Yes, I Follow the WWE, and I’m Only a Slightly Embarrassed

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Growing up, I couldn’t get enough of what was then the WWF.  I had the action figures, the ring, Hulk Hogan t-shirts, and spent far too many hours watching it on television believing that everything was real and Roddy Piper was the biggest jerk on the planet.

Around five years ago, when my nephew was six years old, I saw him in a John Cena shirt.  In a way it brought me back to my childhood, so I spend a good half hour talking to him about what was going on in the world of wrestling.  It was so refreshing to see how the spectacle looked from the eyes of an innocent six year old, when all of these people look like super heroes to him.  From that point on, I dove back in watching a little, but reading a bit more on the business aspects of the company.

For one, I have nothing but respect for those athletes.  There is no off season for them and they are on the road at least four nights each and every week slamming their bodies around.  The show Monday Night Raw is the long running episodic series in the history of cable.  Therefore, they are getting eyeballs on their product.  While this is great, it was what they did two years ago, that could be a major sign of things to come for every entertainment/sporting outlet.

In February of 2014, the WWE Network was launched.  For $9.99 per month, you could watch all of the 12 pay-per-views put out that are normally priced around $49.99.  You not only got the pay-per-views, but the network launched with old PPVs as well as some original content.  The main marketing ploy was toward the late 90s era which is known as the ‘Attitude Era’ with people like Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock.  The network was launching a 12 part series called the Monday Night War.  It seemed their idea was to attract Dads who may have watched the product at this time, and now can begin watching with their children.

What is most exciting to me from a business standpoint is the risk that the WWE has elected to take with the network.  They were basically cannibalizing a major revenue stream as they were basically doing away with the pay-per-view model.  To give you an idea, the biggest event of the year by far is Wrestlemania.  In 2013, before the network was launched, there over 1.7 million people purchased the pay-per-view around the world at $59.99.  Therefore by launching the network, WWE was basically lighting fire to over $100M for this one event alone!  Needless to say that had have been a little scary for shareholders.  That said, 15 months after launch, the network had over 1.3 million subscribers.  If you count all of those subscribers as sticking around for the whole year, you are talking about $156M in revenue, so it hasn’t paid off just yet.  Its important to understand that the network is not nearly the only revenue source for the business.  As mentioned Monday Night Raw is a huge ratings machine for the USA Network, so WWE is making a pretty penny for the rights.  Along those lines, merchandise and the gates from the live shows are big numbers as well.  Wrestlemania 32 will be held at AT&T Stadium in Dallas in April and has already sold out more than 100,000 tickets.

What is interesting to watch now is how will WWE continue to evolve to make the network more essential to its fans?  If they succeed, will others follow suit?  Can you imagine a day where you have to pay $30 a month to see anything about the NFL?  I don’t think we are that far away.

That said, WWE is all in with the model of the network.  They are constantly adding old episodes and investing in original programming.  The asset that they are building is beginning to show dividends as the stock price is up 43% this year.

Enjoying the soap opera of professional wrestling is a bit childish, but keeping an eye on how they are attempting to revolutionize the way we ingest entertainment is more than enough to keep me watching.

Florida Keys Vacation Planned

Its always great to be home for a bit over the holiday season to spend some time with friends and family.  This much needed break gave me a bit of a chance to research a trip that I have been thinking about for quite awhile.  This February, I planning on heading down to Key West, Florida.  Some people call it a ‘bucket list’, I like to call it my ‘life resume’.  I want to get as many things as possible on my life resume, and I can get two of them added on this vacation.  I’ve always loved to snorkel on any vacations near the water, but this time I wanted to turn it up a notch.  The plan is to go out and and do some lobster fishing and spearfishing!

Lobster fishing may sound strange, but people come from all over to Key West to partake in this.  Basically, all you need is a snorkel, some fins, a lobster bag, a ‘tickle stick‘ and a net.  From what I have read, you get in the water and search the ground for where the “bugs” are hiding.  From there, you use the tickle stick to spook the front of the lobster.  If all goes well, the lobster escapes backwards hopefully right into your net!  What is even better is that most of the restaurants in Key West allow you to bring your lobsters into the restaurant and they will cook it up for you.  I’m sure they would do a better job than I would, that is for sure

 

The second item I’d always wanted to do is to try my hand at spearfishing.  This appears to be a bit more difficult.  You still work with a snorkel, but you also operate a spear gun, and attempt to capture the fish in that manner.  Essentially it combines two things that I love, both fishing and snorkeling.

 

The guide who seems to seems to get the best reviews out there is Kingbird Charters.  They will be able to set our crew up with doing both of those items in the same day.  Since we are only going to have a couple of days on the trip, we will be flying directly in to Key West.  The only other time I was there ten years ago, we flew into Miami and made the three and a half hour drive from Miami.  While that may seem like a long time, I don’t know that there is a more beautiful drive in our great country than that last two hours when you start entering the Keys.  While I have loved spending my life in and around New York City, there is something about crystal clear water that keeps drawing me back.  As we come into the winter and the temperature begins to drop further, I will be counting down the days to the trip.

I hope everyone has an amazing holiday season with their family, and looking forward to another great year for our team at Choice Home Warranty.

Brands Get in Line to Be Associated with Star Wars

You may not have heard yet, but there is a new Star Wars film coming out this week.  Actually, it could be possible that every single person in America is aware that the movie comes to theaters Friday.  It frankly is the most hyped movie that I can remember.  With the holidays quickly approaching, the rows of stores are covered in Star Wars items, with most of the toys being for characters that children do not know a thing about just yet.  That said, you can be sure it is on their list for Santa.

The sheer noise around this film is causing brands to shell out advertising money just to be associated with the franchise.  For many of them it makes sense.  You would like to think that the thousands of toys on the shelf are for children, so it makes sense that General Mills would partner with the Disney franchise to put Star Wars characters on their cereal boxes.

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I can also understand Subway partnering with Disney for the promotion as well.  They have a special Force Awakens bags with light saber prizes in the bag.  Subway is doing everything they can to separate themselves from their former marketing partner, and they know Star Wars is going to be a hit.  Now that I think about it, I probably should have used a different photo…

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Of course there are the toy companies like Hasbro who has been working with Lucas Films and the Star Wars franchise with action figures for almost 40 years.  All of this said, there are plenty of companies that are coming up with products that I’m not sure anyone would actually want?

Would the lady in your life be interested in some limited edition Star Wars mascara from Cover Girl as a nice stocking stuffer?  I have a strong suspicion that it wouldn’t go over very well.  Without a doubt though,m my favorite terrible Star Wars marketing has to be the Star Wars duct tape from Duck Brand.  I know when I shop for duct tape, I always look for something branded to my favorite movie.

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The most anticipated movie in some time has pre sold well over $50M in tickets, and many feel that it could gross over $250M in the first weekend alone, and over $500M by the end of the year.  Those numbers are beyond staggering, so you have to understand and appreciate why brands would be falling all over themselves to do everything in their power to be associated with something that should take over the news over the holidays.  All of that said, as much as I am looking forward to seeing old favorites like Han Solo and R2-D2, I don’t picture myself running from the theater to pick up some Star Wars branded eye make up and tape for my broken grill.  However, with the financial windfall coming up, you can’t blame these brands for trying!

What People Will Do for ‘Internet Fame’

Our world is a completely different place than it was just 20 years ago.  The way we communicate, the way we take in our news and entertainment, have all greatly evolved due to the internet.  In terms of entertainment, 75 years ago aspiring actors would make the trek to Hollywood to attempt to get their foot in the door.  These days, people can simply create a YouTube video and hope it goes viral.  The barrier to entry is much smaller.  That said, what does it really mean to be ‘internet famous’ and what does it actually get you?

The story I came across this week is one of those items that really makes me scratch my head.  A woman by the name of Paige Yore posted the below YouTube video to her FaceBook page:

Its hard to watch that entire video and not have it pull at your heart strings a bit.  She spends three minutes walking through her experience at a Pueblo, Colorado Walmart in which the woman in front of her has a run in with a young cashier.  After some back and forth, the young man breaks down in tears, hugs Paige and then confides that his mother committed suicide that morning, but he needed to still work in order to pay their rent.  Yore comforted the cashier, gave him all the money in her wallet and then recorded this video in the parking lot.

The video then accumulated over 25 million views before Yore made it private.  Seems like an inspirational story for the holiday season as to how we should be treating our fellow man.

Only problem is that when the video started making its way around the internet, the Walmart in question obviously felt the need to look into the issue right way.  After doing so, they concluded that the story is entirely fabricated.  Walmart has reviewed all of the surveillance footage from the day, as well as interviewed all of the cashiers, and absolutely nothing of the sort took place.

What I’m trying to wrap my head around, is exactly why did this woman feel the need to make up this elaborate story?  What good could it possibly do for her?  There is no way that she could have imagined that the video would exceed 25 million views.  As the video did go viral, the story was covered by plenty of news outlets.  However, once some rudimentary research was done, it became rather clear that the entire thing was a complete and total lie.  Shockingly, Yore is being stubborn and sticking to her story, even going as far as saying she went back to the Walmart to find the employee, but was unsuccessful.  Its difficult to understand the upside for someone to go down the path of creating a fake story of this nature.  It happened earlier this year to Stephen Rannazzisi, who I also wrote about here, making up a story about escaping from the World Trade Center on 9/11, and after the lie was discovered, he hasn’t worked since.

While maybe it might be exciting to be in a viral video and achieve some sort of so called internet fame, concocting a bogus tale could destroy your reputation for life….and for what, some YouTube views?

The Business…and Data of Disney

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While I know its not for everyone, I’ve always been intrigued by the Disney Corporation and their theme parks.  Ever since going once as a child, the place has always impressed me, and I’ve managed to get back there every few years as an adult.  Over the Thanksgiving break, I spent some time with family in Walt Disney World in Orlando.  Within the last 18 months, they have rolled out a program/device called the ‘Magic Band‘.  It is a simple device you wear round your wrist that basically looks similar to a FitBit.  The Magic Band is specifically for people staying at one of the Disney resorts on their massive amount of property, and is mailed to people a few weeks before their trip.  For many it is like that of a holiday when these bands arrive.  When ours came, I could see why.  The packaging is like that of Apple, and makes you feel like you are receiving something special, instead of the rubber like bracelet that you think it is at this point.

Waiting in line is never fun, so disney also gives you the opportunity to go online and pick three rides a day for which you can obtain what they call a ‘FastPass‘.  This gives you an hour window to go to a ride and basically move directly to the front of the line.

Disney also relies heavily on their reservation system for all dining.  If you are staying on property, you can make a dining reservation up to 180 days in advance.  That seems a bit silly, but for many of the restaurants, they fill up just that quickly.  Your reservations are then tracked through your online account.

 

You are also given the option of pre-check in.  With this feature, you enter your credit card, as well as other necessary information and you simply receive a text when your room is ready.

When we arrived at the Polynesian resort, it was only noon and we knew our room wouldn’t be ready.  We simply left our bags with the bellhop and went outside to check out the pool.  It wasn’t 30 minutes later that I received  a text that the room was ready.  We went up to the room, and instead of a key you use your Magic Band to open the door.  Our bags showed up ten minutes later.

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When we got to the park, we didn’t have admission tickets, we simply pressed our magic band up against a kiosk, it lit up green, and were on our way.  The same method held true for the first ride that we had a Fast Pass for,we again touched our magic band to the kiosk and we were on the ride.  After the ride, we wanted to pick up a couple bottles of water, and instead of cash, we used our Magic Bands to pay for the water, which then charged it to our room.

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There is no question that all of this made for a convenient vacation for us, but what I couldn’t stop thinking about is the amount of data that Disney is able to collect from these Magic Bands.

They are able to tell what restaurants you eat at, and when, not to mention, they can tell exactly what you ordered.  They can also determine what rides you went on and when.  What hours you were in the park.  Exactly what hours you were in the room, when you entered the pool, what you spent at the gift shops, and on and on.

While many people may be hesitant about what their data is being used for, Disney has what I see is an incredible opportunity to basically give the consumer what they want.  The analysis they can do with this data is just about endless, and affords them the ability to make sound decisions.  With all of this data and technology, the Happiest Place on Earth, may actually become even happier!