When people hear the name “WWE,” they probably think of the publicly traded global entertainment company’s wrestling programs, like WWE Raw and SmackDown, not the firm’s growth trajectory or financial prowess. But as a business, WWE is making moves.
In February 2014, it launched the first ever 24/7 streaming video network “over-the-top” (OTT), delivered via the Internet to consoles and devices including Sony Playstation, Microsoft Xbox, Apple TV, Android and Apple phones, Smart TV and the Kindle Fire.
With its $10 monthly subscriptions, the network will cannibalize some of WWE’s pay-per-view sales, which cost about $70 per event, admits George Barrios, chief strategy officer and CFO for WWE. Barrios says the company is hoping to win enough network subscriptions to make up for the shortfall, and that the platform will allow it to continue to expand globally. “It’s a big, long-term play for us,” he says.
In the process of building the digital platform, Barrios confronted what’s become a recurring question for the company: When should WWE launch a new product itself, and when should it partner with other firms? The answer often comes down to core competencies — does WWE have the expertise to go it alone? In the case of its OTT network, it didn’t. WWE partnered with Major League Baseball Advanced Media, baseball’s digital arm, which has been doing digital video OTT for years.