The WWE Network: What It Means for Fans and The Business

We take a look at the details of the new WWE Network, the value it offers, and the implications for the business!

Relive every Stone Cold “Stunner!” Watch Hulk Hogan turn on the WCW and join the nWo! Watch Rocky Maivia become The Rock! And even save money on pay-per-views! The WWE Network is coming, and we “break it down” for you…yeah, a DX joke since you can go back and watch them, too! If you’re interested in professional wrestling, by now you probably know the basics of the WWE’s new 24/7 wrestling service, the WWE Network. Let’s run through the details real quick, then we can take a look at what they all mean and how you can really benefit from them.

The WWE Network will launch on Monday, February 24th at 9:00am EST. It will be available to stream round-the-clock. Desktop and laptop computers will be able to view it through wwe.com, and the WWE app will have an update so that you can watch it on Android and iOS devices, Sony PlayStation 3 & 4, and Xbox 360 (Xbox One availability is coming this summer). As of this writing, the monthly subscription charge is $9.99 per month (plus tax where applicable) for a 6-month commitment. At launch, the company is advertising over 1,500 hours of on-demand content, including all WWE, WCW, and ECW pay-per-views, with new content added regularly. If you sign up when WWE Network first becomes available, you’ll even receive Wrestlemania 30 in that package. If you miss the newest RAW, Smackdown, or Main Event episode, they will be available to watch, but it’s still unknown how soon after airing they will be available. NXT and WWE Superstars will also be available to view. All content on the WWE Network will be available in HD, and we’re told it will be uncut and uncensored.  

Okay, now that we have the basic details of it, let’s take a look at how you can make use of the wrestling fans’ equivalent of Netflix!

THE PRICEAs mentioned, the WWE Network will start off as a 6-month block subscription for about $54.94 plus any applicable taxes (which is about $9.99/month +tax). Included in your 6-month subscription will be whatever new pay-per-view events air within that time. So if you purchase a subscription on launch day, you will get any ppvs that air for the next 6 months, including Wrestlemania 30. That’s not a bad deal! If you planned on getting Wrestlemania 30 anyway, you’d only be paying a few dollars more for six months of the WWE Network plan, plus you’d get all of the other pay-per-views along with it, AND the streaming content. There has been no word yet on replay or on-demand availability of special events like pay-per-views.

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AVAILABILITY

While it is called the “WWE Network”, it’s not actually a TV network. You won’t be able to order it through your cable provider, but rather through the WWE itself. Right now, this is the biggest drawback of the whole concept. Even though you can watch it through your desktop, laptop, and many mobile devices, it’s not directly available on your television. That might turn some people off to it, despite the fact that most devices can connect to televisions via some sort of cable, or in the case of some SmartTV’s through a wireless connection. So if you are bothered thinking you’ll have to watch content on your iPhone or have to huddle the family around the laptop to watch a pay-per-view, do a little research and you should be able to find a way to watch all of the action on your tv. With Xbox and Playstation already on-board with the WWE app, you’ll be able to watch everything through there, just like you do with their Netflix app.

THE CONTENT

Pay-Per-Views: Besides the new pay-per-views that will air during your subscribed time block, you’ll also be getting every WWE, WCW, and ECW ppv that has ever aired. Are you too young to have seen ECW pay-per-views, or are you an older fan that wants to go back and re-watch guys like Hogan and Savage in the early days of WWF? You can do it now! They’ll be just a few clicks away at any time of the day. But that’s just for pay-per-views…

TV Shows: Now not only do we get older pay-per-views, the WWE Network also offers old episodes or Monday Night Raw, Monday Nitro, Smackdown, and possibly others! Think about how awesome this is for a moment. If you’re a fan that terribly misses The Attitude Era, you can do what I plan on doing: every few days I am going to watch a Monday Nitro, then immediately watch that same night’s Monday Night RAW. That’s what I used to do, and plan on doing it again. It will probably be a lot smoother watching this time since you’ll be able to fast-forward through Kwee Wee matches. If you were too young to live through it, you can go back and see what all the hubbub is about. Also, new episodes of the WWE’s “minor league” NXT will be available to view.

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New Content: While you’ll have the opportunity to watch any content that is available any time you want, there will be also scheduled programming with new shows created just for the WWE Network. Most notable is Legends House, which was filmed last year and will premiere in April. Legends House is essentially The Real World, but with WWE Legends like “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, “The Mouth of The South” Jimmy Hart, Pat Patterson, and “Mean” Gene Okerlund, to name a few (I’m taking bets on Patterson walking around the house in his underwear for most of the show). Another series is The Monday Night War which will be a look at the major events that took place on WWE and WCW programming during that time and the impacts they had on the battle for wrestling company superiority. WWE Countdown is the network’s interactive show that will let viewers share their opinions on the shows and the superstars. Right now, we’re told that viewers will connect with the show through “digital polling and social media interaction,” so I don’t think they’re going to be taking phone calls on this one like Byte This used to do, unfortunately. WWE has also said we’ll be getting live pre-shows and post-shows for RAW and Smackdown.

TV Rating: I feel like an old geezer that’s about to talk about how life used to be different, but here goes. Before the PG-Era, there was a time called The Attitude Era where genital jokes, scantily-clad women, and people yelling “Suck it!” were pretty much the norm on Monday Night Raw. Since then, any home video releases have edited out a lot of what fans came to expect from that era. With the WWE Network, we’re told fans will get everything “uncensored and unedited.” That’s great for a lot of older fans, but there is something else to consider here: the younger fans. Some households have kids who watch WWE programming and might be too young to know which “puppies” Jerry Lawler is screaming about every other minute during older episodes of RAW. Fortunately, the WWE Network app has a parental block you can activate to keep them from watching TV-14 or TV-MA content.

RUMORS

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We noted earlier that very little of the content on the WWE Network will be old territorial footage and while WWE will add new content weekly, they will also be removing content from time to time.

We mentioned the episodes of RAW, Nitro, and Smackdown, but we haven’t had confirmation about other shows or even shows from other companies like WCCW or the AWA. It’s rumored that the Network will primarily focus on shows from the 1990s to present, which should include ECW, but we have no idea yet on any other shows.

Still angry about the Chris Benoit situation and don’t want to see him on any shows? WWE thought about you and will reportedly be posting a disclaimer before you view any content that Benoit is in. The gist of the advisory message will be that “all characters on this show are purely fictional.” You know, because it is still real for some people.

Are you a fan of the Prime-Time Players? Well Titus O’Neill and Darren Young have been tweeting that a behind-the-scenes show with them might be one of the new programs.

— nodaysoff DYoung (@DarrenYoungWWE) January 18, 2014— Titus O’Neil (@TitusONeilWWE) January 15, 2014

So what does the WWE Network mean for the company itself? With viewership at a low and pay-per-view buyrates declining, it could be just what the company needs to build itself up…or be a huge financial disaster. Let’s look at the pay-per-view situation first. Except for Wrestlemania, all WWE pay-per-view events are $44.99 (standard definition or SD video). Some have better cards than others, so they get more buys. If a household bought each pay-per-view for a year, that’s 11 total events at $44.99 ($494.89) plus Wrestlemania at $59.99 for a yearly total of $554.88. On the other hand, if you buy two 6-month blocks of the WWE Network, (which includes every pay-per-view for the year) your total would be $109.88, a potential loss of $445 for the WWE.

The WWE said in their launch press conference that if they can get around one million subscribers who buy subscriptions for the year that they will break even. There has been some backlash, specifically from DirectTV, who have gone on record saying they might cut ties with WWE because they will be losing out on the 50/50 split they currently share for pay-per-views. How much this will affect other cable providers remains to be seen.

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In 2013, the average buyrate of a WWE pay-per-view was right around 200,000 buys at an average cost of $44.99. With a 6-month subscription to the WWE Network at $15 less than the price of just one average WWE pay-per-view, it’s not inconceivable to think they people are going to subscribe to save around $200. And with people saving so much money to watch not only the premium events, but everything else the company is offering in their service, it may not be unimaginable to think they could hit a million subscribers in the first year. Whether those subscribers will stick around after they have watched a great deal of the content already is going to be interesting to see.

But that’s “real business” talk. What about what the WWE Network can do for “The Business” itself? Well for starters, there are a lot of WWE fans out there. Of the ones already watching we can be sure a lot will want the Network, not only to save money on pay-per-views, but because of the new content. As for the older fans, if you’re old enough to remember the ratings back in the late ‘90s, WWE (and even WCW) were routinely pulling in roughly double the viewership they are today. So where did all of those millions of people go?

Some of the drop in viewership can be traced to the sale of WCW to Vince McMahon. WCW fans during the Monday Night War era watched Nitro and then checked out RAW to see what the WWE was doing. After the Monday Night War, the WWE seemed to lose that competitive spark and to be honest, the writing of WWE programming kind of went downhill. Since the WWE Network will air old WCW programming these “lost fans” are now potential buyers. Let’s not count out the casual wrestling fans who liked the product at some time, but haven’t been all that into it in the past few years. The WWE Network will provide a great opportunity for the casual fan to catch up since all of the shows will be available to view.

So how will this play out? Is this the future of the WWE, or will it be replacing XFL jokes in a years’ time?

WWE has released a video demo of the WWE Network App:

And, if you’re still on the fence about subscribing when launch day comes, there will be a free one-week trial for the Network that will run from February 24th-March 2nd!

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