The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of WrestlingInc or its staff
WWE has officially gone ahead with the much-talked about WWE Network and will finally launch the network February 24th, just in time for Wrestlemania season. The network is no longer a mystery, a series of grainy ads on Raw with no release date given, but it's coming, and WWE is hoping that it is going to be huge.
My understanding is that the network is going to be less of a network and more of a live streaming service. Essentially, it is Netflix, but minus the mail-order discs and exclusive to wrestling. This is a truly savvy move by WWE. They will have all their desired programming and original shows, but will not have to deal with any of the headaches that come with running an actual television network full-time. It is tremendously user-friendly and will allow subscribers to watch what they want, whenever they want.
The network is going to be priced similar to Netflix, at $9.99 per month, with a six month commitment. The big selling point will be that for that subscription fee, fans will be getting all 12 WWE PPVs, including Wrestlemania. If you are a big WWE fan and you purchase every WWE PPV for $60, you are now getting the opportunity to pay 1/6th of that price each month, in addition to getting a crapload of additional programming including all the past PPVs from not only WWE, but ECW and WCW as well. For the fan, that is an insane deal, and every WWE fan should be jumping for joy right now.
The big question mark is that they are now offering their PPVs for basically $9.99 each, plus a ton of other shows and on-demand content. As a fan that sounds like a great deal, but from a business perspective, I don't know how they are going to make money off of this. They will need SO many people to sign-up for this. Let's do some quick math:
Wrestlemania alone costs $60. If a million people purchased WM, they would make $60 million. Now some of that money will go to In-Demand or whatever, but they are still making a ton of cash. To make that money back, they would need 6 million people, about 4 million more than watch Raw, to have a subscription for April. They might get a larger audience then that 4 million because of overseas markets, (the network will not launch outside of the US until late 2014) but WWE is basically banking on every single person that watches WWE frequently to buy this thing, and I don't think that could possibly happen.
The big catch is the six month commitment. This ensures that fans can't just purchase Wrestlemania and then cancel their subscription. No, WWE will get all those freeloaders by making them pay for 5 additional PPVs, which will eventually equate to them paying $60 for Wrestlemania.
The subscription is going to kill WWE when it comes to their B-PPVs. There is a core group of WWE fans, most likely groups of friends who all chip in, who buy every single one of WWE's PPVs. Then you take a show like Battleground, a miserable show with little build-up and not a lot of marquee matches. The people who buy every single WWE PPV are basically the only people who buy shows like Battleground, and since they will now all have the WWE Network, no one will be left to buy the PPV for $60, and now WWE would need to have six times as many people who bought Battleground to have the subscription for WWE Network, again, a difficult mark that I find difficult to reach.
Before we go any further, I would like to admit that I am not a part of the WWE Network, nor am I an expert businessman. WWE could have this all figured out and are sure they are going to make money of the network, and all the concerns listed above aren't valid. I just thought I would point out a few potential problems for the WWE Network that could possibly arise when it launches.
Going in a completely other direction, the WWE Network will be the host of several new original shows that could range from highly-entertaining to downright stupid. I will now assume the responsibility of predicting what each of these announced shows will be like.
The show seems to be simply a recap of past Wrestlemanias, with commentary from WWE personnel who talk about the event and their matches. It will be interesting how much WWE keeps kayfabe a part of this show, because a lot of interesting behind the scenes stories could be told on the show. It will also remind us that not all WrestleMania's are created equal. Sure everyone can talk about Wrestlemanias 3, 14 and 18, but what about Wrestlemanias 7, 11 and 26? The show obviously has a limited shelf-life, but depending on how in-depth it is, it has the potential be a nice glimpse into the biggest wrestling show in the world.
The Monday Night Wars:
The show looks pretty much similar to the DVD of the same name that they released a while back. It will explore the unique time in the mid-late 1990s that generated the greatest interest in professional wrestling history. All that is nice and all, but history tends to be written by the winners, and since this will be entirely produced by WWE, it will be interesting to see how truly accurate their portrayal of the Monday Night Wars really is.
There is only one way this show makes it, and that is in being so bad that it is good. WWE has been very vague on what the show actually is, but it is understood that it is like the "Real World", with a bunch of retired WWE wrestlers living in a house together. I know that they have already filmed this, but WWE cannot have this show without Ric Flair, The Iron Sheik, and Scott Steiner being a part of it. In fact, the whole show really only needs to be those three guys and it will be a hit.
Typical countdown show where things such as "Best Finishing Move" and "Best Catchphrase" are counted down. The list will be determined by the WWE Universe, which has displayed over countless WWE App votes that they are extremely inept at accurately picking anything. Expect most content to be from the last 15 years and nothing to be from the pre-Hogan era. Unless they rig it of course.
WWE Superstars and NXT will also be present on the network, getting full-time homes for their product. Superstars is mostly a joke now, unless you are a huge JTG fan, but NXT has been WWE's best televisions show over the last few years, so hopefully being on the network will give it a greater audience.
The WWE Network, whether it succeeds or fails, is certainly going to change the way wrestling works in the United States, and WWE is putting a lot of eggs in this basket. Just hope that the basket doesn't have any holes.