Reaction To WWE Network Subscribers, WWE Studios Financials, IC Belt Meaningless, Heel Turn

The following is today's edition of Ask WNW. Ask WNW is the most popular feature on the website where Richard Gray answers four questions daily, Monday through Friday. To submit your question for the next installment of Ask WNW, click here.
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Now that WWE has reported 700,000 WWE Network subscribers and laid out plans for international expansion, what is your reaction?

I was surprised to see the WWE Network gain only 33,000 subscribers from April through June. While they have added 161,000 subscribers since Wrestlemania XXX, they also lost 128,000 due to not being able to bill the cards on file. Most of us figured something was up when they opened the WWE Network completely free (without even a credit card) for an entire week and those concerns only grew with recent financial cutbacks. There are some positives to take away from the news.

First, WWE is bumping up the international expansion of the WWE Network. Beginning August 12, 2014, the service will be available in over 170 countries including Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mexico, Spain and the Nordics. The United Kingdom will follow in October 2014 with Italy, UAE, Germany, Japan, India, China, Thailand and Malaysia following after that. Canada is getting an entirely different option with the WWE Network being available as a traditional a-la-carte Pay-TV channel through Rogers Communications.

Next, WWE is introducing new pricing plans. If you were an initial subscriber, you had the option to commit to $9.99/month for 6 months or buy a year gift subscription up front. Beginning next month, subscribers will have the option to go monthly (at $19.99/month) or pay for an entire 6 months in advance ($59.94).

So if there is any takeaway from the fact WWE Network has seen little growth from its initial surge, it's that it will be available to more people with more options in the near future. I do think a target of 1 million domestic subscribers by the end of the year is going to be very difficult to reach.

How profitable is WWE Studios?

WWE Studios made $1.7 million in the second quarter of 2014, down from $2.1 million in the prior year quarter. The movie portfolio itself generated a loss of $0.2 million in the quarter compared to a loss of $0.4 million the prior year quarter. WWE stated in their earnings report that movies such as Scooby Doo! WrestleMania Mystery (direct-to-DVD), Oculus (theatrical), and Road to Paloma (direct-to-DVD) released in March, April, and July 2014 performed "in-line with expectations."

I remember the days of the Ultimate Warrior, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, The Rock and Triple holding the Intercontinental Championship before they had a chance in the main event. Wouldn't it be better for WWE to use the IC title as a gateway to future WWE champions like a Bray Wyatt or Roman Reigns?

I examined the usage of the Intercontinental Championship in a detailed article earlier this month and followed-up in Ask WNW. While I completely agree it's the worker that makes the title, not the title that makes the worker, the Intercontinental Championship -- or Intercontinental Champion to be specific -- has been poorly booked over the years. As a result, the belt is no longer used as a gateway to introduce mid-card talent into the main event scene and is essentially a glorified prop. It will have to be a philosophical decision within WWE to change that but there has been no such thing in recent years. However, back to your question, I do feel it would be of better use to utilize the title in the fashion it was in previous decades.

Do you think it's plausible that unlike what most others think, Stephanie McMahon will win at SummerSlam? I keep saying she needs to get her comeuppance, but in my opinion Brie already got her revenge by getting her arrested and getting her job back. I think the subtle things Stephanie has been saying to Nikki over the past few weeks, such as saying it is Brie's fault that she is wrestling alone and the fact she offered her a pay rise, but Brie said she didn't want that. I could see Nikki turning heel for a Brie vs Nikki feud obviously for the purposes of Total Divas. What's your opinion?

Using the word 'comeuppance' in a question was a great way to get my attention and an answer to your question. I think you are dead on about Stephanie McMahon going over Brie Bella at SummerSlam to setup a Nikki Bella heel turn. In fact, I believe there are many that believe the match will be booked as you have suggested. Brie Bella got her revenge and now it's Stephanie that needs to prove her power. Many have asked what I think of Stephanie vs. Brie at SummerSlam and while I don't expect a particularly good wrestling match, it was an entertaining segment on Raw this week. If they can entertain at SummerSlam like they did on Raw, I will be pleased.

From the Ask WNW vault…

March 2012: How long does the WWE Wellness Policy last? I realize it one strike is a 30-day suspension, two strikes is a 60-day suspension and three strikes results in termination. However, let’s take Evan Bourne for example. If he fails another Wellness test in let’s say three years, would he still be fired? What about William Regal, who also has two violations? Is there a time when the policy resets? - The policy doesn’t reset and even if Evan Bourne or William Regal were terminated and later re-signed, they would return with two Wellness Test failures. If a worker has three failures and they are terminated, they will remain terminated for at least one year. If WWE brings them back after their minimum termination of one year they will return with two Wellness strikes, must test negative during pre-screening and will be subject to strict random testing while they are under WWE contract. The entire WWE Wellness Policy is online at this link.

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