WWE Network is a subscription-based video streaming service owned by WWE, using the infrastructure of Major League Baseball Advanced Media. The concept was originally announced in 2012. On January 8, 2014, WWE announced the network would launch on February 24, 2014 in the United States. On July 31, 2014, WWE announced that the network would be expected to go live in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mexico, Spain and the Nordics, among other countries starting on August 12. On October 31, WWE announced that the Network would be available in the United Kingdom on November 3. WWE Network is also expected to arrive in Italy, United Arab Emirates, Germany, Japan, India, China, Thailand, and Malaysia at a future date. The Network consists of both a 24-hour linear streaming channel and an on-demand programming library. Beginning in December 2014, WWE Network will be available for US$9.99 per month with no commitment.
In September 2011, WWE officially announced plans to launch the WWE Network in 2012 as a pay-TV channel. WWE then conducted a survey asking people if they would pay for the WWE Network if it were a premium channel. In an email sent to WWE fans who might be interested in the WWE Network, WWE surveyed fans for their thoughts about the WWE Network airing WWE's pay-per-views to subscribers for no additional charge. The survey also noted that feature repeats of Raw and SmackDown, as well as footage from WCW, ECW, NWA, XFL, AWA and WWE movies would also make the lineup. Original programming was also noted in the survey.
As the result of an online poll, WrestleMania Rewind was chosen as a name for a new WWE Network show on October 17, 2011. The original launch date had been April 1, 2012, which would have coincided with WrestleMania XXVIII. WWE.com featured a countdown clock that would have expired on April 1, however the clock was quietly removed, and the network did not launch as advertised. WWE chief marketing officer Michelle Wilson allayed fears about the future of the WWE Network, saying "There will be a WWE network in some shape or form. We are in late-stage negotiations with distributors", and confirmed that WWE Legends' House had been filmed. In April 2013, WWE had switched plans and aimed to release the WWE Network as a premium pay-TV outlet, with a potential price of $15 a month.
On Old School Raw in January 2014, WWE ran teasers promoting an announcement on January 8 at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas. It was later confirmed that the announcement would concern the WWE Network. At the Consumer Electronics Show on January 8, WWE revealed a comprehensive plan which would see a launch date of February 24, 2014 in the United States. WWE Classics On Demand closed on January 31, 2014 to make way for the WWE Network. A free trial period was offered during the week of the launch. The logo initially used for the WWE Network eventually became the standard logo used by the WWE corporation in August 2014.
In April 2014 ahead of WrestleMania XXX, the Network received acclaim, with the New York Times saying that WWE had "positioned themselves on the cutting edge of Internet television". Later that month, the company announced that the network had 667,000 subscribers, short of the one million subscribers they needed to break even. As WWE's stock fell 50% the following month, Forbes described low subscription numbers as being of "additional concern" for investors after WWE's underwhelming NBCUniversal renewal deal. WWE offered a second free preview week of the WWE Network, which started July 7, in an attempt to sign new subscribers. A second report released at the end of July indicated that the network had reached 700,000 subscribers. WWE's goal is to reach one million subscribers by the end of 2014.
On July 31, 2014, the company announced a 10-year, Canadian distribution deal for WWE content with Rogers Media which will see the company distribute WWE Network as a premium television service. Also on July 31, 2014, it was announced that the WWE Network will launch in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mexico, Spain and the Nordics, among others on August 12, with Italian, Arab, German, Japanese, Indian, Chinese, Thai and Malaysian launches planned for a later date. On October 30, 2014, in an attempt to increase subscription numbers from an announced figure of 731,000, the 6 month subscription requirement was dropped, allowing subscribers the option to cancel at any time.
- ECW Exposed Featuring exposed ECW on the WWE Network,
- All WWE pay-per-view events (currently 12 per year) broadcast live.
- WrestleMania Rewind – The first show named to be part of the network; a retrospective look at WrestleMania's memorable moments.
- The Monday Night War – A television series about the Monday Night Wars.
- WWE Legends' House – A reality television series featuring several WWE legends.
- WWE Countdown – A top-10 countdown show based on interactive fan polls.
- WWE NXT - Airs weekly on Wednesdays, including periodic live specials.
- WWE Superstars - Airs weekly on Fridays.
- Pre-shows and Backstage Pass post-shows for Raw and SmackDown.
- WWE Beyond The Ring - Documentary portions of previously-released WWE DVDs featuring various performers, organizations, and storylines.
- WWE Slam City - An animated series featuring current WWE talent, based on the Mattel toy line of the same name.
- Legends of Wrestlemania - A spin-off special of the Legends of Wrestling roundtable panel format, focusing on Wrestlemania related topics.
- This Week in WWE – A weekly 30-minute recap of the past week's WWE action.
- WWE Main Event - Airs weekly on Tuesdays.
- WWE Rivalries – A show documenting rivalries in the WWE.
- WWE Network Original Specials – A Special Show in the WWE.
- WWE 24 – A show that goes behind the scenes of WWE events and Superstars.
- WWE Quick Hits - A monthly show with extra short clips from various DVDs & WWE Network shows.
- WWE Diva Search - WWE spans the globe in search of the most beautiful, athletic and charismatic women to find the next stunning WWE Diva.
- Camp WWE - A Comedy Animated Series. Imagine WWE Superstars and Divas when they were kids at their favorite summer camp…which happens to be run by none other than Mr. McMahon – add in shock-value, slapstick humor and social satire – and you have WWE’s first adult comedy.
- WWE Swerved - WWE teams up with the Director of Jackass and Bad Grandpa, Jeff Tremaine, to give you the hilarious original series, Swerved.
- WWE Too Hot For TV - This series will re-introduce the WWE Universe to the most outrageous stunts and cringe-inducing moments in TV history.
- WWE Unfiltered - WWE announcer Renee Young interviews WWE Superstars and other pop-culture celebrities, covering just about everything, except what they are famous for.
- WWE Culture Shock - WWE commentator Corey Graves reveals a variety of unique venues, customs, music, food and people as WWE’s tour travels around the world.
- WWE The List - WWE The List is the best, the worst, the most bizarre and interesting of everything and anything WWE. If it’s amazing, outrageous, sexy or just plain fun, it just made #TheList.
- WWE Music Power 10 - WWE's all new top ten music countdown series
- Live! With Chris Jericho - Podcast host Chris Jericho challenges his guests in provocative, candid conversations about their careers, their lives, past controversies and the overall state of WWE.
- Stone Cold Podcast - "Stone Cold” Steve Austin hosts the Stone Cold Podcast, Live!, a no-holds-barred, in-your-face monthly interview series on the award-winning WWE Network.
- WWE Talking Smack - A weekly post-show for SmackDown hosted by Renee Young and Daniel Bryan.
- WWE Cruiserweight Classic - Thirty-two of the greatest cruiserweights in the world battle it out to see who is the best in the world.
- Holy Foley! - A reality TV show starring Mick Foley and his family.
In addition to previous editions of the original programs listed above:
- Virtually every WWE, WCW and ECW pay-per-view event ever produced is available for on-demand streaming. Although WWE promotes the selection as every pay-per-view ever made, a handful of international PPV events have not yet been made available.
- Encore broadcasts of Raw and SmackDown (original broadcasts will continue to air exclusively on cable television).
- Additional content from WWE Libraries, which has a library of over 100,000 hours of programming, will be added over time.
- World Class Championship Wrestling (selected episodes)
- All episodes of ECW Hardcore TV
- Every episode of WCW Clash of the Champions
- All episodes of WCW Monday Nitro
- Every episode of Saturday Night's Main Event
- Encore broadcasts of Seasons 1, Season 2 & Season 3 of Total Divas.
- Select WWE Classics On Demand programming.
- Select episodes of Tuesday Night Titans.
- Select episodes of WWE Tribute to the Troops
- Select episodes of WWF Prime Time Wrestling
- Seasons 1-5 of WWE Tough Enough
- Every WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony
- Every episodes of Raw from 1993-2007 (With the exception of Raw 141 and 366) and from 2012-present (With the exception of Raw 981) and select episodes from 2008-2009
- Every episode of SmackDown from 1999-2003 and 2012-present, select episodes from 2004-2011
- Every episode of NWA World Championship Wrestling Saturday Edition from November 2, 1985 to September 26, 1987
- Select episodes of Smoky Mountain Wrestling from 1994
- Select episodes of Mid-South Wrestling from 1982-1986
- Select episodes of AWA Championship Wrestling from 1986-1988
- Select episodes of Global Wrestling Federation from 1990-1992
Although the United States parental guidelines rating system rates most weekly WWE television programs TV-PG, the WWE Network broadcasts a wider range of content. A parental controls block is available and content rated TV-14 and TV-MA are preceded by an advisory warning. The network airs footage featuring Chris Benoit, but an advisory warning is displayed before each airing; it marks the first major airing of Benoit footage since his murder-suicide in 2007. Over the Edge 1999, infamous for Owen Hart's death at the event, is also available for the first time since its original air date, however some portions of the event have been edited out of respect to the Hart wrestling family. Matches called with Jesse Ventura on commentary, which have previously been dubbed over due to a 1991 lawsuit, air with the original commentary.
While the network promoted on-demand airings as being unedited, some instances of expletives and all nudity are censored.
At launch, all but one of New Jack's matches were removed from ECW pay-per-views, as was his surprise return at Heat Wave 1998, due to a combination of musical rights issues over his entrance music and the inability to remove the music without losing the original commentary audio. The deleted matches were eventually reinstated with replacement music and newly recorded Joey Styles commentary. Several pay-per-views are copies of their condensed home video releases, rather than the live versions, and so are missing matches.
Impact on the TV industry
In an interview with Time, Michelle D. Wilson, chief revenue and marketing officer for WWE, stated their reason for bypassing cable companies and instead only offering the WWE Network online: "Digital over-the-top offerings represent the future, and given that our passionate fans consume five times more online video content than non-WWE viewers and over-index for purchasing online subscriptions such as Netflix and Hulu Plus, we believe the time is now for a WWE Network".
In response to the announcement, DirecTV issued a statement saying that they are re-evaluating whether to continue carrying WWE's pay-per-view events. Because these events would also be available on the WWE Network once it launches, it might reduce the number of pay-per-view purchases via cable and satellite providers. However, Vince McMahon suggested that pay-TV operators would ultimately decide to continue to carry WWE's pay-per-view events, given that providers keep a significant share of each purchase, and incur minimal costs (apart from WWE's share of the fee for each purchase) to carry the events: "It's found money for them." DirecTV later quietly dropped carriage of WWE PPVs. In response, WWE said, "Yes, DIRECTV has decided to stop offering our PPV's residentially and commercially. The only other option would be to work through the local cable provider."
On February 19, 2014, Dish Network announced that they would carry WWE pay-per-views on an event by event basis, beginning with Elimination Chamber. Dish Network released a statement saying, "Dish will not offer the ‘WWE Elimination Chamber’ PPV on 2/23. WWE is not willing to adjust their PPV costs to satellite and cable companies, which is unfair to their customers. We need to re-focus our efforts to support partners that better serve Dish customers." Dish later made a decision to air Wrestlemania XXX.
In October 2014, it was reported Mattel, Kmart, and Pepsi would begin advertising on the network starting the week of October 13. Wilson stated that although no commercial breaks will occur during scheduled programming, 30 second adverts would run in between shows, and that one 15 or 30-second advert would be shown prior to every fourth stream for on-demand content.