Just prior to the Royal Rumble, it was announced that Main Event would not air the following week on the WWE Network, and would be replaced by a show hosted by Santino Marella about the Royal Rumble. Fans wondered if this was just a one week move or not. We got our answer the following week when Main Event only aired on Hulu in the States, while any new episodes have yet to appear in the shows Network listings since 20 January 2015. What does this mean in the bigger picture for WWE and for Main Event as a show?
It raises the question of what is the exact point of the Network for fans, other than the original content and getting all the Pay Per Views, when you already have to wait 30 days to watch replays of Raw and Smackdown. WWE touted the Network as being the home of its content, yet it appears that outside sources are able to control just exactly what content WWE can and cannot put on their own Network. Surely WWE should be able to put their own shows on their own Network, regardless of what deals are in place? When the Network was announced I had high hopes that I would be able to cancel my Sky Sports subscription here in the UK, and that fans would be able to watch everything through the Network if they chose to.
This move also brings the future of the show itself into question as the show is now bound to lose its audience. The figures on ION television were not exactly high compared to Raw and Smackdown, with an average viewership weekly of around over one million viewers per week, and with a move to Hulu, it is unlikely that would number would grow. The Network opened up another avenue for fans who could not get the station in the first place, and allowed fans where Main Event is not shown at all the chance to see the show. Now there is nothing in place to cover this, so who exactly is watching Main Event? This was a show that had been used by WWE when first launched to further story lines, giving fans a reason to want to tune in. Surely with less fans now being able to access the show, it raises the question of why have another show similar to WWE Superstars every week?
The speculation around the show being removed from the Network is it relates to the new agreement WWE recently reached with Sky TV in the UK, with claims that Sky have the first right to show Main Event before it airs on any other platform, excluding WWE's existing deal with ION. Surely WWE did not agree to this as part of their contract, because that could hurt subscription numbers. Alright, it isn't going to cause a mass exodus of cancellations, but not everyone has the Network to watch old content and Pay Per Views. Some people will want it as a platform to access shows they cannot get through their normal provider, or if they are in a country that does not hold the broadcast rights to the show. Is it coincidental that the Network launch was delayed in the UK, with most believing Sky had something to do with that? Could this have been the hold up in negotiations over a contract? Sky, of course deny any involvement in the Network's launch, but it was quite convenient that a delay occurred only when WWE announced the first month of the Network would be free, as Sky would lose out on Box Office buys of the show as a result of the Network.
If this is a factor in the show being dropped from the Network, then the question remains; what about future shows such as Superstars or NXT? Would they be sacrificed too if the contracts agreed stipulated that? It seems WWE has backed itself into a corner. They knew they had their own Network, and surely as they own the content, should have agreed any contracts to cover this. The Network is Vince's baby and the future of the company. If it ends up turning into another WWE 24/7 service online, then the Networks future could be called into question. Ultimately though, I don't see that being an issue, and I hope the next time contracts come up WWE negotiates to have the content air first on their network.