Monday, May 4, 2015

It's Time for a Free Lunch, WWE

The Network should be free for everyone this month as a sign of good faith
WWE is offering another free month for people who sign up for The Network. Check the timestamp on this post. It's not November of last year, or February or April of this year. WWE is going to be offering yet another free month for new signups to its over-the-top streaming service for the month of May, much to the chagrin of people who signed up anywhere between launch and October 31 last year, December 1 and January 31 of this year, or the entire month of March.

The dirty truth is that offering the free month up front is not really a bad business idea, especially for a new business concept that people might be skeptical at trusting. WWE probably should have been offering the free month from start as a sign of good faith to its fans, especially during that rough first month where no archival footage loaded, the live feeds were glitchy, and it was a miracle if anything anyone tried to watch went through completely without any delay or stoppage. Free samples are the best advertisements.

Even without the free month for everyone, I understand why WWE brass continues to roll out the promotional months. It remains the right call, no matter how much backlash the company receives from fans pissed that they remained paying customers all this time. But defending a multinational, billion dollar corporation is way out of my paygrade, and the fact of the matter is that WWE's promotion of The Network has come off, in a word, thirsty.

Whether it's the incessant shilling from the broadcast chair, the price point turning into a chantable catchphrase, or three-free-months-in-four promotional tactic everything WWE has done so far has been desperate. It acts like a company that hasn't just posted record revenues in its history, but here it is, continuing to act as if is begging for nickels on the street corner. It's not a good look, and maybe it's why investors continue to look at Vince McMahon and his coterie as if they don't have their act together despite the major influx of cash.

Then again, capitalism has a way of making those ill-equipped to handle it look silly, and if you're going to look silly, then maybe you ought to do so to the benefit of your customers. Maybe it's time for McMahon to go a bit crazy and to make the month of May free for everyone who's subscribed to WWE Network, whether they're new or existing. From a sheer revenue collection standpoint, it might not make sense. However, I honestly don't care about how much money WWE, a megacorporation, makes. It has a TV deal, live gates, traditional pay-per-view, sponsorships, and various other streams to keep it going.

And the benefits would be noticeable. Not only would the new subscribers see the free month and try it out, but customer retention and satisfaction would tick upwards. I'd imagine a sizable contingent of fans that are already happy would be happier and more likely to spend some money at the Shop, and the fans that aren't happy might turn around. It would be an immense sign of goodwill, one that might save some people ten bucks here. AS little as that amount sounds, anyone, no matter how rich you are, enjoys a good windfall. I go nuts if I find a five dollar bill in my back pocket that I didn't know was there, and I wouldn't be alone in that sentiment.

Ten dollars right now could buy a prospective or the average current subscriber lunch, which in effect would make it free. Of course, the saying goes that no lunch is ever truly free, but that's only because people are too goddamn stingy. WWE would be wise to buck that cliche and give everyone, no matter how much fiduciary sense it doesn't make, a chance to view The Network for free, whether new or existing as a subscriber. For once, instead of seeming like a miser or a grotesque avatar of capitalism, Vince McMahon can seem human. McMahon, human? Those two words don't compute, which means if you're already subscribed, you're going to have to keep paying the man. But that doesn't mean you should.