WWE Network Takeaway, Benoit Footage, International Expansion, Royal Rumble Favorite

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What were your biggest takeaways from the formal announcement of the WWE Network on Wednesday night in Las Vegas?

My biggest takeaway from the WWE Network announcement was the fact the WWE Network will be "over-the-top." In fact, the first catchphrase promoted for the WWE Network is - "It's way over the top!" WWE had considered traditional models, including buying a network and overhauling it (like what Fox Sports 1 did with the Speed Channel) and launching a premium paid channel (like HBO). However, when it came down to it, they could not get significant clearance from cable and satellite providers to launch it. This is why WWE announced it was "coming in 2012," only to later back off that. This was an attempt to rally their widespread audience to demand the WWE Network from their providers. I was very concerned about the WWE Network in the traditional model. While Vince McMahon made it clear he understood the struggles that Oprah Winfrey had with her network, he was confident that would not be the case with WWE. However, it still seemed incredibly risky. Now after seeing what the company is doing, as an over-the-top hybrid, my position has changed.

If WWE can prevent widespread issues with lagging or streaming errors, something MLB apparently has under control on their own model and has assisted in developing the WWE Network, all should be well. In fact, I think it's revolutionary and exactly where television is heading. WWE's core programming will remain on cable, however, the WWE Network is how I see all of television evolving over the years - one device that essentially does everything. WWE is "punting their pay-per-view model" but the pay-per-view business has been dying for years and a move such as what WWE is doing was inevitable.

How will WWE handle Chris Benoit footage of the WWE Network?

The last I heard Chris Benoit footage will be included on the WWE Network but it will air with an advisory. Contrary to popular belief, WWE's stance on Benoit is not to completely erase him from their history. WWE wants to avoid a situation where they are promoting a man that murdered his wife and child. He will not be promoted in any fashion and yes, that does mean he will never be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. The WWE Network will not be limited to PG programming either, as it will feature programming rated TV-14 and TV-MA depending on the time it airs.

When will the WWE Network be available internationally?

The WWE Network will be launched domestically first on Monday, February 24, 2014 after Raw on the USA Network. People in the United States will have the first opportunity to purchase earlier that morning. There are plans to expand out internationally as WWE noted the following with their formal announcement - the WWE Network will be available in the "United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Nordics by the end of 2014/early 2015."

I know you aren't a big fan of shoving members of The Shield directly into the main event but from what I've seen in Roman Reigns, he seems to be ready for such a push. Could you see him winning the Royal Rumble?

I'm against hot-shotting members of The Shield faction to the main event scene in fear it won't be done properly and they'll end up getting lost in the mix. With Undertaker, Batista and Brock Lesnar all in the plans for Wrestlemania XXX this year, any match featuring Roman Reigns is going to feel like a downgrade. While anything is possible, and I haven't heard the booking plans for the Royal Rumble match, I would not favor a situation where Reigns goes over. Two entrants have been announced - Alberto Del Rio and Batista - and Batista seems like an overwhelming favorite at this point.

From the Ask WNW vault…

July 2012: I was wondering about your thoughts on the WWE Network. Oprah’s network is basically hemorrhaging money at this point. Isn’t Vince McMahon and the rest of WWE upper management worried the same could occur with them? - Vince McMahon addressed the failure of the Oprah Network when talking about the WWE Network in a conference call with investors in November 2011. McMahon called the Oprah Network a “miserable failure” and said that it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the Oprah Network didn’t capitalize on what Oprah does best. Vince argued they tried to brand the Oprah name without featuring Oprah. He said WWE was going to do the opposite and would be “extraordinary successful.” Despite Vince’s calculated optimism, there are many in the company asking questions much like yours. As for my thoughts, the WWE Network is a huge risk and I’m not seeing a lot of upside. Sure, I’d like to see a network launched with all WWE programming and quite possibly carrying most of the pay-per-views, however, the fact they’ve struggled to gain clearance shows just how difficult it’s going to be just to get it launched.

The next installment of Ask WNW is scheduled to run on Friday, January 10, 2014.

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