The WWE Network is set to change what it means to be a WWE fan.
Among all the hype and hyperbole, the only thing fans want to know is if it is worth buying, and the answer is definitively yes. The value is immense, the options are plentiful, and the price is right.
On Feb. 24, WWE will introduce a 24/7 streaming network fans can watch on their computers, smart devices, video game consoles and Roku streaming devices. It's an all-you-can-watch pro wrestling buffet you can take with you anywhere.
Gizmodo called it the future of TV:
WWE figured out the future of TV last night http://t.co/EF7S9dPDW5— Gizmodo (@Gizmodo) January 9, 2014
Once fans experience the extensive programming the WWE Network will offer, it'll be hard to argue that point. The impressive video library, original programming and what amounts to a major price reduction in pay-per-views will have fans opening their wallets as soon as it launches.
To watch every WWE pay-per-view live in a calendar year, fans had to either shell out around 45 bucks each month or watch some grainy, illegal feed of the show that could freeze at any moment. Many fans ordered the big shows—WrestleMania, SummerSlam, Royal Rumble—and turned away from shows such as Payback because the price tag was just too hefty.
Being a WWE fan just got a lot less expensive.
For just under $10 a month, fans can watch every pay-per-view, WrestleMania included. Spending an inordinate amount of cash on pay-per-views was just an unfortunate part of WWE fandom. Vince McMahon and company have changed that.
As the company stated in its press release, via Chris Cash of WrestleZone.com, that's a value of "more than $600 per year for $9.99 per month with a 6-month commitment."
For those who are bad at math, Lance Storm does the calculating for you:
So for the price of WrestleMania XXX you can get 6 months of @WWENetwork which includes WrestleMania XXX. Nice!— Lance Storm (@LanceStorm) January 9, 2014
Cutting out the middle man that is the cable provider gives WWE a bigger chunk of the PPV earnings. Plus, a number of fans who scoffed at the high price of these events will now be swayed by the better price system.
It's almost impossible to wrap one's head around just how big of an improvement this is.
In October 2013, diehard fans could have spent about $100 to watch Hell in a Cell and Battleground. In 2014, fans can spend 40 bucks less than that to get those shows plus Night of Champions, Survivor Series, TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs and the Royal Rumble.
It's a case of less is more in the most positive sense. The pay-per-views alone make this a worthwhile deal, but the WWE Network is going to show a lot more than that.
Expect the lineup to expand, but WWE is already promising four new shows and two wrestling serials as part of the package.
The Monday Night War will explore the history of WCW and WWE's battle for ratings in the '90s. WWE Countdown will be a collection of rankings taken from fan votes deciding the best in categories such as "biggest backstabbing moment," per Nick Paglino of WrestleZone.com.
Interviews, footage and history combine to make WrestleMania Rewind an intriguing show. Unlike The Monday Night War, this show will have new material each year, adding to a growing treasure trove.
WWE Legends House is not going to appeal to everyone, but since it comes with the WWE Network subscription, it's worth taking a peek at. Tony Atlas, Roddy Piper and Jim Duggan appear in a reality show in which former wrestlers live under the same roof with cameras rolling.
On top of this bonus fare, WWE will also show NXT and Superstars each week on the streaming service.
WWE is now showing NXT for free on Hulu, but one of the best hours in wrestling every week will find a new home come February. Superstars is the company's oft-forgotten serial, which shows in bits on YouTube at the end of the week.
Insatiable fans can now catch every moment of midcard fun from that show on the WWE Network.
These are all appetizers compared to the network's more meaty offering: the on-demand service.
The WWE Network FAQ section on WWE.com gives a satisfying answer to the question of what will be available to watch at any time:
WWE Network will offer all WWE, WCW and ECW pay-per-views as well as classic matches uncut and uncensored, encores of Raw, SmackDown and WWE Main Event™ totaling more than 1,500 hours of video on demand at launch.
All episodes of original programming on WWE Network will be available on demand immediately after they premiere, allowing viewers to watch on their schedule.
Say goodbye to being productive. WWE is opening up its vaults, and one can't help but jump in and run around.
Starrcade '89, Survivor Series 2002 and Heatwave '98 await fans eager to savor the best of the past. Fans can explore the history of all three promotions without ordering a stack of DVDs or flipping through random YouTube videos.
Everything is up for grabs. Wrestling's timeline can be devoured in any order, at any time.
In addition, three words stand out in WWE.com's answer: "uncut and uncensored."
As the FAQ section later states, "Content rated TV-14 or TV-MA will be preceded by appropriate advisory messages recommending viewer discretion." That means the Attitude Era, the Ruthless Aggression Era, chair shots to the head, blood and the kind of high-risk spots that have been removed from WWE will all be on display.
Suddenly, the five WrestleMania DVDs, the copy of Vengeance 2005 and Bash at the Beach 1996 in the entertainment center don't feel so extensive. The network's library will only continue to grow as WWE's newest weekly shows and pay-per-views get added to it.
The past and the present converge for a viewing experience so flush with options that it's hard to know where to start.
WWE fans can watch every pay-per-view the company produces and every one it has already produced. With the bonus of shows such as WWE Countdown and Superstars, the $9.99 price tag starts to feel more and more unbelievable.
Any one segment of the WWE Network is worth the price. Putting all three together will make fans feel like they're stealing from WWE.