Last night at the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon made an announcement so huge and unbelievable that it made everyone completely forget that the People’s Choice Awards were going on. Just kidding, nobody was watching the People’s Choice Awards anyway. But McMahon boasted to the crowded room that on February 24, the WWE Network will launch, and it will change the way that sports and entertainment approach Pay-Per-Views and online viewing forever.
For just $9.99 a month, WWE fans can not only have access to at least 1,500 hours of original WWE programming, including past PPV events, documentaries and classic matches, but they will be able to watch all 12 of the WWE’s PPV events this year. For perspective, if this network wasn’t created, most fans would pay about $600 for this year’s big shows. Now? About $120, with all of that other awesome stuff included.
“Today is a historic day for WWE as we transform and reimagine how we deliver our premium live content and 24/7 programming directly to our fans around the world,” said Vince McMahon, WWE Chairman & Chief Executive Officer. “WWE Network will provide transformative growth for our company and unprecedented value for our fans.” (Via the WWE)
Of course, this announcement absolutely dwarfs the launch of the UFC Fight Pass, which debuted last weekend to a lot of raised eyebrows and criticism from fans. Naturally, a lot of people on the Twitters called the WWE’s CES announcement a shrewd and tactical business move by McMahon and Co., as they were dropping a bomb right in the UFC’s own backyard. I don’t necessarily see it that way, but it definitely makes sense.
Instead, I think this is just the case of two kids that showed up to the science fair, with one of them having received a ton of help from his father and having far more resources available to make sure his volcano erupted and the spaghetti sauce looked legitimately like lava, while the other waited til the last second and had to shake the table to get his red Kool-Aid to spill out of his barely-dried newspaper volcano. The WWE has money and power, and therefore knew it could make this bold move with PPVs, while the UFC probably thought the Fight Pass deal was pretty dang sweet for the time being.
While it might not be competitive in nature, us UFC fans can’t help but look at the WWE Network and think, “What the hell, Dana White?” because we’re paying $9.99 a month for the UFC’s Fight Pass, which features the following:
- Exclusive UFC Fight Night live events
- Event replays and a UFC fight library
- Exclusive TV shows, including The Ultimate Fighter and Best of PRIDE
- Other original content (interviews, news, original programs)
Count me among the people who thinks that those features for $9.99 a month make for a good deal, so long as the UFC understands that Fight Nights starting at 6:30 AM ET on Saturdays are F*CKING RIDICULOUS. “But you can watch it on a replay later in the day at your own convenience!” Big deal, I like watching my fights live. (Also, here’s something that Ben Fowlkes and Danny Boy Downes wrote about the debut of the Fight Pass, and I very much agree with Danny’s points.)
Unfortunately, the WWE just peed in the UFC’s NOS, because how the hell am I not supposed to be jealous looking at all of these features that the WWE is offering?
- All 12 current WWE pay-per-view events – including WrestleMania – will be available to subscribers live, as well as on demand.
- Live pay-per-view 30 minute pre- and post-shows.
- Original programs including: The Monday Night War, which chronicles the days of Raw vs. Nitro and I will watch the hell out of this; WrestleMania Rewind; WWE Countdown; WWE Superstars; WWE NXT; and WWE Legends House, which will star WWE icons, including Roddy Piper, Tony Atlas and Hacksaw Jim Duggan living together like on the Real World. HOW AMAZING IS THAT?!?!?!
- All Raw and Smackdown shows will be available immediately after they air.
- All WWE, WCW and ECW PPV events and classic matches will be available, uncut and uncensored. (I don’t even watch the WWE regularly anymore and I want to get this so I can re-watch everything that I vaguely remember from my childhood and my college years when we’d get drunk, watch Nitro and then break all of the folding tables in the closet and blame the pledges.)
I don’t expect the UFC to respond to this as if it’s a direct assault, because I think in most cases the WWE already has a nice share of the UFC’s fans and it’s the UFC that would want to tap into the WWE fans. But the UFC is going to have to at least spin this in a way to explain to me, the avid UFC fan who spends $600 a year on PPVs (and now $720 with Fight Pass), why the other guys with the better entertainers are doing it for $10 a month.
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