WWE unveils new digital media model and non-stop wrestling with 24/7 streaming service

Announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show will allow fans to avoid paying subscriptions to traditional cable and service providers

In a move that shows the continuing pull of digital content over traditional media companies, professional wrestling promoter WWE has announced the launch of a new digital ‘channel’, the WWE Network.

For a $9.99 monthly subscription (with a minimum six month commitment), fans will have access to a 24/7 streaming service, all 12 pay-per-view events (typically costing $45) as well as a massive back catalogue of more than 1,500 hours of historical content.

By offering the service through a range of internet-connected devices including smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, PCs and gaming consoles WWE are giving viewers a chance to side-step traditional media ‘gatekeepers’ including cable and satellite services.

The media company had originally planned on launching a cable-based TV channel four years ago but have reoriented to a digital-first strategy as traditional revenue models have suffered from rising costs and disaffected customers.

The WWE Network will launch in the US from 24th February and will move to the UK and other territories including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Hong Kong at some point between the end of 2014 and early 2015.

WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon speaks at a news conference announcing the WWE Network.

WWE CEO and former wrestler Vince McMahon said the move would provide “transformative growth for our company and unprecedented value for our fans.”

“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 McMahon at an event announcing the network in Las Vegas.

Professional wrestling may be a relatively niche sport when compared to football or baseball but its fans are dedicated, and WWE’s decision could open the way to more flexible subscription packages delivered to customers worldwide.

WWE have said that it needs between 800,000 and one million subscribers for the service to break even and that each subscription will generate around $600 for the company each year, with profits stemming from the price of subscription as well as advertising deals.

“We have the content and we have the fanbase willing to pay for it and build it,” said WWE’s chief revenue and marketing officer Michelle Wilson. ““We did our research and said this is catching up faster than we expected.”

“Over-the-top became a very viable option so we said maybe we should rethink this and look at an alternative model where we would be in control of our own destiny.”

The WWE Network will provide access to archived pay per view content such as Wrestlemania (above - Ric Flair is thrown into the air by Chris Jericho in 2009). Credit: Getty Images.



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