WWE Network is a subscription video on-demand over-the-top streaming service and digital television network owned by the American entertainment company WWE. It primarily distributes original professional wrestling events, films, television and documentary series, and a 24-hour linear channel produced by the eponymous professional wrestling promotion, alongside acquired programming from other wrestling promotions. The service is currently only available in international markets.
The service relied on technology developed by MLB Advanced Media and BAMTech, prior to Endeavor Streaming assuming technical operations of the service in 2019. Although operating primarily as a standalone service, the distribution model of the WWE Network varies by market, where it is often integrated within or as part of local networks. It contains a premium and a free tier. WWE Network was launched on February 24, 2014, in the United States, in Canada in July of that year, and expanded to the Asia-Pacific region and select European countries in August. The United Kingdom received the service in January 2015, and was made available in the Middle East and parts of Africa that March, and to India in November. It was launched in additional European and Asian countries in January 2016. Upon launch, the WWE Network was met with positive reception of its content library, but was criticized for technical problems. The service had 1.5 million subscribers as of October 30, 2020. In January 2021, NBCUniversal Television and Streaming acquired exclusive rights to distribute WWE Network in the United States. WWE content is now carried on the premium tier of its own streaming service Peacock, and WWE Network was discontinued on April 4.
The origins of the WWE Network can trace back to 2000 when USA Network filed the lawsuit against the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, known as WWE since 2002) due to breach of contract which saw most of its programming moved to Viacom-owned TNN and MTV. The Delaware Chancery Court ruled in favor of the WWF in June 2000. Then CEO Linda McMahon revealed that WWF wanted its own cable network and testified that before WWF signed a rights deal with Viacom, the company had floated the idea of acquiring USA's Sci-Fi Channel, and reformatting it as a dedicated wrestling network. USA executives rejected the idea, and McMahon said that former USA Networks President Barry Baker encouraged her to talk to other programmers about potential deals. " 'I can tell you right now, Linda, you're not going to get anybody to give you a network,' " McMahon quoted Baker in her testimony. In 2005, USA Network re-acquired the rights to all WWE programming. In September 2011, WWE officially announced plans to launch the WWE Network in 2012 as a pay-TV channel. WWE then conducted a survey asking people if they would pay for the WWE Network if it were a premium channel. In an email sent to WWE fans who might be interested in the WWE Network, WWE surveyed fans for their thoughts about the WWE Network airing WWE's pay-per-views to subscribers for no additional charge. The survey also noted that feature repeats of Raw and SmackDown, as well as footage from World Championship Wrestling (WCW), Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), XFL, Smoky Mountain Wrestling (SMW), American Wrestling Association (AWA), and WWE films would also make the lineup. Original programming was also noted in the survey.
As the result of an online poll, WrestleMania Rewind was chosen as a name for a new WWE Network show on October 17, 2011. The original launch date was set for April 1, 2012, which would have coincided with WrestleMania XXVIII, and WWE's official website featured a countdown clock that would have expired on April 1. The clock was quietly removed, and the network did not launch as advertised. WWE chief marketing officer Michelle Wilson allayed fears about the future of the WWE Network, saying "There will be a WWE network in some shape or form. We are in late-stage negotiations with distributors", and confirmed that WWE Legends' House had been filmed. In April 2013, WWE had switched plans and aimed to release the WWE Network as a premium pay-TV outlet, with a potential price of $15 a month. On Old School Raw in January 2014, WWE ran teasers promoting an announcement on January 8 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, later confirming that the announcement concerned the WWE Network. At the Consumer Electronics Show, WWE revealed a comprehensive plan which would see a launch date of February 24, 2014 in the United States. WWE Classics on Demand closed on January 31, 2014, to make way for the WWE Network. A free trial period was offered during the week of the launch. The logo initially used for the WWE Network eventually became the standard logo used by the WWE corporation in August 2014.
In April 2014, ahead of WrestleMania XXX, the Network received acclaim, with The New York Times saying that WWE had "positioned themselves on the cutting edge of Internet television." Later that month, the company announced that the network had 667,000 subscribers, short of the one million subscribers they needed to break even. As WWE's stock fell 50% the following month, Forbes described low subscription numbers as being of "additional concern" for investors after WWE's underwhelming NBCUniversal renewal deal. WWE offered a second free preview week of the WWE Network, which started July 7, in an attempt to sign new subscribers. A second report released at the end of July indicated that the network had reached 700,000 subscribers. WWE's goal was to reach one million subscribers by the end of 2014.
How to Watch the WWE Network Live Streams