CES: WWE to Launch OTT Network

The WWE will go over the top of the cable industry with the Feb. 24 launch of a 24-hour streaming network that will feature the wrestling outfit’s pay-per-view events.

The announcement was made at a press conference Wednesday night.

The WWE Network, which has been in development for four years, will launch with WWE-produced original programming, reality shows, documentaries, classic matches and more than 1,500 hours of video on demand content, said company officials. Consumers will pay $9.99 per month with a six month commitment for the network, which will launch on desktops and laptops via WWE.com, as well as on Amazon’s Kindle Fire devices; Android devices such as Samsung Galaxy;  Apple iPads and iPhones; Roku boxes; and on video game consoles Sony PlayStation 3, Sony PlayStation 4 and Xbox 360.

WWE chief revenue and marketing officer Michelle Wilson said the WWE decided to offer an OTT network after concerns that it would not gain significant distribution from operators, satellite providers and telcos.

“None of those distributors were particularly looking to launch more networks; if anything they were looking to rationalize their lineups,” she said. “When we started to look at the economic tradeoffs and how quickly we could we could go over the top as compared to traditional distribution, it really became apparent that we could really give our fans a much better user experience with an over the top service.”

On the programming side, the WWE will feature all 12 of the WWE’s monthly PPV events, including the upcoming April 6WrestleMania XXXevent, as part of the subscription service. The company will still continue to offer events on a PPV basis despite the move, according to WWE Chief Strategy & Financial Officer George Barrios. He added the WWE believes revenues from WWE Network subscriptions will be able to supplement the cannibalization of PPV revenue.

“It’s a real big, transformative opportunity for us, which is why we’ve been at it for so long,” Barrios added.

The network will also launch with several new, original series such as The Monday Night War, a series exploring the mid-90s rivalry between WWE and WCW; WrestleMania Rewind, a comprehensive look back at the biggest moments of the WWE’s franchise PPV event; WWE Countdown, an interactive countdown series; and WWE NXT, featuring up-and coming Superstars and Divas.

Wilson said the network’s popular cable shows, including USA Network’s WWE MondayNight Raw and Syfy’s SmackDown will not migrate to the WWE Network even as the current deals for those shows expire at the end of the year. The company’s exclusive negotiating window with NBCUniversal for the shows expires at the end of the month; executives would not reveal the status of those discussions.

Raw and SmackDown will remain broadly distributed and become promotion for the network and vice versa,” she said.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.