Various sources including F4WOnline.com are reporting that according to correspondence with cable companies and WWE staff, the WWE Classics on Demand subscription service will be suspended at the turn of the new year in a few weeks. This move is being made to make room for the WWE Network, presumably with Classics on Demand staff being moved to the network with an increased workload.
Originally named WWE 24/7 On Demand, the subscription video on demand service launched in the Fall of 2004 with one partner, Blue Ridge Cable in Pennsylvania. As a small, obscure cable TV provider, recordings of the programming was a commodity in the wrestling videotape and DVD trading community.
As time went on, the service picked up more partners, eventually getting access to much of the country once they cleared Cox Communications and Comcast. Internationally, it was also broadcast as a traditional satellite Network on Sky Italia in Italy and Astro on Malaysia, with past content being rerun often since only about 20 hours are produced each month.
Generally, the service hovered around the 100,000 subscriber mark, which was profitable, but not a runaway success. Subscriber numbers had dropped consistently over the last couple years.
While the service was generally well liked for providing high-quality and often previously-unseen footage, a problem developed almost two years ago: Much of the footage (almost all of which had been shot on videotape) had been improperly processed at some point, causing it to look more film-like on traditional, standard-definition, tube-based TVs. It happened with all customers, so WWE was blamed.
Exactly what may or may not have been happening is probably too technical to get into here, but in spite of fan complaints by phone, email and on WWE's defunct social networking site, it was never fixed. The severity may have decreased, but it never went back to normal.
At one point, I contacted WWE and they were well aware of the issue, but they couldn't figure out where in the production chain it was happening. The files they generated according to a standardized profile looked fine in-house. From there, the process was just moving around digital files from WWE to their distributor (TVN), to the various cable companies' servers, to the customers' cable boxes.
Even with the problems, it was a fun service and it will be missed. A ton of cool stuff showed up over the years and I hope that the WWE Network takes the concept to the next level, only with a lot more content and access to more cable companies much faster.
Update: According to Bryan Alvarez's daily update at F4WOnline.com, some cable companies are saying the end date is March 31st.