with them outside of litigation.”
One Flo source familiar with the numbers told Fightful that during negotiations, WWN told Flo that they were averaging about 5,000 buys per Evolve pay-per-view, which sounds very high based on conversations with indie wrestling sources familiar with the internet pay-per-view landscape. The other WWN in-house promotions, Full Impact Pro, Shine, Style Battle, and ACW, which all draw incredibly small crowds even by indie standards, are believed to have been included in the deal as a value add. A WWN source—Joshua Gavin—who was privy to conversations within the company during negotiations alleged to Fightful that management was openly talking about inflating the numbers, with the idea that Flo had no way of verifying them.
In the end, per the Flo source, FloSlam was up to just under 2,000 paying subscribers before a brief flirtations with a $30/month price point scared some users off. Starting with that move, all of FloSports’ channels are available when you pay the monthly subscription price, whereas before, you only got one sport on the monthly plans (the one that went from $20 to $30 to $20) and had to do a discounted annual subscription to get all of them in one shot.
The new allegations give a great deal of context to the various stories about Flo and WWN that had been floating around as of late, both publicly and privately. For example, in an article about wrestling streaming services that I published Wednesday at Deadspin, I mentioned the story of Josh Wheeler, the promoter of Atlanta Wrestling Entertainment. Wheeler had made a deal early in 2017 to work with WWN on the July 9th Evolve show in Atlanta, the latter’s debut in the market. As part of the deal, the AWE pre-show card before the Evolve main-card would be streamed through FloSlam, the same way that they had with the Tier 1 Wrestling pre-show in New York City and the PWX pre-show in North Carolina. In the deal brokered by WWN, Wheeler says he was initially promised $1,000 as the rights fee, only for it to be cut to $250 just two days out.
Flo filing the lawsuit also comes just four days after the twentieth anniversary of the beginning of federal case filed against Jerry Lawler and business partner Larry Burton stemming from the sale of the United States Wrestling Association to Mark Selker’s XL Sports. XL alleged that Lawler and Selker has cooked the books to make it appear that the dying promotion was worth several multiples of its actual value, with Vince McMahon even giving them a meeting where he told Selker that it was a good investment at the price being asked for. XL won a judgment against Burton only, with the jury believing Lawler, who claimed to have been duped himself by his partner.