Vince McMahon in 1991, when WWE was the king of PPV.
With the announcement of WWE Network, which launches just one week from today, WWE has changed pay-per-view forever. If it's a hit, UFC and the boxing producers (HBO and Showtime) have a model to copy, and even if the service was to bomb, WWE can never go back to pre-network pricing for PPV events. Meanwhile, providers of traditional PPV like Dish Network, DirecTV, cable companies and distributors like InDemand all have to decide if they want to keep carrying the traditional PPVs while being undercut on WWE Network.
DirecTV was the first long-time partner to say anything publicly after the announcement, intimating that it may drop WWE PPVs. Now, it appears that the first company to actually make a move is DirecTV's biggest rival, Dish Network—and it's doing it before WWE Network even launches.
Would Dish Network accomplish anything by ceasing to carry WWE PPVs?
Over the weekend, some wrestling fans started to notice that the wrestling page of the PPV events section of Dish Network's website only lists TNA Lockdown on March 9. When they looked in the on-screen guide of their set-top boxes, they saw that Elimination Chamber wasn't listed for this Sunday.
Now, according to Dave Meltzer at F4WOnline.com, Dish is telling customers that negotiations are ongoing, while one customer service representative told Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com that it was listed internally and couldn't explain why it couldn't be ordered. He was advised to call back today to get a better answer. I left messages for both WWE and Dish Network and have yet to receive a response.
If Dish Network isn't carrying Elimination Chamber because of WWE Network, it's an odd time to make the move. It's the last PPV before the launch of the WWE Network, with WrestleMania 30 being the first PPV on the new network. There's no reason for Dish Network execs to throw up their hands in frustration right now because WWE isn't undercutting them on that show.
Realistically, if they were going to take a stand, they should wait until Extreme Rules, because they might as well try to get as many WrestleMania customers that will still be without WWE Network.
Well, I guess Dish could be thinking that it's better to take a risk by skipping an average PPV than skipping WrestleMania, but that doesn't really make sense, either. I guess the company could be angling for a bigger cut of each PPV buy, and in that sense, it would make sense to do this before WrestleMania.
It's also interesting that it looks like Dish Network and DirecTV are the providers making the first moves. Theoretically, being satellite TV companies and not cable companies, they should have some customers who live in rural areas who can't get broadband Internet and thus will only be able to get the PPV shows via traditional means. I suppose that's one reason they would want to angle for a bigger piece of the pie.
What best describes your situation when it comes to WWE PPV and WWE Network availability?
I also wonder how much Dish, DirecTV and the cable companies are banking on the idea that a lot of fans will be afraid of streaming services or think the required hardware costs more than it does. If someone doesn't already have a connected game console or other connective device for their TV, then a Roku box can be bought for $50.
If Chromecast media players are supported (it's not official yet, but WWE gave out Chromecasts at the announcement), those are just $35. WWE should be pushing just how cheap those devices are, because the less technologically inclined fans might think they're more out of reach, and there are plenty of other services (both free and paid subscriptions) on them.
As it stands now, though, if you have Dish Network, it looks like you'll have to stream Elimination Chamber through WWE.com or a game console. If you have Dish and don't have broadband, you may be out of luck.
What do you all think of this? Do any of you live in an area where you need satellite TV and Internet and thus may be locked out of future PPVs? If you have broadband and aren't getting WWE Network, then why? Let us know in the comments.
David Bixenspan has been Bleacher Report's WWE Team Leader since 2011 and also writes for Figure 4 Weekly, available to F4WOnline.com subscribers along with other content, including the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and a variety of audio shows. His article about the beginning of WWE's national expansion in 1984 is in issue No. 102 of Fighting Spirit Magazine, available online internationally and at newsagents in the UK.