In a surprising turnaround, Dish Network has decided that they will be carrying WWE's annual pro-wrestling megaevent Wrestlemania 30. The relationship between WWE and the Satellite Provider had deteriorated in 2014 stemming from the launch of the WWE Network. While several Cable providers threatened to yank WWE PPVs off their system going forward, only Dish Network actually follow through on their threat. Dish Network did not carry February's Elimination Chamber PPV. At the time, they issued this statement:
Please note that WWE is not willing to adjust PPV costs to satellite/cable companies, which is unfair to their customers. DISH needs to re-focus efforts to support partners that better serve DISH customers and other satellite/cable companies, including DirecTV, have also expressed they may no longer provide WWE PPV events in the future.
However, due to whatever behind-the-curtain machinations, Dish Network has decided they will carry Wrestlemania XXX. While Dish Network was not pleased about WWE launching an over-the-top streaming service which offered the monthly PPVs live for only $9.99/month subscriptions, it still makes more business sense for Dish Network to carry Wrestlemania 30 than to stand on the sidelines. Four major reasons that Dish Network may have changed their mind: 1) Dish Network stood alone. No other major carrier decided to pull the plug. Many systems issued statements they were evaluating the economics for the future and looking at things on a month-to-month basis. However, no one else joined the protest alongside Dish Network. WWE didnt really feel the pain. Instead, fervent WWE fans that had the Dish Network likely adopted alternative means (going to a friends house, ordering the PPV through their gaming console or online, pirating the feed) to watch the PPV. 2) Early 2014 PPV numbers were still solid.Royal Rumble 2014 and Elimination Chamber 2014 PPV numbers were surprisingly stable. Granted total buys was down compared to the year prior. However, The Rock appeared on both of those PPVs. Domestic Buys for Elimination Chamber 2014 (125,000 buys) suggested that had the PPV had full distribution including Dish Network, it may have had hit 145,000 to 150,000 domestic buys. That would have surpassed TLC 2013 and Elimination Chamber 2012 levels. Dish Networks protest wasnt optimal, but it came nowhere close to capsizing the ship. Additionally, they may have believed that Elimination Chamber 2014 would do poorly since it was coming just one day before the launch of the WWE Network. It could have been a miscalculation on Dish Network's part as they thought they were skipping a PPV that was going to performed poorly, but actually did just fine. 3) It was a ploy. Wrestlemania 30 is far and away the biggest pro-wrestling PPV of the year. Historically, Wrestlemania averages over 650,000 domestic buys. Thats around 100,000 buys for Dish Network alone. With the PPV revenue split about equally between WWE and Dish Network, this one event with a $60+ price (depending on whether the customer orders in SD or HD) generate has historically generated upwards of $3 million for Dish Network. The WWE Network captures the majority of regular WM buyers, Dish Network still stands to probably earn a million dollars by distributing Wrestlemania 30. While Dish Network may decide to drop WWEs B-PPVs from their schedule going forward, it wasnt worth the multi-million dollar risk to skip Wrestlemania 30. 4) WWE Network hurts them less. The Dish Network may be disproportionately servicing customers who are not switching to the WWE Network. Rural customer are far more likely to be using Satellite services instead of Cable. These rural customers are also more likely not to have high-speed internet required to watch the WWE Network. For instance, Satellite customers are 2.5 times less likely to use a streaming services like Netflix. The squeeze that Dish Network or DIRECTv experience is likely to be less severe than what Comcast or Time Warner Cable will see.
I'm a professional wrestling analyst, an improviser and an avid NES gamer. I live in Saint Paul, Minnesota and I'm working on my first book (#wrestlenomics). You can contact me at email@example.com or on twitter (@mookieghana)