WWE recently reported their 2019 earnings and revealed that they had 1.39 million paid subscribers at the end of last year with 70,000 free subscribers for a total of 1.459 million subscribers. This number was down 9% from the prior year. With declining Network subscriptions, the company revealed that they are looking at "strategic alternatives" for the streaming service.
NBC's upcoming streaming service Peacock launches in April and is reportedly looking to use WWE pay-per-views as their key initial programming. Ryback discussed WWE pay-per-views possibly moving to Peacock when Wrestling Inc.'s Raj Giri joined him on Conversations With The Big Guy Ryback on Ryback TV.
"I love it, I think this is a brilliant move," Ryback said. "The [WWE Network] has not panned out like they wanted it to, it's kind of been stuck in that number [1.5 million]. I love this move, the Network isn't going anywhere, but with the Network, they are severally limited on what they can do.
"I look at what the UFC has done with ESPN+ and I get the fights through that. I got a Playstation that I don't even use, but I use it to order the fights. It's very good quality and it's very quick. The WWE brand as big as it is they were kind of early to the party over there and they tried to do everything in house and then these big companies like ESPN, Disney and other ones are more established. That UFC deal, there's just something about it, it just works really well. I still think with them getting on ESPN+ would be a huge boost in everything. The eyeballs on it would be much better than what it is. They're still going to get revenue for the WWE Network, but that number might dip down now."
Ryback described that while he was working with the company, the talent took a hit in pay because of the WWE Network due to the drop in pay-per-view revenue. Ryback said that he believes that a streaming service like ESPN+ offering the WWE pay-per-views for purchase, similar to their current deal with UFC, would be better for the talent.
"They never should have made the pay per views as cheap as they did," Ryback said. "I suffered, along with all of the guys. I remember them saying we're going to pay you guys based off what the pay-per-views did the past two years and those buy rates, and when they switched over, our numbers went down. The boys and girls didn't make hardly anything compared to what they used to for a couple years on pay-per-views, it wasn't the same. We suffered for that, and it sucks.
"I think it's a great move and I think the talent will be happy with it if everyone makes more money and they go back to charging. You've gotta give credit where credit is due, it hasn't panned out the way they've wanted, I think it's a good move cause everyone is going to make more money. Fans will be paying more for pay-per-views guaranteed, $9.99 is not what you're going to be watching for, but it never should've been that to begin with. I believe they should go with a for sure thing with ESPN+, it's working for UFC. Going with an NBC that hasn't started is more risky, I would like to see them go with proven, something that is working right now.
"The Network was a gamble that didn't pan out, not necessarily good or bad, it just didn't take off the way that it ever anticipated, definitely in 2020 there will be backlash."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Conversations With The Big Guy Ryback on Ryback TV with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.