I believe when I die, hopefully many years from now, I will wonder how many hours I will have spent saying the phrase, “Could you please put your cell phone away?” As a high school teacher, I believe this is the one phrase I say more then any other.
My students are obsessed with technology. The amazing thing I see everyday is how quickly it has changed in just my few years of teaching. It always surprises me how quickly they can play games, find music, play YouTube clips or post on Twitter in the few seconds before I catch them in class.
As we get into a digital age faster then ever before, in comes our beloved WWE with the idea of the WWE Network. Granted I have my doubts in will ever get done (2015 really?) but I will give the benefit of the doubt that it will finally appear. However, if it does come it will be another grave and costly mistake.
I know what you are thinking, great another pessimistic hit job on the WWE Network. However, I wish it would succeed as a life long fan. I’ll admit I am one of those rare fans that actually have WWE Classics on Demand. The idea of a specialty cable channel has been a very successful staple of television’s past.
But that is the point; cable is the past of this television-watching world. Very few of my students watch shows live. Sure there are exceptions for them, mainly sports or “The Walking Dead”, but the idea of appointment viewing seems quite lost on this generation. The idea of sitting still to watch a 24 hour channel devoted to professional wrestling and paying 15 dollars a month for it? It is beyond foolish.
The idea of a pay channel seems strange to me. The WWE wants their channel to be like an HBO. The comparison is absurd. HBO has a wide diversity of quality programming like “The Wire”, “The Sopranos” and “Game of Thrones” to name a few. The WWE has a Diva’s reality show. Not quite the same.
Even in HBO itself, the WWE should see the cautionary tale about where the future of television is going. Sure HBO has over 30 million subscribers to maintain its quality but it still loses out on potential viewers to the changing technology. “Game of Thrones” for example is the most illegally downloaded show in the world. HBO Go, a streaming service available only to subscribers, has a well-publicized history of its password being shared between multiple family members and friends. It has gotten so bad; HBO is considering offering its online streaming service to anyone, for a small cost. This is where the WWE should be going, online streaming for its new network. Anything else would be recipe for disaster.
For older viewers, the idea of watching television was simply appointment viewing. I fondly remember waiting each week for the latest episode of my favorite show and discussing theories with my friends while I waited for the next one. It was fun but those days are long gone.
For the longest time, I have enjoyed my cable package and hundreds of channels. But the freedom that online streaming provides is still something I struggle to catch up with. My teaching assistant can ask for show suggestions, watch the whole show over a few days and discuss it with me. For eight dollars, you can watch all these shows quickly while I was spending hundreds of dollars on expensive DVD collections. And the WWE is asking for 15 dollars for simply their limited pro wrestling content? That would be completely absurd notion to the future television viewers of the world.
One of the smartest business aspects in the WWE today is their usage of social media in their current product. They have invested in the short video service Tout. While the Tout seems quite unnecessary to myself while watching WWE programming, applications that make quick videos are quite popular amongst my students. While I don’t know if Tout is the best answer, it seems worth the gamble.
The WWE has also been quite successful in the realm of Twitter. I had my doubts about Twitter but it really is how a lot of people get their news and interact with their entertainment. We don’t just watch television anymore; we give instant reactions to what we are watching. To their credit, the WWE has used this growing social media to their advantage. Get fan’s tweets on television, allow wrestlers to interact with their fans and have polls to determine matches. It is an interactive world that more and more viewers are craving. Sure I am annoyed by what is trending on Twitter during my Raw broadcast but I am fast realizing that I get closer to being an old man every day, I am not the future of television watching.
I hope the WWE gets it as well; streaming is the future not a specialty cable channel. They seem to be making small positive steps towards this future all the time. This is happening in terms of Hulu Plus and the Yahoo deal.
The Hulu Plus deal is a good step for the WWE’s future. Viewers want the ability to watch their shows at any time and access to shows like NXT and Superstars that we cannot see elsewhere is a smart business deal. If only we could get the entire three hours of Raw on Hulu Plus, we might be going in the right direction.
The more interesting streaming deal is with Yahoo. Yahoo is smartly trying to keep up in the streaming future battle with Amazon, Hulu and Netflix but it has a long way to go. The partnership with the WWE seems natural and potentially smart for both parties. You use the current fan base of the WWE to begin build a streaming future for the WWE and Yahoo.
The WWE gains a lot too, another entry point into online streaming. They will have two new weekly shows, because as you know we don’t have enough programming. We will soon have thirty-minute pre-shows for all pay per views and Monday Night Raw. I certainly like the idea of treating WWE shows like true sporting events. If they do it like the highly enjoyable WrestleMania pre-show, it will be a fun event to look forward to.
The one that seems the most interesting is the last part of the Yahoo deal. The WWE-Yahoo Deal with allow for “exclusive access to archives of historic wrestling matches, shows, highlights, and other content”. That sounds pretty good but isn’t that what the WWE Network would provide? If you are already giving away content on wwe.com, WWE Classics On Demand, Hulu Plus, YouTube and Yahoo, what is the point of a network? You can achieve the same effect as a traditional cable network and provide it with far less overhead. It would make more sense to simply pick one streaming service and invest in its future.
The WWE Network might have been a smart idea years ago but that time has passed. It is an amazing technological age that the next generation of WWE viewers is growing up in. Expecting a generation of instant gratification to pay 15 dollars for one expensive specialty channel is doomed to fail. The WWE is evolving for 21st century viewing habits in so many ways; don’t waste the money on something that isn’t feasible today. Vince McMahon got his start by taking advantage of the newly created cable television market. I hope he realizes that its days are numbered before it is too late.
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Yes, I use e-mail. I am an old man.