WWE Network launches free subscription tier to lure viewers

A strong subscriber base is crucial to WWE’s long-term business

World Wrestling Entertainment recently unveiled a free tier to its subscription service as it looks to jumpstart its streaming platform that has seen its growth slow in recent months.

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The free version of WWE Network received a soft launch earlier this month, granting non-subscribers access to an array of short-form wrestling videos that were traditionally found on the company’s website, a WWE spokesman confirmed. The service debuted months after a revamped WWE Network, powered by Endeavor Streaming, went live with a streamlined layout and new features, such as the ability to search for content by individual WWE superstar.

Providing free access to some WWE content could entice fans who have not yet subscribed to WWE Network to consider the premium service, WWE co-president George Barrios said while speaking at the UBS Global TMT Conference on Dec. 9. A strong subscriber base is crucial to WWE’s long-term business, which derived 73 percent of its company record $930 million in revenue in fiscal 2018 from its media segment.

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“We think it’s a great experience for those fans who are not subscribers, which is great,” Barrios said at the conference. “We want to engage deeper with them, we’re going to give them the best short-form experience on this. Number two, we think if you’re on the fence about becoming a subscriber, living in that environment will make the transition easier for you.”

WWE Network exceeded two million subscribers as of April 2018, or 1.8 million paid subscribers excluding free trials. Since then, the subscriber base has declined, dropping to an average of 1.51 million paid subscribers as of the quarter ending in October.

While paid subscribers declined 9 percent year-over-year, digital video views rose 12 percent to 25.6 billion. Hours of consumed video content increased 14 percent to 957 million hours, suggesting that engagement is on the rise even if the subscriber count has dropped.

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Barrios said the free WWE Network tier will exist along the traditional premium tier, which will grant subscribers perks such as ticket presales and free shipping on online purchases.

“All of that, we think, creates a ton of value for our fans and creates the ability to do a premium tier,” he added.

At present, it’s unclear if there will be multiple premium content tiers. The service currently costs $9.99 per month.

A WWE spokesman declined to comment on any future pricing changes.

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