WWE Network coming in 2012
September 6, 2011
It’s the WWE Network. And, as the world learned this week, it’s on its way in 2012. All we know is that it’ll be a brand new day for watching the greatest matches, moments and Superstars in sports-entertainment history.
The MMA tie-in here is that it is being reported by the Wrestling Observer that the WWE pushed plans for the announcement of the network as it was feared that the UFC would jump the WWE’s plan and announce its own network. Concerned that it would be perceived as a copycat, the WWE made the announcement this week.
There are three things that don’t mesh with the theory that the WWE rushed the announcement of its network. First, the UFC announced its partnership with Fox on August 18th. Secondly, Vince McMahon noted that a WWE Network was coming in an early August company earnings call. While he did not state that it was coming 2012, he did state that the network was imminent. McMahon indicated that prior to the UFC-Fox deal. Finally, Dana White and Vince McMahon met this summer as White paid a visit to McMahon at WWE headquarters. While both blew off the media for the reason for the visit, its now obvious that a portion of their get together was to discuss the future of their respective businesses.
Notwithstanding the theory, the Wall Street Journal story about the UFC seeking to purchase the G4 network, the near-deal with NBC Sports and the Fox deal all point to the possibility that the UFC could have its own network. Seeing the possibility, the WWE felt compelled to make the announcement. Its interesting considering the fact that both White and McMahon have made it clear that the respective organizations are not competitors. UFC is sports, WWE is entertainment according to both heads. Yet, the WWE cannot help but be concerned about the UFC coming to Fox. The Ultimate Fighter series will air the same night as WWE’s Smackdown. As a result, Smackdown aired live last Tuesday with the prospect of moving from Friday to Tuesday presumably to avoid competing. Although both parties claim not to be competitors, both seek the same male demographic audience.
As for the network, the teaser on WWE.com shows the extent to which the WWE could use for programming. The WWE has much more of a library to carry a network as opposed to the UFC. Basically owning the wrestling universe: WWE, WCW, ECW, AWA, et al. there is ample content for a network. Thinking about the network, one could only imagine watching Hulk Hogan’s Rock n Wrestling on Saturday mornings once again. But, from a business standpoint, there are still many logistics that need to be answered regarding distribution. One need only look to today’s headline of the Tennis Channel-Cablevision/Verizon dispute over carriage fees and tier placement to see the obstacles ahead for a WWE Network. We will see how soon, or how late in 2012 the network comes to fruition.