WWE Pins Down `SummerSlam’ Marketing Plans

The WWE is hoping to expand the audience for its Aug. 17 SummerSlam pay-per-view event through the recent launch of its WWE Network over-the-top digital service to more than 170 countries around the globe, according to company officials.

The WWE Network, which currently has 700,000 U.S.-based subscribers, will benefit from the additional distribution which includes such countries as Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mexico, Spain and the Nordics, according to network officials. The company is hoping to generate 1 million subscribers for the OTT service -- which offers all 12 WWE PPV events as well as the company's vast programming library -- by the end of the year.

“Our decision to make the U.S.-based WWE Network available globally makes the whole proposition of the network scalable, so we’re very excited to make this available to 170 countries,” said chief revenue and marketing officer Michelle Wilson, although the company is not projecting the number of international subscribers it will sign up.

 “It gives us the ability to bring on new subscribers quicker than we were anticipating,” she added. “We continue to believe that the network will give us the opportunity to transform our business model.” 

Sunday's SummerSlam event, the company’s second biggest tentpole event after Wrestlemania, will market both the PPV version of the event as well as its appearance on the WWE Network.

Satellite services DirecTV and Dish Network however, will not carry the $44.95 SummerSlam event on a PPV basis, as both continue to disapprove of the WWE's carriage of PPV events on the WWE Network. In Demand will distribute the event to cable operators.

While PPV distributors have seen a decline in WWE PPV event buys since the WWE began telecasting its PPV events on the WWE Network beginning with April’s Wrestlemania event, Wilson said the WWE is still generating decent PPV numbers through the cable operators.

“We’re still generating a fair amount of PPV buys to the point where In Demand still wants to be in business with us,” she said. “We still think it makes good business sense to be in business with the cable operators.”

Wilson would not say how many international subscribers the WWE Network expects to generate for SummerSlam through the additional distribution.

The SummerSlam marketing plan will be backed by a multi-million dollar campaign that will feature ads on more than 20 major cable networks and digital advertising on a global basis with Google and Youtube for the first time, said Wilson. “We made a major investment around SummerSlam because we know the opportunity to bring in subscribers is much greater that it was in the past,” she said.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.