Its name is the WWE Network, an over-the-top streaming service catering to WWE fans (mostly). Last week, the Network celebrated its one year anniversary, and we figured now would be a good time for a performance review. I'll give mine in a moment, but for the last few days, we turned it to you, the Cagesider. We asked you to give an honest assessment of the service. Here, in a nutshell, is what you came up with.
5 Things You Love About the WWE Network
1. NXT. For a lot of you, it's the only reason you're still giving your $10 a month for the service. In the minds of many, it's the best hour of wrestling anywhere, and it's hard to disagree. Maybe it's a good thing NXT has never made it to television in the States under its current form. It would probably be a one-hour version of RAW.
2. The archives. I'm going to lump the old shows (such as RAW, Smackdown, Saturday Night's Main Event, Nitro, etc.) with the classic PPVs. The idea that you can watch just about anything you want with a few clicks is pretty awesome. It's also made for some fun Saturday nights at Cageside (shameless plug: Retro live blog at 8pm et! Starrcade 1997!).
3. The price. The other hook of the Network was every PPV going forward live. At $10 a month, that's a serious budget saver, plus you don't get that buyer's remorse you felt when you spent $50 or $60 on a less than good show (looking at you, every PPV since last year's Summerslam).
4. The original programming. In recent months, WWE's seriously stepped it up in the original programming department with WWE 24, Rivalries, Monday Night War, and Countdown. More of that. Lots more of that. Please.
5. Much content. Wow. Many hours (About 3,000 and counting, double what they had when it rolled out last year). So amaze. Such awesome. Seriously, there's a lot of stuff on the Network I want to watch but haven't gotten around to yet.
...and 5 Things You Loathe About the WWE Network
1. The catchphrase. Begging people to pay a $9.99 for your service isn't going to get people to pay $9.99 for your service. They turned a common price you see in stores, catalogs, and in everyday life heel. Not only that, they belittle a portion of their fans who because of reasons they can't control cannot get the Network and have to resort to paying full price for their PPVs. Way to go, WWE.
2. Inconsistentency. Watching the WWE Network is almost like one of those old "Choose Your Own Adventure" books. Watch it on a PC, then watch it on a mobile device. Then watch it on your favorite game system. Then watch it on a Roku if you got one. It's practically a different experience every time. Some have checkpoints, some don't. Some allow you to resume play, some don't. And don't get me started on their "search" option.
3. Not enough content. For all the stuff they have on there, there's a weird feeling there should be more on there by now, right? Like more Attitude Era RAWs, other promotions (like Mid-South, AWA, ECW, and WCCW), more old Nitros, WCW Saturday Night... I could go on and on. Also, remember the early days of the Network being populated with late night ECW and first-thing-in-the-morning New Generation RAW? Well, it's been replaced by Total Divas and Superstars reruns. Speaking of inconsistent, 9.99 in the UK apparently means about $15.50 a month. That's asking a bit much, yeah? BTW: what the hell happened to Main Event? Oh wait...
4. The delayed launch everywhere else. For about six months, the only people that had the WWE Network (legally) was here within these United States borders. While most of the international launch went without a hitch, the UK launch got delayed literally less than a half hour before it was a go, Canada got a shell of the Network I will not even begin to explain (but if you are Canadian and can explain it, comment below), and some countries STILL don't have the Network for some reason.
5. The payoffs. This may not mean much to you now, but it may very well in the long run. One underreported negative of the Network is the reduced payouts for PPV events for the rank and file. The top stars: they're still doing just fine, sure. But a sizable portion of the roster look forward to that extra income every four weeks or so. It's like a Christmas bonus every month, and now many members of the roster have had them reduced or eliminated altogether. Translation: less money = more disgruntled workers = lower morale = worse quality product for you the fan. One Phillip Brooks of Chicago pointed this out when he went in on his former employer last Thanksgiving. And he was a top draw. I would not be surprised if in the foreseeable future if this becomes a regular issue with people leaving.
...and my 5 favorite thoughts from you.
Rather than love/loathe this is a critique of the medium as a whole.
I gave it a three because it's too good to be shit and too bad to be great. NXT is mainly why I hang around, but even then I can get that in other places. There are so many flaws with it that it's starting to turn me off. When I click the timeline bar to skip forward in a show it never goes where I click. It shoots me back a minute or two to some checkpoint placed along the line. New Japan World doesn't do that. Why does the Network?
I don't pay for the network because the company hasn't incentivized me to. My stepbrother and I split it off of his email address. All you need is one guy with an email to share the password with a group of friends and now 10 people have the network on one tab. WWE needs to find some way to only allow one IP address to sign on per email address. Until then I'm not paying for it. The company has been crap and I can find NXT in other places.
DoinktheBrawler (who is Canadian), has a different experience with the Network from most:
I wrote a review of it when it first came out and it hasnt improved much. The outcry at release caused WWE to release commercials saying "We heard you" and promising more content "in the coming weeks". Well, that took forever and when it happened, it was still pretty damn disappointing. At launch there was a grand total of 13 shows to choose from, now there's a wide selection, but there are still plenty of shows missing. This is all without mentioning you can ONLY get it through Rogers cable, and the service is a clone of the Rogers On Demand service. This service has always sucked. The menu navigation is slow and dim witted, and if you want to watch a specific match, theres no skip function, you have to fast forward. That would be acceptable if the fast forward speed wasnt so damn slow, its only about double speed so if you want to see the main event of a PPV, you have to press FF and wait about an hour.
IT SUCKS. I honestly dont know why WWE decided to give us the Network this way when it would have been so easy to lauch the same Network thats in the US and everywhere else. I can only assume Rogers offered them a shitload of money.
Nostalgia: I've always said that part of the reason I still watch wrestling is because I get to feel like the little girl who used to watch wrestling with her dad. In particular, I had a tape of Wrestlemania 6 that I watched all the time, be it because I was bored or had a really bad day. It's to the point where I almost have the entire PPV memorized. I love being able to go back and relive all the old moments and memories. It's comforting. To this day, when I come home from a really rotten time at work (which happens more often than not, given the job I do), I can put on the Network and pick some old programming to try to brighten my mood.
Pay Per Views: I was never able to watch PPVs as a kid because my parents would not pay for them. As an adult, I simply don't make enough money to justify spending $40-$60 for a three-hour event each month. Last year was the first time I got to see any of them live and I was SO EXCITED. I can definitely live with $120 a year to see all of them.
Original Content: Countdown? Rivalries? Monday Night War? (Even) Legends House? MOAR PLEASE.
NXT: No explanation needed.
Streaming: Forget trying to watch anything on my laptop. It won't load half the time, and freezes every few minutes if it does start to play. The only reason my wife and I got a Roku box (although we love it now) is because we couldn't stand trying to work it on our laptop. That said, I wish that the Network would put the PPVs in chapters that you could page through, rather than just fast forwarding and guesswork if you want to skip a match.
Booking: Not a criticism of the Network really, but recently the booking has gotten so stale, so annoying, that I don't even care to watch the product anymore. Sometimes I think the only reason we keep the Network is for NXT, but really, since I have Hulu, I could just watch it the next day.
$9.99: Seriously. Shut up.
Love: If it didn't exist, I don't think that I would actually be a wrestling fan. I tuned into Universal HD one Saturday night because it was on, watched kinda casually for a couple weeks, and then decided that $9.99 a month was a good price for the history and being able to watch the PPVs. When I was younger, I had no interest in wrestling, and one of the reasons was that the PPVs were absurdly expensive.
Love: I'm really into NXT. It seems to be a lot "cleaner" than the main roster stuff, even though I'm still really enjoying it. But NXT gets the emotion that I love in a good story. Kevin Owens crying over and hugging the NXT title that he won while Sami Zayn is passed out behind him being treated while the NXT crowd looks on in shock is easily the most memorable moment I've had while watching wrestling these past two months. Perfect emotional juxtaposition for the moment.
Loathe: For something that is "on-demand", I get far too many instances of choppiness of picture while just watching an old PPV/show. Live, I would totally understand, but there shouldn't be stuttering or constant changes of quality in the middle of watching something old and on-demand.
Loathe: I have no idea what's important on here. I'd love to watch more old stuff, but I have no idea what was really good as opposed to really bad, I have no idea how to find the most important story pieces of the past to learn more about history, so I have to rely on people telling me what I should watch.
Love: Because of the Network my weekly life includes
The list goes on. NXT is the wrestling I want, that I need and thankfully that I now have thanks to the Network. Not to mention the hope I now have for the future of this medium that I love.
Also there's a lot of other good content too. Especially the documentaries, which the 'E really knows how to nail.
Loathe: The delayed release here in Ireland made me wait for the gloriousness listed above and they could stick up new archival content more regularly.
Seriously though. NXT...
And now my thoughts. For the record, I rated it a 4.5. Having nearly every PPV ever and every PPV going forward is awesome as hell. It absolutely is an incredible value. But like any service (Netflix, Hulu, Xbox Live, etc.), you can't let it sit; otherwise you're doing it wrong. The amount of content on the service is remarkable, yet it feels like there should be more on there. Not enough Attitude Era. Not enough Nitro. Not enough of the older promotions. Not enough of the old DVDs. No AWA at all. I know there are hang-ups such as music rights and upscaling, but we're a year in. I didn't expect everything from every promotion to be up, but I'm kinda wondering what the holdup is.
And Boxingnut pointed out a "problem in the weeds" that I'm sure has become a major issue: multiple people logging in using the same e-mail at the same time. If you have Netflix, you know this is an absolute no-no. Pretty sure it's that way with any other competent streaming service (if not, do let me know). I wonder how much money WWE cost themselves with this problem not being corrected.
If PPVs aren't your thing, get the Network for NXT , easily the best hour of programming WWE produces on a week-to-week basis. And these days, it's not even close. And speaking of NXT, their five two-hour specials have all been home runs. They've become can't miss events. One day I'm gonna binge watch them all back to back.
And the original programming has been excellent. I'm not big on Legends House, but I loved Wrestlemania Rewind, I like Countdown, even if their lists are suspect, and I love-LOVE-the original specials that they've done. I just wish they do more of them.
Also, if anybody responsible for marketing WWE Network is reading this, stop trying to make "$9.99" happen. It's not going to happen.
And with that, with 422 votes tabulated and calculated, WWE Network's score is....
..truly making their streaming service a B+ player. Not bad for your first year.