Welcome one and all to your Friday Update, straight from the news desk. I'm your humble correspondent, Chris P. Bacon. Your humble correspondent is not sure which was more painful during the long-awaited, much-hullabalooed announcement of the WWE Network on Wednesday--the attempts of various WWE office folks to appear hip, or DX breaking out their same shtick they were using while Stone Temple Pilots still had Scott Weiland as a member--but there's pretty much no way that the fallout from the bombs they dropped can't lead off your weekend headlines. To that end, in a filing with the SEC yesterday, the WWE management discussed their belief that the aforementioned Network will provide "significant earnings potential" for shareholders.
Delving further into the document, WWE predicts to have a "steady rate" of 2-3 million subscribers following their launch. Priced at $9.99, this would provide WWE additional revenue anywhere from $225-330 million. Those figures are even more impressive when doing the "Millions of Dollars" Prime Time Players dance. WWE calculates 1-2 million subscribers by the end of 2014. One obvious downside from the announcement that all pay-per-views will be offered on the Network is the potential for "pay-per-view cannibalization." Essentially, this is the idea that because the promotion itself is airing their PPVs in a new format, the traditional cable options for televising said events may choose to no longer carry them.
The news is not all good for current and future stockholders, either, as WWE expects earnings to take a dip in 2014. George Barrios put it thusly:
"Although these initiatives hold significant potential, our financial performance for 2014 could fall within a wide range of outcomes depending on the rate of subscriber acquisition from the network, potential pay-per-view cannibalization, and the outcome of our content negotiations."
Translation: this thing is going to cost a lot of money and the jury is out until people can start signing up. Rest assured, while everyone may think this is a "sure thing" for WWE, they will be taking a financial bath to start. Eschewing a traditional release and offering just about all of their content for a fraction of the price of just one PPV is a gutsy and bold move from a company that's made plenty of them. Whether this turns out to be more PPV and less XFL will be, as always, determined by the marketplace. Will fans potentially purchase the"October to April" 6-month commitment that gives them Hell In A Cell through WrestleMania and then call it a day for the other half of the year, or will the additional content and original programming be enough to keep wrestling enthusiasts satiated all year long? Only time will tell. (Torch)
It's also only a matter of time before you get hour-long blocks of Isaac Yankem programming:
From an immediate standpoint, the big announcement had a positive impact on WWE's stock. The price of said stock rose to $16.67 yesterday, likely due to the optimism of stockholders in this launch being a success. Internal feelings seem to be that the stock will continue to rise until the late February launch, at which point it will be dependent on just how many people initially sign up. Make no mistake, WWE unveiled this plan strategically at this time, as they are currently negotiating their television properties and heavily on the road to their biggest yearly event. Considering that WrestleMania itself can cost the average fan $60, I'd say their price point should garner quite a bit of interest. (Rajah)
While speaking of the impending Network, much has already been made of the admission that footage featuring Chris Benoit will indeed be airing as part of their video library. As most viewers are no doubt aware, the WWE has taken great pains to extricate Benoit from just about everything to do with their company since the horrifying tragedies in 2007. This, then, serves as a rather large about-face for the WWE, most likely due to the fact that removing entire matches from existing pay-per-views would create a level of content sanitization that would make many folks uncomfortable.
According to reports, any footage featuring Benoit will have an advisory at the beginning of the program will have an advisory message reminding viewers that all characters on the show are "purely fictional." From FNU's point of view, this is the right move. Tailoring clips and title histories so as not to be seen as celebrating what happened to Benoit and his family is a far simpler task than lopping off portions of weekly shows or seminal events, and anyone with Wikipedia and free time can discover all the information anyway. "Pictures or it didn't happen" this is, frankly, not. Benoit's tale is a sobering and cautionary one, and will at its terminus hopefully involve developments in the diagnosis and treatment of head injuries in what is a full contact sport. (Rajah)
Should the WWE be looking to remove offensive subject matter from its content, however, FNU humbly submits this:
Stepping away from the future and into the distant past, if you've been wondering about the whereabouts of former Intercontinental & Tag Team Champion and King of the Ring winner Ken Shamrock, wonder no longer. TMZ returned to its muckraking roots to inform the community at large that Shamrock is now a member of the security detail for rapper 50 Cent. This was revealed when Shamrock was included in the group at a recent Las Vegas convention. (INC)
Shamrock later revealed on Twitter that it was a "pleasure" to work for 50 Cent, and called him "By far one of the classiest gents I have ever worked with." Keep in mind that Kenny has worked with a plethora of classy gents:
According to a recent report, the total number of WWE performers under contract is 140. And, yes, that does include TJR favorite JTG. While that is a very large number (including developmental), it is actually down from the 150 or so that WWE has maintained for the last several years. It still seems a bit bloated to this correspondent, however. Amazing that for someone so renowned for saying "You're FIRRREEED!", Vincent Kennedy McMahon's been a mute lately. (Rajah)
Then again, you could always quit:
Excited about Batista's return? Well, so is the WWE. Conflicting with reports that the big man is only booked through WrestleMania XXX, with perhaps a few dates following that show to wrap things up, more recent reports indicate that Batista has actually signed a two-year deal with the WWE. That would put him on target to have a very strong showing at the upcoming Royal Rumble and be a major part of the storylines for quite a while indeed. Times are certainly good for Batista, who is immediately going to become a big fish in the wrestling pond while also amazingly continuing to land acting jobs. (Rajah)
You've come a long way, baby!
Finally this week, an update on the condition of wrestling legend Mae Young. According to the latest information, Young is alive but remains off of life support and in very weak condition. She has been described as "gravely ill." A touching story yesterday was that a friend of Mae's called the hospital and was informed that Young was unable to talk but could listen. When informed by her friend that thousands of people were pulling for her, she reportedly replied, "I know." Young is part of an era that turned professional wrestling into the amazing business it is today, and has managed to provide countless hilarious and jaw-dropping moments over the years. Her resilience and strength is truly impressive. Friday Update sends its best wishes to Mae and advises that nobody bet against one of the toughest people, male or female, in the business. (INC)
Lastly, it's time for another round of Wrestler vs. Musician, because you demanded it! Or because FNU loves YouTube. This week, we've got a true treat for you, as it's a battle of relative importance. Get it? Relative? Well, you will.
In this corner, voodoo practitioner and bad juju brawler, Papa Shango:
And in the other corner, feel-good hipsters The Mamas and The Papas:
Your call, as always, dear readers. Though for my money, Mama Cass could totally kick Brock Lesnar's ass. That clears the news desk for this week. As always, I'd like to thank you for taking time to read the dirt of the day. Feel free to chime into the conversation roiling in the depths below or fire off Chris Cornell sound checks and chess moves to me via Twitter @DharmanRockwell or via email at email@example.com. Have a great weekend and I'll see you Tuesday!