I haven't had a ton of time to mess around with the barely twenty-four hours old WWE Network.
My 9AM Eastern sign-up experience was pretty much what you've heard about around our site and around the web. I spent about an hour and a half banging my head against a cyber-wall that didn't even want to take my credit card information. I was expecting trouble, but thought I'd get through quicker since I was reading about other Cagesiders who had. But my goal was to be signed up by ArRival, so I had plenty of time.
Just before 4PM, I had a spare minute and decided to try again. Completely smooth sailing - less than five minutes from first click to watching the beautiful-in-its-simplicity interface come up on my screen.
I got sucked into the in-progress live stream by Bret Hart talking about how a motivational call from Vince McMahon following his 2002 stroke was a turning point in not only his relationship with WWE but also his life. Seriously, Bret Hart's life is the greatest story pro wrestling has ever created, and it's (mostly) a total shoot.
But I'd seen this before, and it wasn't giving me a chance to test out any functionality. It took me a second to figure out the pay-per-view (PPV) interface - the drop down for the year elluded me for several minutes
which ended up helping me in my decision to punch up last year's version of the very event that they promoted this past weekend in Minnesota. Fresh off a reminder of how much I enjoy the Chamber concept and jonesing for some Shield six-man action, I traveled back to a time when my man Rocky was WWE champ, and his match with John Cena had only happened Once in a Lifetime.
(Another reason that Elimination Chamber 2013 is an excellent viewing option...the promo package for the United States championship match includes this.)
Later on, I updated the App on my Android phone and was pleased to find that it instantly recognized my new credentials. It takes a while to load, and wants to check my location each time I start it up, but the playback is solid and it looks like most of the functionality is there.
One thing that I noticed is that "Search" on the App doesn't seem to be on par with the PC and streaming device versions. For instance, a search for Terry Funk came back with no results on my phone, whereas in the other two places, I got more than five pages of options.
What little I caught of the pre-show for Raw was actually on my phone, so it definitely works as a stop-gap for the live programming. In fact, it seems to default to a full-screen version of the live feed when you access WWEN via the App. That may be a setting I haven't found yet, though. I was able to turn off push notification, which I recommend if you don't want alerts on your phone every time a new show starts on the live stream.
Finally, I got home and plopped my happy ass on the couch and fired up my Roku. Pleased to report that this was again easy-peasy. I had to add the channel, which was front and center in the new section of Roku's channel store. Entered my login info and I was taken to, as near as I can tell, an almost identical interface as what I get on the PC browser version.
I played around a little with search, watched part of the very first WrestleMania, because that's what I promised my inner 12 year old I would do, and flipped over to Raw. I did keep an eye on the post-show while podcasting with the boss and my main man Matt Roth, and everything looked to be playing smoothly during what, presumably, was a high traffic time.
So, after a not unexpectedly rocky start, I'm pleased with my purchase so far. But as a guy who writes stuff on the internet, you know I have some complaints. Well, not even complaints so much as enhancements I'd like to see prioritized for the next waves of development:
- The ability to save your progress in a show between log-ins or across devices. I can do this with every other streaming service I use - HBO Go, NetFlix, Hulu. They'll follow my login and allow me to pick up viewing a show at a new time or on a device. They also remember what I've watched and, if I'm watching a series in sequence, where I left off. I don't see that functionality yet from WWE Network. Especially as they develop more original programming for the service, I hope to see it come along.
- Favorites, recommendations and viewing lists. I understand that they probably don't have the database of viewing patterns yet to provide "you watched this, so we think you'd like this" Amazon-style suggestions yet. But a good way to build toward that would be to allow me to like, or favorite, or rate the shows I watch. A wish list of shows that I want to watch in the future so I don't have to search for them again would be a great ease-of-use feature as well.
- Social media integration. This was hyped as a major selling point at launch. At this point, it's very basic - just links to Twitter, Facebook and email with a system generated message. I'm not sure I want to spend time on a WWE.com message board arguing about Halloween Havoc '96, but I won't know until they give me the option. It would be cool to see some innovation here, with Network-sponsored watch groups, or the ability to form contact circles of fans with similar interests. Obvious groupings like ECW fans come to mind, but this could be the chance for niche groups like Mike Tenay marks to come together.
- Better navigation within shows. Some shows have no chapter breaks or segments at all, and you have to hunt and peck through a long progress bar to try to find what you're looking for. Others (including a lot of the results when you search for an individual performer) take you to "moments" within shows. I don't know about you, but if search for CM Punk versus John Cena, I want to be taken to the start of a match, not the finish of one.
Those are my "rapid reactions", Cagesiders.
Anybody find other problems that need fixing or features you want added? Or can you just help an old man better use some new technology? You know what to do.