WWE Network is an over-the-top streaming service and digital television network owned by the WWE. In Malaysia and MENA, it operates as a television network, and in the rest of the world as a streaming service using the infrastructure of BAMTech. It was originally announced in 2011. On January 8, 2014, WWE announced the network would launch on February 24 in the United States. The company stated on July 31 that the service was expected to go live in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Mexico, Spain, Turkey, the Nordics, the Middle East and North Africa, Worldwide among other countries starting on August 17. It was unexpectedly made available in the UK and Ireland a week earlier than planned, on January 13, 2015, after a delay from the previous November. The WWE Network consists of both a 24-hour linear streaming channel and on-demand programming from WWE’s library.
Development and U.S. launch
The origins of the WWE Network can trace back to 2000 when USA Network filed the lawsuit against the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now known as the WWE) due to breach of contract which saw most of its programming moved to Viacom-owned TNNand MTV. The Delaware Chancery Court ruled in favor of the WWF in June 2000. Then CEO, Linda McMahon, revealed that WWF wanted its own cable network and testified that before WWF signed a rights deal with Viacom, the company had floated the idea of acquiring USA’s Sci-Fi Channel, and reformatting it as a dedicated wrestling network. USA executives rejected the idea, and McMahon said that former USA Networks President Barry Baker encouraged her to talk to other programmers about potential deals. “I can tell you right now, Linda, you’re not going to get anybody to give you a network,” McMahon testified. In 2005, USA Network re-acquired the rights to all WWE programming.
In September 2011, WWE officially announced plans to launch the WWE Network in 2011 as a pay-TV channel. WWE then conducted a survey asking people if they would pay for the WWE Network if it were a premium channel. In an email sent to WWE fans who might be interested in the WWE Network, WWE surveyed fans for their thoughts about the WWE Network airing WWE’s pay-per-views to subscribers for no additional charge. The survey also noted that feature repeats of Raw and SmackDown, as well as footage from World Championship Wrestling (WCW), Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), XFL, Smoky Mountain Wrestling (SMW), American Wrestling Association (AWA), and WWE movies would also make the lineup. Original programming was also noted in the survey.
As the result of an online poll, WrestleMania Rewind was chosen as a name for a new WWE Network show on October 17, 2011. The original launch date was set for April 1, 2012, which would have coincided with WrestleMania XXVIII, and WWE’s official website featured a countdown clock that would have expired on April 1. The clock was quietly removed, and the network did not launch as advertised. WWE chief marketing officer Michelle Wilson allayed fears about the future of the WWE Network, saying “There will be a WWE network in some shape or form. We are in late-stage negotiations with distributors”, and confirmed that WWE Legends’ House had been filmed. In April 2013, WWE had switched plans and aimed to release the WWE Network as a premium pay-TV outlet, with a potential price of $15 a month.
On Old School Raw in January 2014, WWE ran teasers promoting an announcement on January 8 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, later confirming that the announcement concerned the WWE Network. At the Consumer Electronics Show, WWE revealed a comprehensive plan which would see a launch date of February 24, 2014 in the United States. WWE Classics on Demand closed on January 31, 2014 to make way for the WWE Network. A free trial period was offered during the week of the launch. The logo initially used for the WWE Network eventually became the standard logo used by the WWE corporation in August 2014.
In April 2014, ahead of WrestleMania XXX, the Network received acclaim, with The New York Times saying that WWE had “positioned themselves on the cutting edge of Internet television.” Later that month, the company announced that the network had 667,000 subscribers, short of the one million subscribers they needed to break even. As WWE’s stock fell 50% the following month, Forbes described low subscription numbers as being of “additional concern” for investors after WWE’s underwhelming NBCUniversal renewal deal. WWE offered a second free preview week of the WWE Network, which started July 7, in an attempt to sign new subscribers. A second report released at the end of July indicated that the network had reached 700,000 subscribers. WWE’s goal was to reach one million subscribers by the end of 2014.
On July 31, 2014, the company announced a 10-year, Canadian distribution deal for WWE content with Rogers Media which will see the company distribute WWE Network as a premium television service. Also on that date, it was announced that the WWE Network would launch in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mexico, Spain, and the Nordics, among others on August 12, with Italian, Arab, German, Japanese, Indian, Chinese, Thai, and Malaysian launches planned for a later date. On October 30, 2014, in an attempt to increase subscription numbers from an announced figure of 731,000, the 6-month subscription requirement was dropped, allowing subscribers the option to cancel at any time. WWE had originally planned to launch the network on October 1 in the United Kingdom, but was delayed for a further month. The launch was confirmed to be taking place at 8 p.m. on November 3; however, 20 minutes prior to the launch, WWE announced that it had been indefinitely delayed. Vince McMahon publicly apologized for the delay. It was announced on January 4, 2015, that the WWE Network would be launching in the UK and Ireland on January 19, 2015, priced at £9.99 and €12.99 respectively, although some customers managed to register as early as January 13.
On January 27, 2015, WWE announced that the WWE Network had reached 1 million subscribers, with Vince McMahon saying that WWE would “remain focused on delivering an outstanding value proposition for ours fans by adding new content and new features in the coming year.” On February 12, 2015, WWE announced a five-year partnership with television provider OSN to bring the WWE Network to the Middle East and North Africa as a premium service.
On July 30, 2015, WWE revealed the amount of subscribers for the Network at 1.156 million. This was announced as a part of WWE’s financial reporting on the second quarter of the year, which had resulted in their stock price rising past $20.00 after closing on the previous day at $16.48. The total of 1.156 million paid subscribers marked a 13% decrease from the 1.315 million paid subscribers that was stated in the reports for the first quarter of 2015. WWE also revealed, including trial subscribers, they had 1.227 million Network users at the end of the second quarter, and over the entire lifespan of the Network, there have been over 2 million unique subscribers.
The WWE Network launched in India on November 2, 2015. On November 19, a report by market research and consulting firm Park Associates announced that the WWE Network had broken into the top five streaming services and trailed only MLB.tv in the sports category. The WWE announced the network would launch in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Japan on January 5, 2016, followed by Thailand and the Philippines on February 29, 2016.
In April 2017, WWE announced to have a total of 1.949 million subscribers to the WWE Network, of which 1.661 million are paid subscribers. At the end of 3Q2017 the number had dropped to 1.5 million users. In April 2018, WWE announced subscriber growth had reached 2.1 million, with 1.8 million paid.At the end of 3Q2018 the number had dropped to 1.6 million users.
In January 2019, WWE Network signed with Endeavor Streaming to replace BAMTech as operating partner.
The WWE Network is currently available through 186 out of 193 United Nations member states (including all 28 European Union nations) and two observer states such as the Holy See and the State of Palestine. It is also distributed through five non-UN countries: the Republic of China (Taiwan), Cook Islands, Kosovo, Niue and Northern Cyprus.
In late 2017, Liechtenstein and China were added to the list of non-available countries, however the WWE Network is still available in the Chinese special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.