WWE just announced that there were 1,824,000 subscribers to the network as of today, the day after WrestleMania.
That number sounds fantastic on the surface, and isn’t necessarily negative, but of that, 370,000 ordered the month for free and all growth from last year was from adding new international markets, as the number of paid domestic subscribers was actually slightly down from the day after WrestleMania last year.
The real key will be the retention rate from those 370,000 free subscribers and comparison with last year.
They expect that with the free subscribers expiring and turning into paid subscribers at the same rate as usual, that the free month will lead to an average of 1,480,000 to 1,550,000 subscribers during the second quarter, an increase of from 1,233,000 last year.
George Barrios in the conference call noted that because of the free offer, that comparisons of paid vs. unpaid would be misleading and the difference after how many of this group transforms into paid after the one month trial.
They also said that overall, they are expecting first quarter OIBDA of $19 million this year and talked about a $70 million to $75 million range for this year. That figure would get profitability back in the range of where it was before the network was launched.
Paid subscribers as of today are 1,109,000 listed in the U.S., down from 1,123,000 listed in the U.S. last year. Keep in mind that the difference is a lot of outside the U.S. subscribers in foreign countries were listed as U.S. last year, so true U.S. numbers are likely up.
International paid went from 192,000 to 345,000.
Of the free subscribers, 281,000 are listed as U.S and 89,000 are listed as outside the U.S.
The WWE averaged 1.29 million paid subscribers in the first quarter of 2016, up from 927,000 last year, so there is significant year-over-year growth, but because of the ease of getting Mania free, the paid growth for day after Mania isn’t as significant.
Had they not offered WrestleMania free, no doubt paid would be significantly higher, but the question is where paid is one month from now before you can evaluate whether this was a success or not.