WWE Network is a big win for the fans, but it presents interesting situations for talent as well.
The biggest is more time and ways to feature more talent. This sums up so many of the positives forWWE Superstars coming out of this WWE Network.
WWE has been building their empire for years. They've became very active on Twitter, dominated YouTube since launching their channel and are staples in episodic television when it comes to Raw and SmackDown.
All of this is now being put into one location, one world which is the interface of the WWE Network. Whether it'sNXT, backstage extras or unique shows, there are more opportunities for more characters to get face time in various capacities.
WWE and everyone involved with it will have even more use for their social media. It seems between themes of some new programs such as Countdown, social-media comments will be very prominent for both fans and the Superstars.
The entire audience will in some way be connected to the Internet to view the WWE Network. It's a natural flow for the talents to be able to continue growing their personality and awareness to the audience with their social-media accounts. Especially when you consider the live stream WWE will have, just as talents do now where they will live-tweet during Monday Night Raw with the Raw hashtag on Twitter, the WWE Network adds much more live programming for talent and their social-media accounts to sync up with.
WWE Network is also going to provide a great resource for some talent to use as learning material. Especially given the WWE's Performance Center as a main avenue today for breeding talent, this doesn't always mean the talent have the knowledge of a lifelong wrestling fan. Even if they are fans who have been aware of the product for much of their lives, who knows how seriously they've followed it.
WWE doesn't have the territories like they did 20 years ago to acquire guys who all grew up in the business. Former football players, Olympic athletes and many more are being looked at now as potential WWE Superstars. If they have charisma, if they have a look, WWE brings them to the Performance Center and teaches them what they want them to know.
WWE Network having the huge vault of video as well as programs reflecting on the past, such as WrestleMania Rewind, gives a chance for new performers to look back at some of the best. Today's target audience is a younger audience. If wrestlers can watch and learn from some of the greats in the early 1980s, to much of today's audience, those promos, those moves, that ring psychology will be new to their eyes. What's old is new again, and what was great always remains great.
You would think all of the programming with this WWE Network would mean more money for the current talent, but I don't know if that holds true—especially considering so much of the programming is centered around archived video.
The biggest concern I think as it relates to the WWE Superstars and the WWE Network with money is the pay-per-views. PWInsider has noted via WrestlingInc.com how this is something already expected to be addressed.
As time goes on, WWE will have less and less measurement of success for an individual pay-per-view the way they have in the past. As more people purchase the Network for a $9.99 a month fee which gets you that month's pay-per-view among so much more, that means fewer people to purchase the pay-per-view event in the traditional manner of ordering from their OnDemand service.
So let's say WWE has three million people subscribed to the Network. Well that means every pay-per-view technically has three million people which can be accounted for it. All 3 million have the ability to log in to their WWE Network account and watch the event. Not all three million of them necessarily will or necessarily will watch it live as it happens, so how do you judge pay-per-view buys as accurately?
The accuracy of WWE's pay-per-view-buy measurement is important for the wrestlers and their pay. WWE talents get a base guaranteed contract. A talent might have a guaranteed contract of $80,000 a year. He will need to pay taxes on it as well as pay for their flights, hotels and cars. Merchandise and bonuses can provide more revenue.
Merchandise comes, obviously, from the sale of items in WWE's shop store that feature the talent's character. The bonuses typically come from pay-per-views. Every time someone main-events a pay-per-view event, there is a built-in bonus to that. Now every guy has a different contract so this varies depending on who we're talking about. I would imagine John Cena has a different contract than some other guys who might pop up in a main event or semi-main event.
But, traditionally WWE has had it where most talents get a certain percentage of the revenue that pay-per-view brings in. Once WWE got an accurate count of the pay-per-view buys both domestically and internationally, a few months after the pay-per-view took place the talent would get a check in the mail with their bonus.
Well, now with the WWE Network which features the pay-per-views in the subscription, this model of paying out bonuses could change.
It's my belief that WWE could be working toward social media as a factor. WWE's been pushing more individual hashtags for matches. Rather than a hashtag all night during Raw being #RAW, we're now seeing specific hashtags for conversations about specific matches.
Take a look at the main event from this past week on Raw where the hashtag was #CageMatch.
The hashtags don't lie. It's an interesting and pretty accurate gauge of interest to what matches are garnering what attention for an event. Even the smallest things whether it be a comment said, a chant the crowd is doing (commonly orchestrated in the past by The Rock with phrases like Fruity Pebbles) show up on what is trending on Twitter. This shows that Twitter seems to have a good system of picking up on what is hot at every minute.
Not everybody uses Twitter, so it's not a perfect science. However, one person could buy a pay-per-view in the traditional model and have 10 people over his house to watch it. Those other nine people wouldn't be accounted for in the buys.
So, I guess nothing is a perfect indicator, but I do feel social media is a natural transition for WWE is monitoring talents and their drawing power.
The WWE Network is changing the business and the fans will win the biggest, but for everyone else there will be transitions and adaptations.
Justin LaBar is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He also is the creator of the Chair Shot Reality video talk show and Wrestling Reality radio show. He's been featured by various outlets including several appearances on NBC Sports recognized as a lead wrestling analyst in the country.