Over the last few months, a number of cable networks have announced the creation of new streaming services, a la Netflix and Hulu. CBS and HBO, the two biggest companies I’ve heard to be heading in this direction, will start offering the option of a monthly subscription service, outside of cable.
It is the opinion of this writer, with no knowledge of business, television or really much of anything, that this is going to be the future of TV as we know it – Within 10-15 years, I don’t think we have “cable companies”, just a series of networks that stream their services online.
With me? Hold that thought. We’ll come back to it.
One of the biggest complaints from fans that I’ve found (besides the lagging. . . and lack of complete sets of programming. . . and original shows. . . Man, people complain a lot!) is that you are unable to watch RAW or Smackdown ‘live’ on the Network. You still need to be a cable subscriber who pays for USA and SyFy, or you need to be willing to search for “alternative” ways of watching. As someone who personally doesn’t pay enough for the cable company to offer me SyFy, it means I never watch Smackdown, and since SD is getting good as of late, that’s irksome.
Obviously the business deals that WWE has with the networks prohibit them from simulcasting their content on the Network.
The bigger problem here, though, as seen in a conversation being had on Twitter as I write this, is that the deals cause WWE to alter its content in order to satisfy the Network, and more importantly, the advertisers.
This isn’t an issue of PG or not PG, although that’s also a factor. It has mostly to do with the necessary placements of commercial breaks. You know exactly what I mean. If you watch RAW regularly, you know that as soon as a wrestler is tossed outside the ring, we’re likely heading to a commercial. You can even hear it in the tone of Cole’s voice as he announces. Then, when we’re back, usually the face is in some sort of rest hold.
This kind of thing doesn’t happen, for the most part, in NXT. Talents are also given more time to put on quality matches – a fact that is growing increasingly frustrating for WWE talents, if you are to believe the rumor mill.
So, let’s sum up here. . . We have talents on the “main roster” being squeezed for time, in order to fit into the schema that is a mainstream cable wrestling show. They aren’t able to have the same quality of matches as other talents, and this leads to frustration. This same show is unable to be broadcast on WWE’s flagship network, one that the company would certainly like to attract as many subscribers as possible.
Now add that to my original point, that networks and companies are starting to transition to a streaming service, one that would provide current and archived content. . .
Which brings us to today’s What-If Wednesday…
What if WWE takes all of its content. . . ALL of it. . . exclusively onto the WWE Network?
Again, let me reiterate my utter lack of knowledge about these topics. I have no idea what the current deal is between WWE and the cable companies, nor do I know how much money Vince gets from having it. I don’t know what income WWE gets from its advertisers or what these same corporations pay for ads on streaming services. So, for all I know, this entire idea is ludicrous.
Doesn’t mean it isn’t worth exploring, though.
What would happen? . . . First things first, WWE loses a ton of casual viewers. That’s a given. Somebody who is flipping through channels and stops on a Ziggler / Rollins match won’t have that opportunity, and that’s a shame. WWE would need to figure out a way to attract new viewers to the Network. Maybe their YouTube presence increases, maybe they have a “highlight” show each week on a cable company (if those still exist), where they only need to work out a deal for 1-2 hours instead of 5. I imagine they’d figure out something.
Also, the price of the Network goes up. They have to make up their revenue somewhere so now WWE is charging $20 a month for the service. Still TOTALLY worth it if you can watch RAW, Smackdown, NXT, PPVs and have an archive, but that would be a problem for some.
WWE puts more focus on adding original and archived Network content. If its the only thing going, there’s no reason not to go all out. Stone Cold gets his podcast on the Network full time, they start creating new and exciting programming and best of all (at least for me), we start getting shows like Live Wire and WCW Saturday Night put up. I NEED MORE GAMBLER, DANG IT!
The quality of wrestling increases dramatically. With a new advertising system (could they work out a deal where after every match, we see a quick 30 second ad? I imagine so.) and more flexibility in terms of show times, talents could have 15-20 minute matches. Each and every time, if they wanted. Imagine a “Monday Night RAW” (which is easily watched anytime during the week) that feels like an NXT show. In fact, since its all on the Network, the “brands” can flow in and out of each other. Dean Ambrose shows up at Full Sail University to challenge Kevin Owens? Bull Dempsey appears on Main Event? (Wait a second, that actually happened! Go Goon McGoof Go! I don’t care that you lost to Fandango of all people, you can make it, baby!)
Where was I?
I had this idea while typing, and it rocked my world. Imagine signing onto WWE Network and clicking on RAW. In addition to being able to watch it from start to finish, you can click on the matches and segments individually. Really want to watch that Bray Wyatt vs. Daniel Bryan match, but don’t want to wait through the 20 minute Authority promo? Done! Want to skip over every Bellas appearance from now until the end of time? You got it!
If you ‘take the leash’ off WWE talents and let them truly show their stuff, know what else happens? Wrestling becomes fun again. All those Attitude Era fans people keep claiming were “lost” might find their way back to the fold. Being able to have extended length matches and more concise, well-written stories attracts fans, keeps fans and makes it very very easy to acquire new ones.
What more do you want as someone who wants WWE to succeed?
Like I said – this is likely a completely impractical idea. The list of reasons why it will probably never work is undoubtedly quite extensive.
But that’s what makes this fun. . . Hypothesizing on a better world – a world that may not be. . .But it could. . .
What do YOU think? Is it feasible? Will it happen? What would be the results? ‘