For the past two years, WWE fans old-and-new, investors and various news sites and media alike have been waiting for the announcement of the WWE Network.
Finally, after the countless WWE investor calls teasing this venture, countless articles by people inside-and-outside the wrestling community speculating the WWE Network and fans clamoring for something, anything, the WWE finally delivered its news to everyone last night.
Last night, live from the Wynn Hotel And Casino in Las Vegas at CES 2014, in front of a packed house, the WWE officially announced its ground breaking online 24×7 linear and on-demand WWE Network.
The WWE Network will launch on February 24, 2014, immediately following WWE Raw on USA, at the cost $9.99 per month, which puts it right in-line with the UFC Fight Pass, that was just launched earlier this month.
Although, and this is important, unlike the UFC Fight Pass which can be purchased month-to-month for $9.99, the WWE Network will be available for $9.99 with the purchase of a six-month commitment starting on February, 24, 2014. That commitment ensures WWE fans get access to all 12 of the WWE’s PPV’s per year, and of course other commitment and month-to-month plans will be available at launch.
Now, the big question is what will be included in this online 24×7 linear and on-demand WWE Network? Here’s the full list:
WWE Network is a 24/7 streaming service with both scheduled programming and over 1,500 hours of on-demand programming.
All 12 WWE Pay Per View events will be included with the service beginning with Wrestlemania 30 on April 6 live from New Orleans.
Over 300 PPV events will stream on demand including every WWE, WCW and ECW from 1985 onward.
Television programming will also be provided on demand including both RAW and Smackdown shows.
WWE Network will be available on desktops and laptops via WWE.com. On February 24, WWE Network will also be available through the WWE App on: Amazon’s Kindle Fire devices; Android devices such as Samsung Galaxy; iOS devices such as Apple iPad and iPhone; Roku streaming devices; Sony PlayStation® 3 and Sony PlayStation® 4; and Xbox 360. Availability on additional devices, including Xbox One and select Smart TVs, will follow this summer.
Canada, UK, Northern Europe and the North Atlantic, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Hong Kong are listed as future locations for the launch in late 2014, early 2015.
Original programming announced includes NXT, WWE Legends House, Wrestlemania Rewind, WWE Countdown, Monday Night War (RAW vs. Nitro) and other groundbreaking original series, reality shows and documentaries, and the most comprehensive video-on-demand library featuring all WWE, WCW and ECW pay-per-views and classic matches uncut and uncensored as well as replays of Raw and SmackDown episodes. Additional programming, including a live daily studio show coming this summer, and video-on-demand content will be added regularly.
One of the biggest pieces of this network, which is unquestionably the first-of-its-kind, is the 24×7 linear WWE Network channel. For the first time ever, WWE fans will be able to tune into a 24×7 television channel, just like you would HBO, but with the key difference being you can start the television channel at anytime.
For example, let’s say you missed WWE Raw and wanted to catch the replay running on the 24×7 linear WWE Network channel at 9 a.m., and let’s say you came in 10-minutes late to the start, you can actually tell the channel to start from the beginning of that show, or any other show previous to it in the guide.
In other words, for the first time, people are actually able to control the channel on-demand and however they want. Confused? Think about it like this, imagine coming home, 30-minutes into a live UFC event, with this linear design, you’d be able to roll back the clock and not miss a single second of the UFC action. Something I am sure a great deal of other non-traditional networks will look to copy for the future.
There is obviously a bunch more to this WWE Network and for those interested can find all of that detailed information on this page.
Now, speaking of the UFC, from what I understand there were UFC representatives in the building for the announcement, and I hope they were paying close attention because not only was the WWE presentation on another level, but the entire offering. Especially since it’s the same price, at roughly the same launch time, and is clearly a upgrade to the UFC Fight Pass offering.
Not to mention, the WWE last night offered up all-kinds of helpful videos on how the network works, the on-demand features work, the linear channel works, high-level feature breakdowns and even trailers for all of its upcoming content, something the UFC has failed to do so far for its fans.
Essentially, to me, what the WWE did last night besides blow the UFC Fight Pass “launch” out-of-the-water, was gave the UFC a template to work towards its paid launch of the Fight Pass product.
Now, sure, the WWE and the UFC are two totally different companies so it is hard to really say which one is better than the other out-the-gate, but lets not forget that the WWE has also been working on an its offering for two-years and is arguably abandoning its PPV revenue model. Unlike the UFC, which is looking to sell Fight Pass as a complementary piece to the UFC fan, experience, all while not truly sacrificing their reliance on the PPV business model.
Then again though, some of the glaring differences out-the-gate are hard to ignore. For example, just look at the platform availability of both platforms. The WWE is launching on over 10 different platforms including its WWE App that has been downloaded over 5-million times. That means on launch day, when the WWE App users download the WWE App update, they will have (subscription) access to this platform without really having to do anything. Sure, some UFC fans already had UFC.tv loaded on some devices, but nothing like the 5+ million the WWE already has. In other words, the distribution of the networks potential is already there.
Further, and this too me is huge, look at how the WWE hit every single generation and demo with this network. Whether you are a 50+ year old guy, who watched the WWE as a kid and want to relive the memories, or you are a 10 year old kid just learning about the WWE and wanting to build memories, this platform offers something for both of you. Comparatively, the UFC of course does the same thing here, but the primary focus is certainly the 18-54 male demographic more than anything else.
In other words, the WWE platform extends generations of fans and for the same price, it is hard to argue which one gives you more bang-for-the-buck.
Lastly, make no mistake about it, whether you love-or-hate the WWE, this WWE Network launch was the best gift to UFC fight fans. The UFC now has a template for how to properly launch a network and don’t think for one second that those UFC representative in attendance were not paying full attention to what they need to do to the Fight Pass.
So, before we call this an arms race, let’s remember one thing that Eric Biscoff and Vince McMahon taught us in the 1990’s “competition breeds success.”