Wrestling is about to become an app on your phone, tablet, and connected device, powered by the same technology that runs MLB At Bat. After years of delays, World Wrestling Entertainment said tonight it will proceed with the launch of the WWE Network, delivering all 12 monthly pay-per-view specials and a massive library of wrestling content for $9.99 a month. The network goes live Feb. 24.
In addition to new shows, the app will also grant you access to more than 100,000 hours of video-on-demand content, including every previous pay-per-view event from WWE, WCW, and ECW. It will become available on desktops and laptops and through the WWE app for iOS and Android, and the Kindle Fire. Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and 4, and Roku will also be able to access the network. The network will be available in the United States to start, with additional countries coming later this year and early next year.
WWE estimates it needs at least 800,000 subscribers to break even
WWE announced the service tonight during an event at CES in Las Vegas. "Today is a great day to be a fan," said Vince McMahon, WWE's chairman, on stage at the Encore Theater. Indeed, the network is offering fans something they have craved for years — instant, on-demand access to the biggest moments in sports entertainment history. It's also expanding its lineup of original programming, with new shows including Legends House, a show in which eight former stars shack up and yell at each other for various reasons. Another show, WWE Countdown, will allow fans to vote on the best wrestlers and moments.
The network represents WWE's effort to mimic the success of the NFL Network, which has enabled the league to generate licensing fees and advertising revenue from its library of programming even when football is out of season. A decade after its launch, the NFL Network generates $1 billion in annual revenue and is reportedly valued at more than $5 billion. But where NFL Network is carried on cable providers, WWE Network is a purely digital play.
The network was built with the help of MLB Advanced Media, creators of the popular MLB At Bat service for watching professional baseball. WWE approached MLB about six months ago to ask for help building the service, said Bob Bowman, president of MLB Advanced Media, during the event.
Giving away monthly pay-per-view specials for $9.99 when they previously cost $44.95 will cut into WWE's revenue in the short term, but executives hope to make it up over time as the network's subscriber base increases. The company told Variety that it will break even after signing up between 800,000 and 1 million subscribers.