WWE President & Chief Revenue Officer Nick Khan was recently on the Recode Media podcast with Peter Kafka. In March of this year, the WWE Network officially launched on the NBCU streaming service Peacock. Khan explained why WWE made the move.
“What ultimately caused the decision was the realization, which may sound like an obvious one, that we’re not a tech company,” Khan said. “In 2014, we only had to be the second best in the world at OTT after Netflix, or if you slivered Hulu in there, we had to be the third best in the world. Now that the streaming wars, if you will, have begun, you see companies with market caps far greater than ours, some with $300 billion market caps, Amazon with trillion dollar, almost $2 trillion market caps, getting into the space.
“We didn’t think that it was going to be possible for us to compete, technology wise, over the course of time. It is still available, WWE Network, in many other parts of the world, but in the United States, it made sense to partner up with somebody and to make that a little less of our emphasis as we try to sort of position ourselves or reposition ourselves as a media company and not a tech company.”
Khan admitted that technology wasn’t the only motivation in making the move to Peacock. He spoke on how the move has helped increase their audience.
“I think tech was the driver, but certainly, as you would imagine, usually, these big pivots in business are reflective of a myriad of things,” Khan noted. “It’s not just one thing, not just the technology. We did see an opportunity, again, with NBCU, through Peacock to go out and have our products seen by a larger audience. Let’s talk SummerSlam this weekend, for example. Traditionally, if that was available on pay-per-view, let’s say it was anywhere from $50 to $75.
“Limited audience to do that. If you had over a million buys, it was a very successful night. Keep in mind, of the $50 to $75, half or so goes to the distributor, as we all know. You’re not really seeing the return on a smaller audience investing into your product. With WWE Network, I candidly don’t know what the goal was in terms of subscribers when they launched it because obviously, I didn’t work there at the time, and I wasn’t across the company at that time as an agent, which is what I used to do for a living before I took this job.
“But what I can tell you is that once it became, hey, where does the consumer want to spend their money, ESPN+, Disney+, Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Peacock, you name it, DAZN, whatever it was, it sort of seemed like it was going to be far more competitive for that monthly dollar than it was in 2014. So to grow the audience and to get it exposed to a larger audience, we thought with Comcast, in particular, and NBCU, that Peacock being available in the XFINITY homes, in the Comcast cable homes for free, that those 25 million homes or so, that was one way to grow the audience. And of course, on the ad supported tier at $4.99 a month, we could go to our customers and say, hey, it’s half the price.”
WWE Network subscribers typically hovered around the 1.5 million mark. Khan discussed if that affected the move to Peacock and used a recent WWE PPV as an example of how effective the move was.
“It’s tough for me to say, sweeping across the board, yes or no on that,” Khan admitted. “I knew for us it wasn’t enough. What we talked about was, again, even if you look at, and you wouldn’t have these numbers, we just got them last week. If you look at our pay-per-view, Money in the Bank from two or three weeks ago in Fort Worth, TX, our viewership was up 20% over the 2019 Money in the Bank viewership so remove the pandemic year. From an apples to apples comparison, our viewership and the audience has already grown, in terms of who’s watching our content. So yeah, it seems to be working, fans seem to be good with that.”
Khan also talked about how Peacock has affected the shows themselves. He explained why it allowed them to have SummerSlam tonight.
“I think it also allows us to test a few things with Peacock, in terms of dates, so even SummerSlam, which is this Saturday,” Khan stated. “Traditionally, we’ve gone on Sundays for pay-per-views. We believe, on the sports calendar, there are certain days where there should be sports and there aren’t sports. We believe this Saturday is one of those. So traditionally, we had not done that well in terms of box office in Las Vegas. If you think about the Sunday connotation.
“I’ll speak for you in this one instance, on our time together today. I’m sure never in your life has anyone ever said to you, ‘Let’s go to Vegas and go crazy on a Sunday.’ If you look at Monday Night RAW, no one ever says, ‘Let’s go to Vegas and go crazy on a Monday.’ This is a Friday and Saturday night town, and even if you look at SmackDown, which is on FOX on Fridays, few people say, ‘Let’s get to Vegas by 3 PM Pacific so we can be in our seats for a 5 PM SmackDown. So we thought Saturday night would work for us in Las Vegas. We think the ticket sales are reflective of that. We have a big big audience coming out on Saturday and a big gate to go along with it.”