I think that paying for the WWE Network on YouTube would be the perfect fit.
AdAge.com is reporting that YouTube will offer paid subscription-based content that could become available later this year:
YouTube has reached out to a small group of channel producers and asked them to submit applications to create channels that users would have to pay to access. As of now it appears that the first paid channels will cost somewhere between $1 and $5 a month, two of these people said. In addition to episodic content, YouTube is also considering charging for content libraries and access to live events, a la pay-per-view, as well as self-help or financial advice shows.
It's not clear which channels will be part of the first paid-subscription rollout, but it is believed that YouTube will lean on the media companies that have already shown the ability to develop large followings on the video platform, including networks like Machinima, Maker Studios and Fullscreen. YouTube is also looking outside its current roster of partners for candidates.
There is no better candidate better for this than WWE.
I talk a lot about casual fans versus hardcore fans. WWE books primarily to the casual fan. That's where the money to be made is at. Money is with the casual fans when it comes to the weekly programming.
Hardcore fans are the target audience for the concept of a WWE Network, for WWE programming around the clock—programming that goes beyond the ring and the present time. Reality shows, talk shows, countdowns and digging into the archives—all for the hardcore fan.
I think it's a fair assumption to say that the average hardcore WWE fan is heavily active on the web. Many casual fans just consume the WWE product when they see it on television. The hardcore fan consumes it as much as possible, which extends to a site like YouTube.
The same fans who go on and search for shoot interviews, old matches and botches are the type who would pay money for some type of WWE Network.
In addition to the familiar relationship the consumer would already have with wrestling content online, there is also the ease of it. Whether it be their comfort with making purchases online or being younger and not having access to Mom and Dad's cable bill, the Internet is attractive.
Rather than having to call his or her cable company or anything of that nature, without getting out the chair, the fan can click purchase and pay online.
The WWE Network on television has been teased for several years. After several years of teasing, it hasn't happened.
WWE has proven success in its first year with an official YouTube channel. Why leave what it knows works? Especially when, at this point, any announcement of a WWE Network is starting to become an inside joke to those hardcore fans who secretly want it but feat it never will happen.
The concept of a WWE Network makes a lot of sense. WWE has characters to show more of outside the ring, thousands of hours of archived content and a loyal fanbase. WWE might be different content than NFL, NHL or MLB, but it is just as qualified for a channel that hosts the home of all things WWE.
NFL, NHL and MLB all having their own television networks makes more sense for them. Those are the kinds of channel sports bars will play all day everyday for their customers. Bars aren't going to show the WWE Network on television.
The way a bar will show the NFL Network all day is the same way some fans would play a WWE Network channel on YouTube all day.
In addition to all of this, there is no rule that says once you start on YouTube you can never grow the network to television. WWE should use YouTube as a good trial and error location for the concept of the network. If it is ultra successful, the company has something to show to help its case for funding to bring the network to television.
Also, the possibility of moving it to television could then cause YouTube to try to get the WWE to remain in business with it. That could create a bidding war for the content, which is good business.
The last paragraph of the AdAge.com piece asks:
YouTube is advising its current partners to consider carefully how their existing audience will react. Most have spent years building up a base of free subscribers through hard work and cross-promotion. Can they produce content worth paying for?
If there was ever an audience, it's the hardcore planet of the WWE Universe.