WWE Network move to Peacock part of very busy spring for WWE

World Wrestling Entertainment is used to making headlines this time of year leading up to WrestleMania

WWE Busy Spring Wrestling
WWE Busy Spring Wrestling

World Wrestling Entertainment is used to making headlines this time of year leading up to WrestleMania. But the company has more on its plate leading up to its showcase event on April 10 and 11.

Two major moves will happen over the next six weeks — the WWE Network’s move to Peacock on March 18, along with the search for a new home for the ThunderDome, which is where “Raw” and “Smackdown” are being held due to the coronavirus pandemic.

WWE Network was launched in February 2014 and was ahead of its time because it changed its business model from relying on pay-per-view events in favor of an OTT (streaming media) service. The network originally partnered with MLB BAMTech to build the framework, which marked the first time that MLB Advanced Media had supplied all the hardware, software and built a network for another company.

BAMTech was eventually spun off by MLB into a separate company before Disney acquired majority ownership. Over the past couple years, WWE realized that trying to maintain the infrastructure could come at the expense of programming, bringing about the relationship with Peacock, which was a streaming service started last summer by NBCUniversal.

WWE president and chief revenue officer Nick Khan said discussions about WWE Network’s future had been happening since well before the pandemic.

“The big question internally was how much can you invest and keep pace with the technology? It would be a massive investment,” he said.

WWE Network averages 1.5 million subscribers, and will see a huge jump in its potential audience. Comcast said in its fourth-quarter financial report that Peacock had 33 million sign-ups.

“We can drop the price in half (WWE Network was $9.99 per month, while Peacock will be $4.99 per month) and add their technical support. Ultimately it became a no brainer, especially with their reach,” Khan said.

The move to Peacock also provides a financial boost for WWE after going from 310 live events in 2019 to 42 last year due to the pandemic. WWE will see an average of $200 million a year during the five-year contract.

WWE will shut down the existing standalone WWE Network app on April 4, meaning WrestleMania will be exclusively on Peacock. Comcast said in a release on Monday that the entire WWE Network archive should be on Peacock by mid-August.

With live road shows not expected to return until at least July, WWE still has not finalized a location for ThunderDome beginning in April. They are currently using Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, but have to leave when the Tampa Bay Rays have their home opener on April 9.

WWE used the Amway Center in Orlando for four months, but had to move when the Magic started the NBA season. With Tampa and Orlando arenas still being used for NBA and NHL, it is possible the company could look to the college arenas at South Florida or Central Florida. Most of the wrestlers live in Florida due to WWE’s Performance Center being based in Orlando.

With screens around the ring able to accomodate 900-1,000 fans, the setup is like “Raw” or “Smackdown” live shows. The ThunderDome has also allowed WWE to experiment with different cameras and augmented reality graphics.

“Bringing back fans was needed, and we’ve been able to try things out that we have thought about but not had the chance,” WWE chief brand officer Stephanie McMahon said. “I’ve been blown away by all capabilities we have had with it and bringing it to life. We can apply everything that we learned to the future when we do have a merging of the physical and virtual fans.”

This year’s WrestleMania was originally scheduled for SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, but it will take place at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. Last year’s event was also scheduled for Tampa, but ended up moving to the WWE Performance Center due to the coronavirus.

WWE said Monday night that tickets for WrestleMania will go on sale next Tuesday, but did not announce what the capacity will be for the two nights. Attendance at last month's Super Bowl, which was also at the stadium, was limited to 22,000.

Los Angeles will get WrestleMania in 2023, while Dallas will host next year. McMahon said there were some logistical challenges and building commitments as to why Los Angeles must wait two years.

WrestleMania will be two nights again this year, but is scheduled to return to one night in 2022 and ’23. While the move to two nights last year proved popular, McMahon said trying to do that in the future might be more difficult due to the many events held during the week barring a pandemic.

“I suppose anything in life is possible, but this format is unique to the times,” McMahon said.

___

Follow Joe Reedy on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/joereedy

___

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in