I’ve gotta say, the announcement of the WWE Network seems to act as a hand reaching back in time to lost fans who don’t watch the product any more or who want to relive stuff from their childhood. I mean, how many times did the announcement make mention of Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant from WrestleMania III?
There’s little reason for any fan, current or erstwhile, not to give this streaming online network a shot. For $9.99 for an initial six-month commitment, you can see WrestleMania (at least this year) and the other monthly pay-per-views, which is a huge savings over ordering even just Mania on its own through cable TV or satellite. It’s clear the WWE wants a huge turnout of initial subscribers to impress stockholders and business analysts.
If the network takes off, it will mark the end of wrestling PPVs as many of us have known it since the late 1980s, which is a risky and ballsy move to make. Once fans get used to not paying full price for PPVs any more, they will never go back to it, even if they don’t continue as network subscribers.
For me, the on-demand library of wrestling matches is a big reason I will be signing up for the network, which first becomes available on February 24, 2014. I have to imagine that many of the old Boston Garden matches the WWE taped for New England Sports Network in the 1980s will be offered for viewing.
Vince McMahon changed wrestling history when he began the WWF’s national expansion in 1984. Since that point, it seems he has tried and failed to make a broader impact on U.S. television and pop culture (witness the WBF, the XFL, WWE movies, the World Restaurant, etc.).
Now, after all this time, the WWE Network may make its own unique mark as the first 24/7 streaming network of its kind, which seems to be a harbinger of what Internet TV has to become.
I bet a lot of people, wrestling fans or otherwise, are going to be closely watching what happens.