Paid content lessons from WWE Network, Condé Nast



George Barrios, chief strategy and financial officer of World Wrestling Entertainment, and Monica Ray, executive vice president/consumer marketing at Condé Nast, may sound like an unlikely pair as they shared the floor on Monday at INMA’s World Congress. But they share the paid content struggles — some working, some not — in their respective companies. 

Barrios began the discussion by giving a brief background of why the WWE network was created. Most people consume video through online rather than traditional TV, he said. This shift in media helped lead to the creation of the WWE Network.

The network launched on February 24, 2014, and is accessible in more than 177 countries on 14 different platforms. A little over a year after the launch, the WWE Network had 1.3 million paying subscribers and received a 90% subscriber satisfaction rating.

For US$9.99 per month, viewers can watch the network whenever and almost wherever they want. It provides exclusive series, documentaries, special events coverage, and any pay-per view in history.

“Think of it like a Netflix, but for wrestling,” Barrios said.

The company has experienced much success by implementing a paid-content strategy. One of the lessons the Barrios learned from the launch: have courage.

Ray continued the conversation discussing paid content strategies implemented by The New Yorker, one of Condé Nast’s magazines. She began by stating The New Yorker has never been free; digital content was locked to non-subscribers. The magazine conducted a survey and found highly engaged readers are willing to pay US$69 for its online content.

“Our best customers were giving us permission to recraft that paywall,” Ray said.

Last July, the magazine relaunched its Web site to improve content discovery and recirculation. The magazine took down the paywall for a few months. Its new paywall strategy gave readers six free article views before they had to pay for content.

Contrary to her expectations, the magazine had an increase in subscriptions after putting the paywall back up: “This has been extremely successful for us.” 

Ray left the audience with three lessons she learned from implementing paid content: keep asking, all content drives subscription, and e-mail newsletters are very important.


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