Even the WWE Network logo is ugly.
The new year is nearly upon us and plans are rapidly coming together for the WWE Network. They have to, really. The channel is being targeted to launch on April 1 to coincide with WrestleMania 28. This is being done as a way to garner as much mainstream attention for it as possible. And with The Rock vs. John Cena booked for the main event, not to mention the possibility of Shaquille O'Neal having a match on the card against Big Show, the mainstream press will definitely be watching.
There are still a boatload of questions regarding exactly what programming will air on the channel. WWE has announced that the first show to air on the network will be a documentary covering WrestleMania called "Rewind" but that's really nothing that hasn't been done to death already. They also have a reality show coming out the chute called "Legends House" that will featuring superstars of times past all living in a house together and all the shenanigans that ensue will be captured on camera and shown to the world.
Sounds like a winner, right?
But those kind of shows are small potatoes, ultimately. The big news surrounding the channel is the idea that has been floating around for some time that WWE is considering moving it's "B-show" pay-per-views -- every show not named Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam and Survivor Series -- to the network and going back to offering "The Big Four" on pay-per-view.
Dave Meltzer has more in the latest Wrestling Observer Newsletter:
As of today, the plan is that in 2012, the PPV schedule will be the same with Rumble, Chamber and Mania. From April through December, the plan is for only SummerSlam and Survivor Series to be national PPVs and the rest will be WWE Network specials. They may also remain on PPV based on the idea that much of the country won't have access to the network. It would make sense to do so because the people, even if it's 60,000 to 70,000, who have to pay $44.95 to watch a show that others are watching for free and they know it, will likely make some noise to their cable companies and help garner pressure to the companies to clear the station. The NFL did the same thing, offering a Thursday night game on the network which was shut out from most of the country with the very idea of expecting their fans to complain that their cable company wouldn't allow them to see the game and that would lead to pressure for more clearances. Of course, there's a big difference between the audience numbers that want to watch an NFL game as compared to those that want to watch a "B" WWE PPV show.
This strikes me as a plan that is good in theory but could be disastrous in practice. The very fact that all these plans are being made and not a single distribution deal has been done is enough to cause alarm. WWE is also reportedly looking to hire up to 180 new employees to run the network and they haven't even come close to hitting that mark. In fact, they don't even have anyone to head up the network and the reason for that is everyone who is anyone in a position of power to make it work wants nothing to do with the project.
And that's because they can see that it's a massive fail waiting to happen.
The budget for the first year is reportedly somewhere between $60-90 million, and there is absolutely no way in hell they make anywhere close to that back, especially considering the fact that if Vince McMahon really wants to get his foot in the door with major cable providers, he's going to need to do like Oprah Winfrey and waive all carriage fees. He won't want to do that but ultimately, he's not going to have a choice.
The idea that they can place pay-per-views like Hell in a Cell or Night of Champions on the show and fans will rage against their cable providers to pick up the Network so they don't have to pay for it is asinine. Again, it took years for this tactic to work on any level for the NFL, which is far and away more popular than pro wrestling and garners ratings on a level WWE hasn't seen since the Attitude Era and may never see again.
The idea of eventually moving the "B-show" pay-per-views to the WWE Network is a solid one but not this early in the game when some of the major hurdles just to get the channel off the ground have yet to be cleared. If Vince McMahon was smart (and lately that looks less and less so), he would back off the idea of pushing the start date on April 1. There are just too many problems that simply cannot be overcome over the next three months.
But then again, we all know McMahon is a gambler who is more than willing to take massive losses on a project if he believes in it enough. Sadly, it looks like that's exactly what he's headed for ... again.