LAS VEGAS — Look out, UFC Fight Pass. The WWE is ready to Rock Bottom the digital network competition.
The sports entertainment company was on hand at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to announce the details of the highly anticipated WWE Network, a 24/7 streaming and video on demand service. Starting Feb. 24, WWE fans will have access to all 12 live pay-per-views (including WrestleMania 30 in April), new original programming and an extensive collection of old WWE, WCW and ECW programming.
The best part?
The service will only cost $9.99 a month (though WWE is requiring a six-month commitment), the same price as UFC's new digital venture, Fight Pass, which was announced prior to UFC 168 last month.
"Take notice ... WWE is in a class by itself," WWE superstar John Cena told Yahoo Sports about how the network could change the digital sports landscape. "We know our fans are the reason why we're here and we always over-deliver and I'm sure they will be happy with everything the WWE Network has and I know for a fact that it will set the standard on how any other entity presents itself on a network platform."
The WWE Network is partnering with MLB Advanced Media to provide the streaming infrastructure. Content will be made available via WWE.com, the WWE app, iOS and Android devices, Roku, Sony PlayStation (3 and 4) and Xbox 360 (Xbox One starting in the summer). The new original programming will include pre- and post-shows for WWE staples RAW and SmackDown and Legends House, a reality series featuring iconic 80s icons like "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan and "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. Also slated are shows centered around WrestleMania, the WWE/WCW rivalry from the mid-90s and a live daily studio show starting in the summer. Fans in countries like Canada and the United Kingdom will have to wait until the end of 2014 or early 2015 before gaining access.
Vince McMahon has come up with a share of brilliant (PPVs, TV syndication) and not so brilliant (XFL) ideas during his time as WWE's CEO, but one Hall of Famer thinks the WWE Network might take the cake.
"I think it’s going to be No. 1," Steve Austin said. "There are so many options here. It’s so slick. It’s like YouTube plus a million. "He’s [McMahon] had some great ideas, but this is No. 1."
The concept of the WWE Network has been in the works for nearly three years. The original launch date was slated for April 1, 2012, but those plans were quietly put on the back burner as the network struggled to secure deals with cable providers.
"I think what we recognize is our fans are willing to pay for quality content, but I think what we are finding though is more and more fans want the flexibility to watch when they want and how they want," said Perkins Miller, WWE's executive vice president of digital media. "They want to watch on any of their devices. They want to watch it live. They want to watch it on demand. So the ability to bundle up our pay-per-views this way and deliver it to all these platforms is really what’s driving this decision."
Time will tell whether the decision to infiltrate the digital space and move away from the tried-and-true cable pay-per-view model is a good one, but all signs point to the WWE having a championship product on their hands.