For an industry that has always been at the forefront of new media, a WWE Network feels like a step backwards into an old media world.
No one is really clamoring for another network full of bad reality shows, the same old movies and blocks of infomercials—just ask fellow media juggernaut Oprah Winfrey.
Niche networks can be profitable, I just don't feel WWE is the right niche. What's the likely outcome of an all-WWE network? I suspect the company is going to burn through its video library and stretch itself thin in production.
It's also going to overexpose the WWE wrestling brand which will, I wager, hurt business in the long run. It will only be a matter of time before the company re-brands the station and focuses on a broader spectrum of entertainment to reach wider audiences.
So just skip to that step.
For the past several years, the company has been trying to re-brand "WWE" as more than just the wrestling part, and into the name brand of a comprehensive entertainment provider, a la Disney.
The difference, however, is that Disney was the umbrella brand from the beginning; the cartoons, the live-action TV shows and the theme parks were all under it. It was all family entertainment, but it was all compartmentalized.
For WWE, the name is strongly associated with the wrestling brand, with that one thing. It would be akin to Walt saying Mickey Mouse was the name of the corporation, as well as the name of the creation.
Years ago, the Disney mark was so ingrained as family entertainment that when they wanted to branch out into more adult motion pictures, they founded Touchstone to do so. More recently, they purchased the Marvel Comics brand because while Disney princesses and other products were popular with girls, they lacked projects that appealed to boys.
While WWE works as the name for the umbrella brand and also the name of the wrestling part, it would behoove the company to take a cue from Disney and diversify.
WWE is special. Everybody makes music, everybody makes movies, but WWE makes wrestling, and does so better than anyone else. It's the company's bread and butter. That brand should be protected.
For example, the XFL was a failure, but at least it wasn't called WWE Football.
Wrestling shows were the cornerstones that networks and cable stations built upon. Obviously, if the company is going to commit to a network, it makes sense they'd anchor everything around a WWE wrestling program (as well as other brand-specific projects, such as the reality show in the works featuring WWE Hall of Famers).
But the channel should be called the Sports Entertainment Network.
Vince McMahon has been trying for a decade to get people to use that phrase and this might finally be the avenue to do it! Wrestling is the prime example of "sports entertainment," but the network would then push the label beyond just WWE and into other entertainments which feature incredible athleticism. That's the niche.
Under the WWE corporate umbrella, I think the Sports Entertainment Network would turn out to be a successful brand in its own right.
The challenge with this old media format remains, though: What can WWE do within a cable network that is as future-thinking as syndicated programming and pay-per-view were for the company? The TV network of 10 years from now is what the WWE-driven channel needs to be today.
The company is probably going to have invent technology to achieve what WWE shows on this station ultimately should be, which is an extrapolation of the interactive fan experience that set professional wrestling apart from every other sport and entertainment to begin with.