Sunday Sermon: The WWE Network: Is it Best For Business Or should they Pull the Plug?

Brian Damage, Craig Wilson and Jamie Lithgow

(Image courtesy of

(Image courtesy of

In September of 2011, the WWE advertised the launch of a network exclusive to the company simply called the WWE Network. It was met with huge fanfare but that was 2 years ago and there is still no network to speak of. What happened? Is it still a reality? What can we expect if it does come to fruition? Is this a “Wrestlemania” or an “XFL” type of an idea? In this Sunday Sermon Brian, Craig and Jamie discuss the WWE Network, what they like and dislike about the potential of an exclusive wrestling network and if the project is ever going to get off the ground… Brian: After some research, as of August 2013, the WWE Network is still a possible reality.The concept has changed somewhat, as it will no longer be available as a “free” channel like say the E! Network, History or ESPN, but rather a pay channel much like HBO or Showtime. People would have to pay about $12 or $15 bucks a month. (£9 to £11 pounds in the UK) Included in the new network would be exclusive WWE content like “Legends House” featuring legends living under the same roof like Gene Okerlund, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Hillbilly Jim, Howard Finkel, Jimmy Hart, Roddy Piper, Pat Patterson and Tony Atlas. 11 out 12 pay per views would be available on the network with the exception being Wrestlemania. Also talked about were sitcoms starring WWE superstars, talk shows etc. So, what do you guys think?

Craig: I’m certainly starting to think that the longer we wait for this the less likely it is to happen. That said, I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t be interested in the WWE Network and that’s based solely on the video tape library that they have. It’d be great to spend days watching shows from the AWA, WCCW, WCW and Mid-South. Can’t say I’d be that fussed about the ‘Legends House’ though but if they started doing the Legends of Wrestling roundtables again I’d watch those. If The Network would guarantee a huge income wouldn’t it be better for the company to invest in that rather than into largely straight to DVD films that they make. That said, if it was surely someone at the company would have pointed that out and the film studio would be gone and we’d be able to watch The Network…

Jamie: I’m slightly conflicted in my views on the network, but not on what I think will be the outcome of this whole process: I just cannot see a WWE Network becoming a reality. It’s been two years and they’re still no further forward. If there was mileage in the idea then surely the appropriate bodies to make it come to life would have done so by now? With that said, I would be all over such a network! I have a pretty extensive library when it comes to wrestling, however I’m the indecisive type. I will always check my Sky+ planner to see if I have any NXT or Vintage Collection to catch up on before forcing myself to make a decision on something from my hard drive. Therefore a WWE Network would be perfect, I would be spoon fed retro wrestling. On the flip side, who else is gonna watch it? Wrestling geeks, but then who? Will the 10 year old John Cena fans want to watch old AWA or WCCW broadcasts? Would they sit down and watch a show about old wrestlers they don’t know living together in a house? Several years ago in the UK there was such a thing as The Wrestling Channel. It didn’t cover any WWE stuff obviously, but it did show ROH, CZW, World of Sport, Pro Wrestling NOAH and NJPW. I thought this channel was immense, but people like me and the others on the blog are few and far between. In the end The Wrestling Channel proved to be too niche so it started including more and more MMA and changed it’s name to The Fight Network, before finally folding.

The cast of 'Legends House', a show set to feature on The Network. (Image courtesy of

The cast of ‘Legends House’, a show set to feature on The Network. (Image courtesy of

Brian: Well here’s some key facts we need to keep in account and Jamie I am glad you brought up the Fight Network in the UK because the international audience plays a key role in this. From what I read, a large majority of the WWE’s business success comes from overseas. That is why you see the WWE continue to tour Europe, Asia and continue to try and crack the Latin American market like Mexico. If the network was to exist, it would have to get clearances in those markets as well. It isn’t going to be just a U.S. thing. As for the duration of time it is taking to get this network off the ground, the NFL network which covers the most popular sport in America…Football…took over 7 years to get off the ground. I think the biggest mistake by Vince McMahon was unveiling his idea before it was solidly packaged correctly.

Jamie: I feel like one of the vignettes, or at least some kind of press release, used the term “coming in 2012”. It may have said 2013, but it doesn’t matter, it didn’t happen in 2012 and it’s not going to happen in 2013. When they announced their plans and started making little promos and vignettes I, like most people, assumed that much of the leg work had been done. However, I think Brian is right in that WWE have announced an idea rather than a finished, or even viable, product. Chances are that they’re progress is probably par for the course, but they haven’t half shot themselves in the foot by getting our hopes up! Not that I genuinely believe I will ever see a WWE Network anyway.

Brian: The problems with network that Jamie brought up are viable…who beside wrestling geeks are going to purchase the network? I think that has been a huge problem for the WWE to get off the ground? That is why they changed business models and are making it a pay channel instead. I think there is a strong enough fan base for it to make its money back with the inclusion of pay per views etc…for a fan…the channel will pay for itself. That wrestling stigma though is bothersome…it’s almost unfair the way cable and satellite companies still think of pro wrestling as a dirty word. Yet, the pay per views are generating money for them…Raw and Smackdown are still the highest rated shows for their respective networks and yet other channels are spit out and put on cable that have nothing to offer anybody…

Craig: I think another thing you have to factor in is the fact that the WWE produces enough weekly wrestling content as it is, how many fans really have time to watch even more? Raw, Smackdown and NXT will take up the best part of six hours every week and add to that a 3 hour PPV every month too. Do you want/need more than that?

Jamie: I agree with that point, WWE produces too much content as it is. However, in my head at least, I don’t see there being all that much new content on the network. They produce so much television and have such a massive video library that they really don’t need to add anything new in order to start broadcasting. However, I wouldn’t pay £10 a month to watch highlights of Raw or Smackdown or an old-school event that I have on my hard drive. Which brings me to my next point… We assume a large proportion of the programming will be archive, retro material, right? What does that mean for their DVD business? Surely the Network would provide a lot of crossover. Also, torrents! I may be generalising here, but anyone who is that into old promotions like WCW, AWA etc. or just old WWE material, has surely already been introduced to the world of file sharing? Brian: Let me first address the over saturation of WWE programming…Yes I agree, the WWE has a plethora of TV shows on the market. I may be in the minority, but I can’t get enough of wrestling and wrestling history. Baseball is all spring, summer and fall and yet still has a network devoted solely to the game. The Major League Baseball network still does solid business despite it being on 7 days a week. I truly believe die hard fans will pay to have the option for a network…doesn’t mean you have to watch every second of it…just have the option be there when there is nothing else on TV. I have pay for HBO for movies…I don’t keep it on 24/7. As for the DVD market…DVD’s are quickly becoming extinct as the VHS tapes. I have a closet full of “bootleg” tapes of old territories and promotions around the world. I have Netflix which carries various wrestling DVD’s…. I would still personally purchase the network for the content that they have available. If the time comes when DVD’s are rendered totally useless, the WWE could still use the network to debut new documentaries and content exclusively.

The Legends of Wrestling roundtable discussions made for great TV, would a similar style show return on The Network? (Image courtesy of

The Legends of Wrestling roundtable discussions made for great TV, would a similar style show return on The Network? (Image courtesy of

Craig: If it was a on demand service I’d certainly be more keen. Means that I could fire it up just now and pick a random, say, WWF at MSG show rather than having to watch whatever was on now. A take on the Netflix style thing. With it being largely retro focussed the content I’d imagine I’d probably enjoy the network really as much as my good lady was annoyed by it! As they say, the proof is in the pudding. Just got to wonder if it will ever be served. Jamie: Exactly, you only really learn by doing. However going back to what Brian said about DVDs becoming extinct, surely then WWE should be thinking more towards an on-demand type service, like Craig mentioned, over the slightly antiquated idea of a TV network? At the end of the day WWE is more TV show than it is sport. With baseball, football and any other sport you care to mention there is mileage in a network due to a constant source of news from independent sources. The idea of TV is to get this information to you as quickly as possible. On the other hand, WWE can take it’s time, it’s in charge of it’s own news and it’s own events, which surely defeats the point of a network when in the presence of the on-demand option? Ultimately the one thing that is really pushing WWE towards a full network is the money from advertisers. There’s adverts on Netflix and similar services, but the money people will pay to have an ad on TV is second to none.

Brian: The WWE does in fact have an On Demand service available here in the States anyway called WWE 24/7. I think it’s being used as a beta test to see what content sells and what doesn’t for a full fledged network. I still like a complete network come to fruition with an On Demand service as a sidekick free of charge. HBO and other networks offer that as well. Think of it this way…11 of 12 pay per views will be available on the network. All pay per view’s are blind buys for 50 bucks a pop. If they were on the network for free and turned out to be junk shows like say Night Of Champions was this past month… could easily change the channel and watch something else…without the guilt of wasting your money. Is that not worth the price of a network alone?

Jamie: I must admit that I do like the idea of having Pay Per Views on the network, that is a saving grace in terms of a business proposition. However, even then, I still can’t help but feel that an internet based service would still be the best option. They could offer the PPVs on that platform, but you just know that some die hards would still order them to watch in HD on their televisions as well. Is WWE 24/7 the same as Classics on Demand? I’ve looked into the latter, only to be scuppered because I don’t live in the states. My overall feelings are that I would love WWE to open up their video library for us fans to really appreciate, I’m just not sure that a television network, as cool as that would be, is the best way to go about it.

Brian: WWE Classics on Demand is the name…it use to be WWE 24/7 and I apologize. Maybe the issue with me is I’m a bit “Old School.” I watch wrestling clips on my computer…but still enjoy watching everything on a TV and not a lap top, Phone or Desk top. I still like to utilize DVD’s much better than streaming videos. My take….A WWE network is better for business than WWE films. It could work…it can work…just have to give everybody something worth watching.

Craig: On Jamie’s point regarding PPVs, there was talk that every PPV other than Wrestlemania would be on The Network. That was certainly doing the rounds for a while. Surely then, for $15 a month that’s great value considering how much you have to pay for the pay per view. No?

All previous Sunday Sermons can be read here.

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