from the mind-equals-blown dept
World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., or the WWE, has previously not been known as the kind of company that is forward-looking in their business model efforts. The purveyors of professional wrestling made many lists of companies in support of SOPA and CISPA, while CEO and frontman Vince McMahon has, in the past, been quite lawsuit-happy when it comes to even the most modest relation to company trademarks. All this was done as the company dragged its feet more doggedly than any other sports entertainment company in holding onto their now-iconic pay-per-view business model. Even as they signed more and more network and cable television deals, those broadcasts all seemed to be chiefly used to push fans towards live events and the big events broadcasted solely on PPV.
And now, with a suddeness that is a little breathtaking, the WWE is leaping into the modern era with both feet in a way that far surpasses their more legitimate sporting brethren.
Starting on February 24, wrestling fans are going to be able to sign up for the WWE Network, an online 24/7 channel that will stream all of the company's 12 monthly pay-per-views, including Wrestlemania, and offer all of those, some original programing, "years" of old Raw and Smackdown episodes and... every single PPV show from WWF/E, WCW and ECW history. And NXT and Superstars. And live pre and post-shows for Raw and Smackdown. All of that for just $10 a month, with a six month commitment. That puts the initial bill at $60.That math is extreme, to say the least. Comparisons to what the WWE was asking their fans to pay in the PPV model were far more expensive, without even the most modest offering online in comparison. For them to now offer streaming of everything at that kind of price represents a huge departure that simply has no equal amongst professional sports. I'm not much of a professional wrestling fan, but I'm rooting for this to work wildly enough to grab the attention of the NHL, NBA, NFL and MLB, who offer online streaming services, but with more restrictions and price barriers than I care to recall.
So, why are they doing this? Well, likely the biggest reason is that the company can see the writing on the wall when it comes to how people today expect to get their entertainment.
WWE will still offer their 12 big shows through PPV, if people are interested, but the forecast here is pretty clear: PPV is the fool's option going forward. WWE does still broadcast its two big weekly shows, Raw and Smackdown, on cable. It will continue to for the foreseeable future. But everything else? It's online now and it's just made the gaming consoles and handheld devices of wrestling fanatics like myself much more likely to be the main portals through which we get our fix. Screw the cable box.That reference to gaming consoles? Yeah, the WWE has worked out deals with Sony and Microsoft to offer this streaming service throgh the last and new generation of consoles. Which is probably the other reason they're doing this: they're grabbing up new, younger customers with a streaming service that will bring in regular, predictable revenue. Rather than having fans that might save up to buy one or two PPV events a year, they're giving them everything at a cost that's reduced but repeated. It's a tradeoff that benefits their fans and themselves as a matter of scale and predictability. If it takes off, it's going to be a huge win all around.
In other words, despite its history, the WWE appears to be trying to give their fans what they want, how they want it, at a price they're likely to be willing to pay. Considering that their events have been illegally streamed for some time now, often at a lesser quality than a legitimate stream will offer, this is competing with free on a level other professional sports (other than, perhaps, the NCAA basketball tournement) haven't even tried. For sports fans, you should be hoping this succeeds in a big way.