Fans Need to Embrace The WWE Network -- Like NOW

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WWE has had some unprecedented financial struggles as of late.

For some reason, The newborn WWE Network has been what investors, fans, bloggers, and other analysts have been pointing out.

It’s no secret that McMahon and Company have already started to “execute Order 66″ (if I can geek out on you for a second) to deal with falling skies:

  • They’ve cut about 13 wrestlers (that we know of) as well as several on-air personalities, staffers and behind-the-scenes workers who usually tend to the backstage area.
  • The Pre and Post-Shows have now been reduced to (for the moment, at least) tapings inside the WWE Control Room.
  • Zero-Tolerance Policies have, reportedly, been put in place as far as attendance and dress codes are concerned — which is, in essences, the McMahon’s way of saying, “Give us a reason to can you.”
  • Constant WWEShop deals and coupons have been offered during each and every RAW Pre-Show.
  • WWE announced that it is going to give fans a one-week “Free Preview” of the Network which will showcase all their best programming.

And that’s just scratching the surface.

The thing is…every single fan, analyst, blogger, investor, stockholder or angry Smark has yet to realize there IS a silver lining here.

I mean, besides the great Pre-Show deals — my girlfriend and I picked up two new shirts for about $30 bucks, I’ll tell you what!

My main point is this: for all of WWE’s faults, The WWE Network is, ironically, the best thing the company has done in a long, long time. And, doing my best to NOT sound like a complete company shill, I encourage every single WWE fan (or, hell, every single wrestling fan in general) to sign up for the Network RIGHT NOW.

If you don’t want to take the risk, sign up for the Free Preview Week — which doesn’t require any form of payment.

Despite some very rare hiccups, the Network is an amazing thing.

Not only do you get their regular programming, your $10 dollars a month gets you every single monthly pay-per-view. On top of that, tou get nearly every single past WWE Pay-Per-View and, because WWE owns WCW and ECW, you also get their old stuff as well.

$10 dollars a month.

I’m curious about why more fans aren’t subscribing to this thing — maybe it’s the international restrictions. At this time, WWE Network can’t really be seen abroad unless you are the Bruce Lee of hackers. The most puzzling move was to make it unavailable to Canadian subscribers, a place that WWE counted on for their growth in the 80’s and counted on for much of the 90’s.

Or, perhaps, WWE has underestimated the fans who don’t want to shell out $10 dollars a month to pay for something they could easily stream or torrent or, better yet, watch legally on YouTube.

But, there it is. There are simply fans who don’t see this as something they want to pay for.

It’s hard to look at the financials and see that nearly 400,000 fans bought Wrestlemania XXX through traditional means (read: their cable subscriber) and didn’t use the network as their resource to view the show. WWE still sees the return, of course, but that’s about a quarter of a billion dollars not thrown at the Network and about a half a million subscribers lost.

From a logistical standpoint, it might be a trust issue: American fans didn’t want to see a jumpy video stream or a stream that froze mid-way through. The problem is that it didn’t happen. Save for a few seconds of bad-quality buffering, Wrestlemania XXX went off without a hitch on WWE Network.

The freezes have increased lately — as noted by our own Michael Dunlap. Money in the Bank was particularly frustrating to watch with this issue as I was assigned to recap it for three different websites and had to reload my browser several times to get it to work. I sincerely hope this is because the subscriber numbers are up and bandwith demands have increased…we’ll know soon, I’m sure.

Even still, those issues seem largely ironed out.

But I guess I’m stunned that there are still some fans out there who won’t pay 1/6th of what they’d usually pay to watch a WWE Pay-Per-View event plus additional programming. Except for apprehensions about network performance, this is pretty much like the cable companies cutting their costs and giving you five other live events for free.

It’s going to be interesting in the coming months for all sides, to say the least. WWE is going all-in with their online-only model which has caused some rancor with Dish Network and DirecTV.

Dish Network refused to air WWE PPV events at first, then aired Wrestlemania XXX while announcing that it would carry WWE PPV shows on a “show-by-show basis” while DirecTV dropped them altogether.

No matter what, WWE is all-in with this thing, shrugging those moves off completely — and even adding Total Divas re-runs to their show roster as well as the first thirteen episodes of Saturday Night’s Main Event.

Long story short, The WWE Network is a godsend and an absolute no-brainer for any wrestling fan. For somebody who is a fan of Torrentland and has done his share of streaming and pirating in his days, this is one of those things I will gladly plunk my hard-earned money down for and be proud that I did.

The fans need to start following suit.

Reluctance to do would be nothing short of stubborn cynicism and I fear that if enough fans don’t grab it by the new year, the company will resort to drastic measures.

I’d hate to see this whole thing lost over some misplaced sense of self-worth.

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