After more than two years trying to find a home for WWE Network on cable, the company has taken a page from the Netflix revolution and will provide that content directly to its audience.
WWE Chairman/CEO Vince McMahon was at Wynn Las Vegas on Wednesday night for a news conference -- streamed on WWE's website -- announcing that WWE Network will debut on Feb. 24. The cost will be $9.99 a month -- with a six-month commitment -- and will include both a 24/7 network component and an on-demand element. That cost will give fans access to all pay-per-views, including WWE’s annual cash cow, WrestleMania.
The move culminates years of WWE acquiring the video catalogs of its former regional promotion foes for the content needed to fill a 24-hour network.
Along with the historical content, WWE will air original programming away from the ring. In 2012, WWE filmed the reality show “Legends House” -- featuring mainstays such as "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, Jimmy Hart, Hillbilly Jim and Tony Atlas living together -- and has been waiting for the WWE Network business model to work itself out so the series could air.
Michelle D. Wilson, WWE’s chief revenue and marketing officer, noted the value for fans by saying that just buying 12 pay-per-views in HD would cost $675 annually.
On Wednesday, WWE stock went up 2.53 percent to $16.22 per share on the New York Stock Exchange amidst rumors of the announcement.
WWE may have a financial buffer via its traditional TV outlets such as “Monday Night Raw” and “Friday Night Smackdown” to make up for the pay-per-view revenue it loses in securing WWE Network subscribers. (Individual pay-per-views will still be available through traditional cable outlets.)
According to a story in Variety last month, the company will begin shopping the rights to its TV shows this month. The report says WWE “has spent nearly two years quietly lining up rights to expire simultaneously in an effort to secure higher fees and appease shareholders who have grown increasingly frustrated that the company’s TV deals are not worth more at a time when live ‘event’ programming is more valuable than ever.”