WWE officials are currently working on plans for big changes to the WWE Network.
The current plan calls for changes to be implemented in 2019, according to PWInsider. Vince McMahon is said to be personally overseeing the process and is working on a one-on-one basis with Kevin Dunn and Chief of Staff Brad Blum on ways to change WWE’s original programming strategies, which would see the roll-out of the long-planned tiered version of the Network along with new, interactive aspects.
It’s no secret that WWE has talked about introducing tiered subscription levels to the Network, similar to Hulu and other streaming platforms. The idea is that viewers can pay more money for commercial-free programming. There’s no word yet on what these tiers may consist of but they could be similar to what was being considered in 2016.
One plan considered in 2016 would have been free with 5 hours of archived material, 5 five-minute video clips and a 24/7 live stream that would include WWE content without pay-per-view events, WWE NXT and the Cruiserweight Classic. The free package would feature commercials and would be available for viewing on all devices. The second plan considered in 2016 was to be priced at $4.99 per month with the WWE Network as it exists now, with the exception of NXT and their Takeover specials. It would have included limited commercials and access to the “big four” pay-per-view events, a Video-On-Demand proponent that would add all new WWE “live events” (presumably RAW, SmackDown, etc.) 30 days after their original air date, but only accessible on tablets and mobile phones. The third plan considered in 2016 was priced at the current rate of $9.99 and would have included the Network as it exists now, except NXT would have aired live each week. That third plan would have included limited commercials. The final plan being considered back in 2016 was to be priced at $14.99 monthly. This would have included a commercial-free version of the Network with all current features, live NXT airings, a weekly Cruiserweight Classic series plus access to “independent wrestling content such as TNA and Ring of Honor” along with extra “Fan Perks” such as offline content downloading, early ticket ordering, invitations to exclusive in-person VIP meet-ups, the chance to vote for the WWE Hall of Fame, small group chats, exclusive second-screen experiences.
WWE gauged fans for feedback on more potential Network services in 2017, including new, original programming as part of a premium-pried tier. This would have included live events, audio content with sports radio-style call-in shows and WWE music & podcasts, tournaments to air from different regions such as Mexico and Canada, “regional independent wrestling promotions”, some programming that would be edgy or rated TV-14 (including a tease for another ECW revival), comedy programming (including Superstar Roasts and Southpaw Regional Wrestling), and original dramas (described then as WWE’s version of Game of Thrones).
It will be interesting to see if Impact Wrestling content is included in one of these potential WWE Network tiers. We know that WWE and Impact officials met at WWE HQ in Stamford, CT last month. It’s unlikely that the weekly Impact TV show would air on the WWE Network due to Impact’s existing TV deals but it’s possible that WWE could have access to the Impact/TNA tape library. PWInsider adds that WWE is looking at acquiring other wrestling video libraries once again, something that they have backed off of in recent years. WWE currently has the rights to the video libraries for Insane Championship Wrestling (ICW) and PROGRESS Wrestling in the UK, and there has been talk of airing those promotions on the WWE Network for a few years now. It’s also believed that promotions from the WWN Live library could air on the WWE Network, including EVOLVE.
WWE officials have been working hard at mapping out the future of original programming on the WWE Network and all existing & announced programming will likely move forward as planned but the door is said to be wide open for other types of programming to premiere beyond that. Any content that falls under the original programming category is in a bit of a review period while they determine how that programming will be used on the Network in the future, if it will be used. WWE has issued several Fan Council surveys over the past year or so to get feedback on potential Network programming. We can expect to see more of those surveys as they work to lock-in these new strategies.
There’s no solid word yet on when these major Network changes could be revealed but word is that they hope to lock in the future Network strategies within in the next month or so, if not sooner. The idea is to implement these changes in early 2019. The WWE Network launched in February 2014 and an early 2019 roll-out could be a good way to mark the 5th anniversary.