WWE Network was built in partnership with BAMTech, the streaming company that started as a subsidiary of Major League Baseball and is now, like just about everything else, controlled by Disney.
When Disney took over, WWE began to look for a different setup, realizing that Disney’s corporate strategy is very much not geared towards fostering any competition whatsoever. The result led to an overhaul of their streaming technology, a process well-detailed by Chris Welch at The Verge.
It’s a fascinating piece on the whole, especially considering how early WWE was in adopting the over-the-top subscription streaming model. But things tend to change, especially in the worlds of technology and entertainment, worlds that intersect more and more now, even compared to 2014.
WWE knew the writing was on the wall and had its own reasons for turning elsewhere. As co-president George Barrios told The Verge in a recent interview, WWE wanted greater control over and ownership of the Network’s technology stack. “Obviously, I can’t speak for what they were thinking. From our perspective, we made the decision unilaterally. They may have been going that way as well. But our perspective, once Disney came in and paid the price they paid for BAMTech, we didn’t think they were going to be a long-term player in the third-party services business. Didn’t know one way or another, so that was us making the call. And that’s when we made the decision that it made sense for us to pivot.”
WWE wanting a bit more ownership over such a vital part of their company makes a lot of sense. To that end, they considered developing their own platform before deciding to instead partner with Endeavor, new to the streaming world after their purchase of NeuLion. That’s all history, though, with WWE debuting their overhauled Network experience ahead of this year’s Summerslam.
It’s what’s next that’s interesting, as WWE co-president George Barrios told The Verge that they might be moving toward tiered subscriptions. As to what that could possibly look like:
But WWE has bigger ideas for the future, including a step-up premium subscription that could add exclusive content and even add merchandise and ticketing components.
Free: This will offer the same free-to-watch videos you’d normally find on WWE.com. Barrios said WWE might also offer timed previews of paid WWE Network content.
Regular: The standard WWE Network experience, combining free content with subscription benefits like live pay-per-views, on-demand streaming, and original programming.
Premium: “We think there’s also an opportunity to super-serve our most passionate Network subscribers with a premium tier that’ll bring together more content for them, more features for them, and also integrating some of our other non-video services like our commerce — potentially integrating something like free shipping, bringing together our digital ticketing efforts in there. It becomes the one place to experience everything WWE.” Barrios didn’t disclose how much WWE might charge for the premium tier.
It makes sense to put currently free content in the same place; fans who may be on the fence about a Network subscription have one fewer hurdle to clear if they’ve already downloaded the WWE app to their phone or Xbox, for example. As to the premium tier, the idea of commerce benefits makes some sense for a very core group, theoretically, but the value equation would still have to be there, and without pricing or benefit details it’s hard to evaluate.
These tiers could potentially open the door for other tiered options as well, maybe centered around specific events or categories of content. There are certainly a lot of ways WWE could go, and now that they’ve secured more ownership in the technology, they should be able to explore whichever direction they choose.