Stephanie McMahon details some of the early pitfalls that the original WWE Network faced as one of the innovators of OTT, direct-to-consumer services.
The WWE Network launched in February 2014, nearly six years before Disney Plus, HBO Max, and other similar services. Now, WWE Network and its Library are a part of the Peacock service under the umbrella of NBCUniversal.
In a new interview with Sports Business Radio, Stephanie McMahon details why she believes WWE was lucky to be an innovator in a space that allowed them to make a handful of mistakes early on and how, she says, consolidating under the Peacock umbrella has accomplished everything WWE was hoping for.
“WWE Network, like you said, was our OTT, our direct-to-consumer service that launched over seven and a half years ago. So at the time, it was really Netflix, Hulu, and WWE Now, a lot of key learnings there, but also a lot of opportunities to make mistakes. I think that's something that we all do in this space. In this day and age. I think we had a little leeway to make a few more mistakes, given the landscape wasn't nearly as cluttered. When I say mistakes, for example, at first, we required a [required] six-month signup. A minimum of six months that you would sign up for, and that's something our fans weren't interested in. So we changed it and we made it monthly. The price point was $9.99 per month, we started experimenting with free tiers and all of these different things.
"What we found is our fans, first and foremost, we had had a linear deal almost in place that would have been being negotiated for some time. We realized that at the last minute, we wanted to own our own destiny. So we did some more research, we found that our fans were five times more likely to consume online video content than the norm. We realized we had an opportunity, which is when we launched WWE Network and what we found six years later, probably because, you know, we started looking for a streaming partner prior to COVID. Again, being slightly ahead of the curve, we recognize how cluttered the space is, starting to see how the tech and streaming giants were really doubling down and investing in their products and we realized, you know, we're really not set up to be competitive as a tech company. We're a storytelling company. We're a content production company. We're a media company, we're not a tech company and we recognize the opportunity to really partner with a best-in-class streamer. That's how we chose Peacock, working with NBCU, our partner of over 30 years with best in class teams, you know, across all different functions, and it's been really great for us thus far.”
She added, “I will say, our [deal], it exactly accomplished all the things we wanted it to in terms of awareness and growing our audience. Peacock, now I think has north of 45 million sign-ups, which is significantly more than WWE Network had. We have the opportunity to reach so many different people, again, really have that best-in-class experience with our teams and also brings to light new sponsors and sales opportunities that we didn't previously have. Again, working with NBCU, who, on a regular basis, sells the Olympics, the Superbowl, you know, you name it. All of the biggest events in the world and now, WrestleMania is a part of it.”
The next major WWE event on peacock will be WWE SummerSlam. This year, for the first time ever, SummerSlam is being held on Saturday. Fightful will have live coverage on Saturday, August 21 beginning at 7 p.m. eastern time.
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