As part of the annual WWE shareholders meeting, Vince McMahon and WWE officials held a Q&A session where he answered many different questions, including the status of the WWE Network, the possibility of WrestleMania going on free TV, and much more. Here are some highlights:
On the WWE Network and the difference between this and Oprah’s network: The company remains unsure when the network will officially launch. McMahon said that the company wants to make sure they “do it right” by exploring all options with a traditional cable TV model vs. a hybrid model incorporating new media. “We’re close to closing – if we wish – a linear network. We can do that. We can also look at other opportunities at the same time that might be better for us, but, then again, it might not be.”
When asked the difference between this network and Oprah Winfrey’s failing network, McMahon said that her fatal flaw was not giving her audience what they expected. If Oprah is not being Oprah, why would they want to watch? Meanwhile, WWE can drive people to Pay-Per-View, live events, anywhere they want to go. The simple fact is that the fans want quality programming and he wants to give them what they want, not what they don’t.
On alternatives to a traditional cable TV network: An investor suggested three different alternatives to a cable TV network: PPV event distribution through GFL.TV, a YouTube model alternative and an a la carte offering online. WWE CFO George Barrios mentioned that TV viewing behavior is still ahead of online consumption by a ratio of 5:1 hours. While smart phones and other devices add to the numbers, the TV viewing numbers are still at a higher rate, which is why they are pursuing a cable TV network model.
Will PPV events be offered on the Network?: McMahon was very vague about his response, saying the Network “may or may not include PPV’s. It’s certainly a factor that we are considering.”
Another shareholder asked about a “season pass” plan for the Pay-Per-Views. McMahon simply said, “That’s a possibility.”
The fate of Classics on Demand: McMahon said it is very likely that Classics on Demand will close once the Network is launched.
Latest shows proposed for WWE Network: Two shows stressed for the Network were a WWE Countdown show, which the company is pushing in new DVD releases, and a show based on the Monday Night War.
How much money is being spent on WWE Studios?: Barrios said that the money for WWE Studios is down due to a significant amount being “the return of capital” via their dividend process. They have invested south of $150 million in the business, and that the first $100 million went to their first six films. They expected those films to do better than they did. $50 million was invested on the other projects and they made back about half of that.
The company expects to invest $15-$20 million over eight films going forward, and that they have been successful creating content on every platform. They want to reach non-WWE fans on that level.
Will WrestleMania ever be on free TV?: A shareholder suggested that McMahon make WrestleMania free and charge advertising, just like the Super Bowl. McMahon said that if the NFL could put the Super Bowl on PPV, they would make more money and that he didn’t know of a network that would pay them the rights fees that they could make in profits from PPV.
The status of a Hall of Fame building: McMahon said that he had the location of a physical WWE Hall of Fame building in his head, but that once you own a location, it is owned by the touring. He also said that Hall of Fame buildings don’t usually make money and that they are in the entertainment business, not the brick-and-mortar business. It may happen at some point, but it would have to be the right environment.