WWE launches WWE Network, the Netflix of Wrestling

After months of buildup and with much fanfare, WWE launched their long-delayed and much-ballyhooed WWE Network today. Originally intended to be a TV network, after struggling with negotiations for years they turned it into an Internet-based streaming video service, available through apps on iOS (including AppleTV), Android, Roku, PS3, PS4, and Xbox 360. WWE says support for Xbox One is coming this summer.

A subscription to the WWE Network costs $9.99/month (with a mandatory six-month commitment, billable monthly or all at once), and includes access to every WWE, WCW, and ECW Pay-Per-View in history—including live streaming of all WWE and NXT Pay-Per-Views starting with Wrestlemania XXX, normally priced at $59.95. (Other WWE PPVs typically cost $44.95 apiece and air monthly.) A one-week free trial is available.

WWE is also producing original content for the Network, including pre-shows and post-shows for their live content, several reality TV programs, documentaries similar to their long-running documentary video releases, as well as including replays of their currently-running TV shows RAW, Smackdown, Main Event, Superstars, and NXT. WWE is also including “Flashback” episodes of RAW dating back to its premiere in 1993 and episodes of ECW Hardcore TV, with other content supposedly forthcoming as it’s digitized and cataloged.

Since purchasing WCW in 2001, WWE has had the most extensive pro wrestling video library in the world, owning the rights to most surviving video content of American pro wrestling filmed prior to 2001.

Launching the WWE Network is a major gamble for WWE. Broadcasting live Pay-Per-View events as a free part of network membership steps on the toes of Cable and Satellite TV providers, which is a huge profit center for them (and until now, for WWE). DISH Network declined to broadcast last night’s Elimination Chamber PPV (despite it airing before the Network launches and having a 30-day delay before being included in its video library), and claimed in a press release that it and other providers like DirecTV intend to assess whether or not to offer WWE Pay-Per-View events on a case-by-case basis.

Like any new video streaming service, the WWE Network is having a bit of a rocky launch—the web client is reporting “Media Error: Video not available” when trying to run videos, the iOS client is rejecting login attempts, and people who have managed to login have reported difficulty getting videos to stream without lagging and outright crashes.

The WWE Network is only available to customers in the United States.

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