Wrestling fans suddenly have a lot to watch. In the US today, the WWE Network is launching on mobile, streaming devices, and the web, offering live access to all monthly pay-per-view events as well as thousands of hours of on-demand content for $9.99 per month. The network's launch marks a big change in WWE's business model: instead of focusing on the sales of its monthly events for $44.95, it's hoping to sign up a wealth of subscribers at a lower rate to make up and eventually surpass the difference in revenue. And with pay-per-view as a whole on the decline, WWE is making a bet on that happening.
Streaming almost everywhere you'd want to watch
The WWE Network can be accessed from the web, from apps on iOS and Android, and from game consoles and streaming devices, including the Apple TV, the PlayStation 3 and 4, and the Xbox 360. The network plans on offering access to the Xbox One and select smart TVs too beginning this summer. The WWE also expects to expand the network to the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and several other regions by early next year.
The network's launch today is an ambitious dive into a business model that few traditional programmers have dared to touch: digital-only subscriptions. While many have called for networks like HBO to offer an online-only subscription, such a model is unlikely to happen due to the reliance many currently place on cable providers. But the WWE doesn't have a traditional network, and it's instead looking to successful digital offerings as a model — particularly MLB.com At Bat, which offers subscribers on-demand access to regular and postseason games for $2.99 per month. It may be a while before we know if the WWE can find a similar success, but it has plenty to offer, and the price is certainly right for fans.
So far, it looks like the network is off to a strong start. The WWE writes in a note on its homepage: "Please be patient if you’re ordering WWE Network as we’re experiencing extremely high demand."
Update: The launch of WWE Network has been marred somewhat by early technical problems. The company is claiming that Major League Baseball Advanced Media — the same digital division that handles MLB.tv — has been overwhelmed by demand ever since the web-based network went live at 9AM. WWE says that MLBAM is working aggressively to iron out these initial hurdles so that fans can get streaming sooner than later. The fact that WWE Network is straining MLB's digital division is likely a good sign for the network's fortunes, however.
MLBAM, WWE’s tech partner, was overwhelmed and its systems have been unable to process most orders since 9 am due to demand for WWE Network.— WWE Network (@WWENetwork) February 24, 2014