Prior to the launch of the WWE Network in 2014, there had been rumors and reports for years that WWE was eyeing their own station. That's not a typo, many of the rumors revolved around an actual broadcast channel rather than the On Demand structure that we now know the WWE Network as. Rather than what currently exists, imagine something similar to the NFL Network, NBA-TV, or the MLB Network. As far as On Demand content goes, WWE did have a service called WWE 24/7 (later WWE Classics) available through many cable operators with a library of content, though nothing even close to what the WWE Network offers today. It turns out that was merely a preview of what we would get in 2014.
During an appearance on the CMO Moves podcast, Stephanie McMahon talked about the original plans for the WWE Network to be a cable broadcast network.
“[WWE Network currently has] around, and of course, there’s a lot of trim, but we’re around two million subscribers, and you think about the fact that we intentionally cannibalized our own pay-per-view business and it was a huge risk, particularly at that time. It was a really big calculated risk and that’s what we believe in, taking calculated risks and it was based on research,” McMahon said. “We were actually pretty far down the pipe with a linear deal, but they wanted to lock up our rights for ten years and we saw this opportunity. So we did some more research, [and we] found that our fans were five times more likely to watch online video than at that time, just in America than the American norm, and we decided we had a real opportunity and that’s why we went for it and it was hugely profitable for us. More than doubled what we were doing on pay-per-view.”
There have been reports in recent months that WWE could be in the process of selling their PPV rights to another player in the streaming market. However, once the COVID-19 pandemic began, those reports came to a close. That said, WWE is definitely still exploring the possibility and there could be more changes to the WWE Network in the months ahead. WWE launched a free tier of the Network recently, and a more expansive structure to the paid tiers is going to launch at some point in the future.
H/T to Fightful for the transcript.
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