WWE Network Subscriber Post-WrestleMania Prediction

For the fifth consecutive year, on the Monday following WrestleMania, WWE will reveal the number of subscribers who have signed up for the WWE Network. Co-presidents George Barrios and Michelle Wilson will announce the number and take questions from financial analysts in a conference call at 4:00pm Eastern, broadcast live and publicly on the company's corporate website.

The post-Mania announcement is a big deal because it's when Network subscribers will likely peak for the year. Investors will compare the announcement to their expectations for the service, and the going rate for WWE stock may be affected accordingly.

Source: WWE Key Performance Indicators

The numbers have increased each year so far. Meanwhile video streaming technology became more accepted, and the service was made available in additional countries. Now the Network is available in one form or another around most of the globe, and video streaming acceptance may be slowing to a saturation point.

Since 2016, WWE made the decision to allow new subscribers to watch WrestleMania as a part of their 30-day trial period, with the hope they stick around after the trial expires and become long-term paying customers, who get charged $9.99 per month (or more in other territories).

While the free trial is usually only made available to customers who have never used the service before (or those who at least create a new user account, using a different email address), in an attempt to win-back customers, former subscribers are being targeted with marketing messages. Former subscribers are being offered a one-month trial as well.

If you visit WWE.com or WWEShop.com, you may have seen a pop-up window, directed at first-time subscribers, advertising a whole three months of the service at no charge.

Brandon's WWE Network subscriber prediction following WrestleMania 34

The X-factor this year is Ronda Rousey as she makes her pro wrestling debut in a mixed tag match, partnering with Kurt Angle against legitimate company executives Stephanie McMahon and Triple H.

This could go a number of ways. Rousey's mainstream recognition and credibility as an elite MMA fighter might help bring in new fans to try the Network. Or maybe the public isn't so excited about her move from legit to worked fights, and maybe the greenness she's shown on the microphone and in limited spots in the ring aren't helping. Or maybe it'll be somewhere in between.

It's been speculated Daniel Bryan's first match back helped push WrestleMania ticket sales. So maybe Bryan's return to the ring after more than two years will positively affect subscribers.

Free subs fell at a rate of 4% from WrestleMania 32 (2016) to WrestleMania 33 (2017). With similar trial offers this year compared to last, I expect free subs to fall at a similar rate for this year's event.

It's pretty easy to game the system and create a new account to get another free trial, but I doubt many are going to the effort to save the $10.

I was initially optimistic about the positive effect of Rousey's debut, particularly with free subs, perhaps attracting clientele WWE doesn't usually capture. With the match just a few days away, I don't sense she's bringing the sort of mainstream buzz that's going to lead to an overwhelming increase in free or paid subscribers.

I predict free subs will continue their pattern of declining slightly, down from last year's WrestleMania, at about 250,000. I predict paid subs will be at 1,750,000 on Monday. That would be a 5% increase over last year's paid subscriber number, enough for WWE to tout that they've reached a milestone of 2 million total subscribers for the first time in the service's history.

Rousey's first WWE match, Bryan's return and an overall good-looking card in my opinion can only help, but I don't see a factor that's going to push the number far above 2 million total.

Source: Google Finance

If that's the case, I don't expect the stock price to change much. Last year's announcement, about as lukewarm as the announcement I'm predicting, left the stock price almost the same the week before Mania as the week after.

The biggest factor that will affect the future of WWE's share value will be the ongoing TV rights negotiations with broadcast partners in the United States, United Kingdom and India, as television rights revenue continues to be the company's largest source of income. Optimistic speculation on those deals, particularly the U.S. deal which is expected to be finalized by September, is the cause of the recent surge in stock price.

Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonThurston. He co-hosts Wrestlenomics Radio, a weekly podcast on wrestling business.


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