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Should WWE Open the Network to Non-WWE Programming?
WWE Network Off to Rocky Start
The recent woes of the WWE are well documented elsewhere so I won’t waste time repeating their problems here. Instead, I will focus on one option that might help them improve their adoption rate for the WWE Network service. Right now, according to various reports, the adoption rate is pretty low- not enough to realistically sustain the network by any means. There is a lot of potential with the network but it is faltering due to the programming available. This is easily fixed, if WWE will simply open the network to other wrestling companies, not necessarily ones they own or have a financial stake in either.
What Is Available, What They Need
When the WWE Network was announced, I will admit, I was interested in being able to re-watch past wrestling shows such as classic WCW Monday Nitro, WCCW and other shows that companies the WWE now owns had on television. I was also interested in seeing more of the “non-televised” stuff that is still recorded on many occasions. WWE has been extremely slow in putting up episodes of shows they own, for proof, just look at the sparse offering of ECW television/PPV’s available on the WWE Network. It is pretty bare.
I can understand their having to hold back current programming due to agreements with the networks those shows air on but stuff from 15+ years ago? In many cases, the stations that aired the original episodes are not even in business anymore. The only thing that I can figure as to the reasoning behind not putting the full episode run of classics such as ECW or WCCW is because WWE wants to keep adding “fresh” content on a regular basis. Maybe Netflix has ruined me with their dumping of as many episodes as they have the rights to on their network all at once, maybe WWE is being stingy with the content.
It Doesn't Have to Be This Way
The WWE owns one of the biggest video libraries of wrestling in the history of the world but their lack of sharing it is probably hurting their WWE Network worse than anything else right now. Since that is not likely to change, let’s look at another option that is just as “out there” as them going with a Netflix style release schedule.
Opening the WWE Network to Other Wrestling Companies.
Yeah, you read that right. Imagine if the WWE offered the chance for other wrestling companies to have their content made available on the WWE Network? Would it end the world as we know it? Probably not. Would it change the face of wrestling? Definitely. This would also be a nice money earner for the WWE Network (their monthly subscription take is pretty low versus what they wanted anyhow).
If the WWE Network was open to other companies, even just those that do not have a national television deal, via a regular fee that could translate into a bit of much needed cash for barely any work. Television contracts are expensive to maintain, so much so that many smaller indie companies simply cannot afford them. This lack of exposure keeps them from expanding and from garnering more fans. Besides, more content on the WWE Network is a good thing.
Diversity of Product Would Only Help the WWE Network.
In no way do I see the WWE Network being opened to say, TNA Impact, but what about Ring of Honor (ROH) or Reality of Wrestling (ROW) which is a Booker T owned wrestling company, or even the National Wrestling Alliance and their affiliates? There are a lot of future big names currently wrestling with these companies, and with the push that WWE’s NXT show has gotten, WWE is showing they are looking to push sub mid-card talent with airtime. Why not help that talent one step farther back, while they are with other wrestling companies?
Better Diversification Now Could Mean Better Star Focus Later.
This could improve the historical elements of the WWE Network, and if contracts are drawn up correctly, their DVD/Blu-Ray/Specials that focus on a single star. Imagine if WWE had this type of deal in place with TNA for instance. Now take someone that is apparently more popular by his absence such as CM Punk. He was in several companies prior to coming to the WWE but the only one that had a national television deal was TNA. Had the WWE inked a deal with TNA to run their past shows on the WWE Network and also included a clause that the WWE gets use of footage for specials and/or DVD/Blu-Ray releases they could provide fans an even more all-inclusive look back on CM Punks career.
They could do this for a lot of wrestlers. This would provide a much better look at the history of that wrestler or tag team, or faction (the NWO was basically recreated in TNA with The Outsiders and other key members).
Opening the WWE Network Would Not Show Weakness but Would Empower the WWE.
I know many that are reading this are thinking this would show weakness in the armor of the WWE, something that Vince McMahon, and family, have spared no dollar trying to avoid. This opening of the WWE Network would actually strengthen the position of the WWE with wrestling fans rather than weakening it. This would be the first step for the WWE to move into a governing body similar to the “NFL” or that of what the NWA has been since it started. WWE would be empowered through the support of the other wrestling companies that see value in reaching the subscribers of the WWE Network.
While this is nearly an impossible event, it would be nice to see more diversified content on the WWE Network. That would require WWE opening the service to other wrestling companies but in the end, it would be the fans that win.