Whatever you think about their programming choices and whether or not they’re booking Roman Reigns correctly, all indicators seem to point towards a healthy bottom line for the WWE. The WWE Network saw improving numbers following an initial dip in subscribers, live attendance remains solid, and Raw and Smackdown ratings seem to be holding relatively steady in the face of stiff competition and the summer doldrums.
So it might be a bit surprising to hear that, per Wrestling Observer Radio‘s Dave Meltzer, WWE could be moving into cutback mode in the coming months. According to Meltzer, it has more to do with trying to match last year’s accounting numbers than serious concerns about the state of the company, although those subscriber numbers sure could be better.
“So last year’s profits were about $30 million. And this year we’re about halfway through and — I don’t have the exact numbers in front of me – but it’s like five or six million, which means there’s a lot of catching up to do.
“They’re not in any financial trouble but the Network subscriber number is a genuine disappointment. The growth coming out of WrestleMania that would have been expected wasn’t there.
“The one thing that we have learned is that the two pay-per-views a month, that has not helped. The Network number is not growing the way they expected it to so that’s been a bad situation. But I don’t think they want to drop one of the pay-per-views because I think that would hurt ratings a little bit.”
As for what that cost-cutting will look like, it remains to be seen. It’s not too hard to draw a direct line between the recent cancellation of Talking Smack, the post-Smackdown live show, as a related casualty, but that could also be finding correlation out of convenience. WWE has also recently cut back on original programming in general for WWE Network, so it’s also not out of the realm of possibility.
The cost-cutting measure that many wrestling fans don’t want to think about is the talent expenditures. When you combine Raw, Smackdown, 205 Live, NXT, and the other ventures the company is involved with, the wrestling roster hasn’t been this loaded in years. That can work both ways as some talent that’s deemed expendable could be cut to save money in the interim.
It’s also worth thinking about the fact that WWE’s current deal with USA Network ends in 2019. There have been some rumblings about the company taking its hours of content to an unconventional distributor such as Facebook where it can get more money and flexibility. Given the breadth of programming WWE creates each week, there’s certainly still a market for what they have to offer.
Will budget concerns have an impact on storytelling and character development? Concerns about the quality of angles and storylines have been rampant on the internet for months. Chances are, however, wrestling fans will always find something to complain about, so it might not even make a difference.