The Odd Journey of the WWE Network to the United Kingdom

In September of 2011, WWE made an announcement that they were to launch the WWE Network as a pay per view channel in 2012. As time passed and further extensive research conducted, WWE held a grand press conference on January 8th 2014 and made a ground breaking announcement that they were to launch the WWE Network and promised to revolutionise the way the WWE universe were to view its wrestling content.

Since WWE acquired both WCW and ECW, they also purchased the rights to their extensive list of library footage. WWE had capitalised on this by developing some insightful and well developed documentaries containing footage from all three promotions, matches from over decades and stories that had never been told. However, with technology evolving and the way people were beginning to view content online changing, WWE had to keep up with the times and decided to launch its groundbreaking WWE Network, which promised a catalogue of the best PPVs of all three promotions, live WWE ppvs, unique WWE shows and new reality tv shows especially for the Network. On its launch, WWE received positive reviews with the New York Times stating that WWE had, “positioned themselves on the cutting edge of Internet television”.

The content was made available to Canada shortly after, but at this point there was no news on when the Network would be available within the United Kingdom. It is a well known fact that outside US and Canada, WWE has one of the largest fan followings within the UK. Taking this into consideration, there was no indication as to when the Network would be available within the UK? After months and months of speculation, WWE announced that the Network was to be made available within the UK on October 1st, but this was delayed for a month. Following this, a new announcement was made that the Network would be available within the UK on November 8th at 8:00pm. This created a great buzz within the UK and left many fans excited with the prospect of finally having the chance to access what we have been deprived of for all those months. The countdown was finally on on. But this was not to be. Just like the drama you would expect from an outlandish WWE storyline and in a bizarre turn of events, 20 minutes before the launch time the decision was made to pull the Network. No valid reason was given as to the reason why the Network was never launched other than a public apology from Vince McMahon. Coincidentally during this time, the WWE were on their European tour and the UK fans took this opportunity to voice their anger and disappointment with the WWE with clear and loud ‘We want the Network’ chants during the shows.
Although a vague reason was provided as to why the Network was not available to the UK and pulled at the 11th hour, various rumours had circulated on the Internet that Sky TV intervened and contractually prevented WWE from launching the Network. The implications the launch of the Network may have had on Sky TV i.e. the potential loss of PPV buys it may have incurred, as result of the PPVs being marketed at £19.95 on Sky, whereas the Network was promoted at £9.99? That’s a no brainer!

Of course, neither party confirmed or denied this rumour and instead fans were left guessing and speculating. If the rumours were to be believed, why weren’t these two big corporations aware of any such contractual legal obligations and implications that may have had as a result of the launch? To add further insult to injury, WWE at this point were relentlessly advertising and marketing the fact the Network was FREE, FREE, FREE for the month of November for its UK/Canada fans whilst UK fans were still scratching their heads and wondering what went wrong on November 8th and quite simple asking … ‘Where’s our Network?’

At this point, some fans had taken their anger and vented their frustration with the delay and threatened to boycott WWE over this fiasco. Others sat patiently, whilst majority of us UK fans wanted some answers. It is worth noting that some fans did manage to access the Network within the UK since January 2014 via the assistance of Internet loopholes and various settings adjustments. But the majority and the not so IT savvy, sat patiently waiting for the officially UK release.

Finally, it was announced on January 4, 2015, that the WWE Network would be launching in the UK and Ireland on January 19, 2015 although some customers managed to register as early as January 13.

The Network has now launched in the UK and opened to mainly positive reviews. The UK fans are having the same reactions as to what the US fans experienced almost a year ago. The Network may have been launched but certain questions still seem to remain, why did the UK fans have to wait almost a year for the launch? Why did it take three attempts for the Network to be made available within the UK? Why did WWE cancel the Network 20 minutes prior to launch on the previous intended date for the launch of November 8th? We may never get the answers to these questions perhaps because of WWE’s contractual obligations or due to the reasons potentially attracting further negative press, however although this issue seems to be resolved, other matters appear to have the hit surface, including why oh why haven’t the UK fans experienced a live headline PPV since Summerslam 1992? Do we have to wait for a Wade Barrett or a Finn Balor to reach headline babyface status and placed in the title picture for this dream to happen? The UK is not short of stadiums or arenas and there is a strong following within the UK for the WWE product, however yet we are subjected to watching monthly PPVs on TV (or now on the Network). We cannot discount the fact that the WWE provides us with not one, but two European tours a year, which may be more than that is offered to other countries across the globe. But out of how many of these tours have we witnessed a title change? A shock return? A memorable match? The answer is simply not many.

The launching of the Network fiasco in 2014 may have opened up some insecurities with the way WWE depicts its UK fans. We have started 2015 in a positive way with the successful launch of the Network. UK fans can only now wish that the WWE learn from this experience and value their UK fans for their years of dedication, commitment and patience that we have diligently contributed.

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  1. I’d like to contest that the WWE Network has arrived in Canada. It is only available on 2 out of 11 cable companies, and most cities that aren’t capitals of their province only have 1, or at most 2 cable companies available in their region. If those 2 are not one of the two that has WWE Network … well you’re shit out of luck. Plus the cable WWE Network has ZERO on demand and basically just plays the “live feed” that is available across the internet feed by default.

    To me that is not “arrived,” many Canadians are still forced to use those “internet loopholes” you mentioned to even access the WWE Network at all, or if they can get the cable one they use the loophole to get the “proper” WWE Network. Bottom-line is WWE is constantly talking about how worried they are that the WWE Network only have like under 700,000 subscribers, if they would just give everyone the REAL WWE Network, that can be accessed via the internet and tv streaming devices, than the would see those numbers climb super fast.

    I get that they have contractual obligations they are waiting to expire, or be renegotiated, in some cases, but meanwhile they sign a brand new 10 year deal with Rogers that will see us stuck with this sub par WWE Network for that time. They have no one to blame about the low subscriptions but themselves.

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