WWE Changes Television

One great thing about having young children is that they keep you on top of all the latest technology trends. My son, CJ (10) became a wrestling fan last year. Every Monday and Friday night he is glued to the television watching the latest episode. And the company is truly a marketing and entertainment genius. They understand demographics, history and BRAND better than almost any other company I have seen. I begrudgingly admit that on occasion I have been drawn into the shows and the characters.

wweOn Jan. 8, 2014, WWE made what I believe will turn out to be a groundbreaking announcement: It introduced the WWE Network. Rather than a premium channel on your cable subscription, this channel will only be available via streaming. This service also differs when compared to other streaming services. As opposed to HuluPlus and Netflix, WWE will have live content on the channel. It differs from a stream service like MLB.com (which does have live content), in the sense that they will have 24/7 live streaming content. This will include reality television (with WWE legends), “pre-game” and “post-game” shows for their flagship programs RAW and SmackDown, and other original programming. Like HuluPlus and NetFlix they also plan on having a massive VOD library of all past pay per view events, along with “epic matches” from the past.

The biggest sell of the WWE Network is that it will include all the pay per view events. If you are not a WWE fan, that may not mean much to you. However, I am willing to bet that one way or another you have heard of WrestleMania, the company’s flagship pay-per-view event. It happens every March, and costs a minimum of $60. Each month has its own unique event (e.g., Summer Slam, Royal Rumble, etc.) and those pay-per-views run about $45 each. So, if you were a die hard fan and bought each pay-per-view, you would pay over $600 per year. WWE announced today that the cost of the WWE Network will be $9.95 per month. That is a total of about $120 per year. The CEO of WWE, Vince McMahon, is credited by many as being a founding father of the pay-per-view experience. For him to realize that model is not sustainable financially (it costs too much!), and it is not sustainable in how a new generation is watching “television” should be a wake up call to the rest of the industry.

I hope that readers of this blog recognize that I am not writing about how wonderful the WWE network is, or pushing wrestling as a form of entertainment. Rather, I am pointing out what I believe is truly one of the first major shifts in how we consume our entertainment. In fact, it is such a major shift, I don’t even know what to call the activity. When you watch this on your iPad, you are not “watching TV,” so what are you doing?

Whether you are an integrator, a designer or a end user, this is your future. I actually suggest that you sign up for the service for six months, if for no other reason than to experience what your customers will be asking you about in a matter of weeks.

What are your thoughts? Has WWE just shown us the future of “television?” Or, is this simply a ploy to enhance the pocketbooks of the McMahon family? If it is the future, what do we call it? I look forward to hearing from you.