WWE Network details emerge: Channel to reach 40 million homes and feature other sports properties?

via www.wwe.com

Vince McMahon is once again putting all his eggs in one basket and hoping to hit a home run by unleashing the WWE Network on the world sometime in 2012. The initial target date was for right around WrestleMania 28, which would seemingly be the perfect time to capitalize thanks to The Rock's presence at an event that is expected to be the biggest in the history of the company.

Confusion has reigned supreme for months now, though, namely due to the fact that details have been few and far between regarding how exactly WWE plans on rolling this channel out. Rumors abounded that YouTube's new initiative to pay for exclusive content would result in an Internet only channel but that may not be the case.

SportsBusinessDaily.com has some details:

Following nearly a decade of successful channel launches by most major sports properties, the WWE is deep into negotiations with In Demand on a deal that would see the wrestling operation launch its cable channel in early spring, according to numerous media and sports industry sources.

WWE executives have told cable and satellite operators that it is expecting to reach 40 million homes for its April 1 launch, an impressive number that would put the channel on par with sports networks like Fuel and Fox Soccer.

To achieve that distribution number, WWE would still have to cut carriage deals with more than just In Demand, a consortium of the nation's biggest cable operators: Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox and Bright House Networks.

Using a blueprint that other sports properties have worked with successfully, WWE plans to seed its channel with live events that previously have been available on pay-per-view. WWE also has expanded its programming search beyond wrestling, sources said. That could include some professional team sports, sources said.

The report goes on to state that Comcast is taking the lead in negotiations of the deal, likely because it has a vested interest in keeping WWE on USA with its Monday Night Raw television show, which consistently draws great ratings each week.

200 employees have been hired to staff the network and while a network head has yet to be named, Daily makes note that candidates have been told reality-show experience is preferred.

Perhaps that's why so many of the television show ideas have been reality based. The success of reality TV is still relatively high and it's a cheap, easy way to fill programming slots.

The most interesting bit of information to come out of the report, however, is how the current pay-per-view schedule would be affected:

The planned channel's marquee programming would come from most of, if not all of, WWE's current pay-per-view events. The company generally produces 13 PPV events per year. Most will migrate to the channel. It's not known how many would remain PPV.

As our own Keith Harris noted recently, WWE's "B-shows" have been drawing less and less year after year. They still make money but at the current rate it makes far more sense to use the shows as value adds for an easy selling point to the channel. If WWE cut down to four or five shows a year, the "Big Four" of Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam and Survivor Series, of course, would seemingly see an increase in business if fans didn't have to shell out money as often for pay-per-view they perceive as not worth the money.

Nothing is set in stone but the Network is coming together rapidly.

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