WWE Network streaming service nears 1.6M paid subscribers

WWE’s fourth-quarter earnings arrived Thursday, and with them came news that the company’s streaming service, WWE Network, now has 1.59 million paid subscribers.

The company said its new average total for paid subscribers marks a 7% increase year over year. However, the company is expecting that average to remain at 1.59 million for the first quarter of 2019. While that total would put WWE Network ahead of the 1.56 million average paid subscribers it reported in the first quarter of 2018, it’s still well below the 1.8 million average from the second quarter of 2018.

That subscriber uptick during the second quarter can possibly be attributed to the timing of Wrestlemania, WWE’s signature pay-per-view event.

The company said the most significant drivers of viewer engagement on WWE Network are pay-per-views and international specials. Among the network’s most viewed programs were its international pay-per-view events, Super Show-Down and Crown Jewel, its all-women’s pay-per-view, Evolution, as well as NXT Takeover: WarGames II, and the newly launched weekly series, NXT UK.

WWE said it added more than 100 hours of original content to WWE Network’s featured programming and nearly 450 hours of archival content, which adds up to an on-demand library of approximately 11,500 hours.

The company said it’s also seen increased engagement on digital and social platforms. Digital video views were up 57% to 31.4 billion and hours consumed up 77% to 1.2 billion across digital and social media platforms. WWE has produced more than 160 hours of content, including the second season of “Mixed Match Challenge” on Facebook Watch.

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“We increased revenue by nearly $130 million, and achieved a record level of Adjusted OIBDA and network subscribers. We expect to balance 2019 revenue growth with investment in strategic areas that extend the moat around our business, enabling us to continue our business transformation and maximize shareholder value,” said George Barrios, WWE co-president, in a statement.

WWE Network launched approximately five years ago in the U.S. It has since expanded its service availability to parts of Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe. The service charges $9.99 per month after a one month free trial.

WWE is also looking ahead to its new programming agreements with USA (owned by NBCUniversal) and Fox Sports, both of which kick off on Oct. 1. The company expects an increase in the average annual value of its U.S. distribution to 3.6 times that of the prior deal.