WWE Again Announces Plans to Launch the WWE Network in UK and Ireland

Chris HarringtonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2015

WWE Network set to launch on January 19 in the U.K. and Ireland
WWE Network set to launch on January 19 in the U.K. and Irelandhttp://www.wwe.com/wwenetwork/watch-in-united-kingdom-26927624

On January 4, WWE announced on its website that the WWE Network would be available in the United Kingdom and Ireland starting January 19. The website includes a video message from an excited Vince McMahon.

U.K. fans remain cautiously optimistic that the WWE really will begin offering the over-the-top service this time. It's been a series of false starts, with the most recent misstep just two months ago. 

The WWE had originally announced that the U.K. launch date would be November 3 as part of the #FreeFreeFree November campaign. However, things fell apart mere minutes before the launch date.

It was an embarrassing situation for the WWE. Furthermore, the move was quite ill-timed since it coincided with the WWE's fall tour of the United Kingdom. 

According to Variety, the delay in launching the WWE Network in November stemmed from an issue with the existing Sky Sports contract. In January 2014, WWE announced a new five-year deal with BSkyB for its television programming (Raw, SmackDown, Main Event) and pay-per-views. BSkyB would begin to offer the PPVs for ordering on its Sky Sports Box Office channel.

Offering the live "pay-per-view" content on the over-the-top WWE Network represents natural competition for any satellite and cable operators selling the same content. That's especially true when there is a price difference between the offerings.

WWE is delicately tweaking the pricing structure of the WWE Network in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The announced monthly price for the WWE Network in the United Kingdom will be £9.99 and €12.99 in Ireland (both equal about $15 in the U.S.). It's a smart strategy by the WWE since the company can continue to promote the U.K. version of the WWE Network as "9.99" while effectively implementing a 50 percent price increase over the domestic pricing.

This pricing represents an interesting departure from previous strategy. Elsewhere in the world, the WWE Network costs $9.99 in U.S. dollars. Meanwhile, Sky Sports Office is retailing WWE PPVs in 2015 at £19.95 in the United Kingdom and €24.95 in Ireland (about $30 U.S. dollars).

It's difficult to estimate how many new subscribers the launch in the United Kingdom and Ireland will generate.

WWE Revenue by Area of the World (in millions, USD)
YearNorth AmericaUnited KingdomRemainingTotal
2007 $366.4 $45.1 $74.2 $485.7
2008 $391.3 $47.3 $87.9 $526.5
2009 $348.1 $36.5 $90.6 $475.2
2010 $342.3 $33.9 $101.4 $477.7
2011 $350.5 $33.2 $100.2 $483.9
2012 $365.9 $34.0 $84.1 $484.0
2013 $391.7 $36.0 $80.3 $508.0
2013 Q4 - 2014 Q3 $406.3 $38.8 $75.3 $520.5
Analysis by Chris Harrington; Information from WWE SEC filings (sec.gov)

WWE considers the United Kingdom to be its largest international market. It's important for the WWE to complete its rollout of the WWE Network in key countries such as the United Kingdom and Ireland as soon as possible.

According to the last subscriber count released by the WWE, as of September 30, 2014, there were 28,476 international subscribers out of 731,359 paid subscribers. That means that international subscribers, among countries with access to the WWE Network that started August 12, 2014, still only represented less than 4 percent of total paid subscribers. 

The low WWE Network growth from the new base of eligible international subscribers was a surprising revelation.

Either international interest in the WWE Network was exceptionally low, or many international subscribers were already using alternative means to access the domestic WWE Network. If the latter situation is true, WWE may already be counting international subscribers as domestic subscribers (and attributing that revenue as domestic revenue).

The big question remains: Will any potential United Kingdom subscribers who are using domestic WWE Network accounts switch to the new, higher-priced U.K. WWE Network? How many U.K. and Ireland subscribers are out there who want to access the WWE Network but have waited until it was available in their country? We won't know until WWE updates us on its subscriber count.

However it goes, the good news for WWE fans in the United Kingdom and Ireland is that the WWE Network will be available for them in time for the Royal Rumble on January 25.