I am a lifelong fan of wrestling particularly of World Wrestling Entertainment or WWE (formerly known as WWF) and have been going to their live events, ordering their Pay Per Views, and watching their television programs since I was 5 years old. As someone that has decided to cut the cord and get rid of cable I was very excited when WWE launched their own network on February 24.
The WWE first announced the concept of having their own television network in September 2011 with the idea that it would be a paid channel and offer live original and classic programming as well as Pay Per View (PPV) for a monthly fee. A launch date of April 2012 was announced but for a variety of reasons the launch wasn’t meant and for the time being the idea never came to fruition.
In January 2014 WWE began to again hint that they would be launching their own network and would make an official announcement on January 8th. Instead of being a traditional television network like ESPN or HBO the WWE network would be an online streaming app available on a variety of platforms and devices for a monthly fee of $10. The announcement was well received by fans who looked forward to access to a lot of their favorite wrestling content, and investors who saw WWE opening a potentially huge new revenue stream.
The WWE network offers great benefits to tis subscribers, the biggest of which is that it offers all of the companies monthly PPV events (now called “Specials”) as part of the monthly subscription. Even though you have to make a 6 month commitment when you sign up for the network, a cost of $60 spread out over those 6 months, their premiere annual event Wrestlemania alone costs around that much to order on PPV so if someone were to order Wrestlemania annually the network pays for itself with this one event. In addition to PPV events WWE network offers live original programming, network exclusive documentaries and specials, pre and post show coverage of their flagship cable program Monday Night RAW, and a variety of other live events.
For many WWE fans the main draw for the network isn’t the live programming but the WWE archives. At launch WWE offered every historical PPV they have ever offered as well as every PPV offered by former competitors WCW and ECW. This in addition to older television shows gives subscribers thousands of hours of content to watch and as of right now WWE has barely scratched the surface of adding content that they own the rights to so WWE should be able to keep wrestling fans happy for years to come.
The WWE network is really ahead of its time in terms of the way they are utilizing technology to deliver content, and like with any new venture there have been some growing pains. On launch day WWE was unable to keep up with demand for people signing up for the network and people would either not be able to register at all, would be registered twice, wouldn’t be able to access the network when they did sign up, and a bevy of other problems. The technological issues continued for several weeks with Xbox 360 users not having the network available to them at all, people being unable to watch content, or seek on the content they were able to view. Additionally the first live PPV offered on the WWE network froze mid-way through the event and did not return for over an hour. This left subscribers worrying about what would happen when WWE broadcast its most anticipated event of the year, Wrestlemania on April 6th, and in all honesty is why I have waited this long to review the network. Wrestlemania went off without any significant freezes or other issues and the complaints about the quality of the network have gradually decreased as WWE has sorted things out.
Another major gripe coming from WWE subscribers has been the rate at which archival footage has been added. WWE has a comprehensive library of classic footage and to date has only added a very small fraction of it, with promises of new content to continually be added. This has led to frustration for many subscribers who want to see specific content that has, as of yet, not been made available.
The network does offer a live stream 24 hours a day, but the live stream often becomes very repetitive showing the same programming several times a day weeks at a time. Furthermore some of the original shows created for the WWE network haven’t gotten good reviews such as WWE Legends House and could be looked at as filler content more than anything.
For decades WWE has been ahead of the curve when it comes to delivering programming. First with syndication, and later cable they have always been on the cutting edge of content delivery and the WWE network is no exception. While WWE is in somewhat of a unique position in that they own virtually the entire video history of their industry and can deliver it at any time. That said this format; paying to get the content you want when you want it, is what people that have decided to cut the cord and get rid of cable really want that is access to the content they want, when they want it, where they want it, at an affordable price. Wrestling may not be viewed as the most highbrow form of entertainment, but when it comes to using new technology to give its customers what they want WWE is once again at the forefront of their industry.
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