The UFC a week ago announced Fight Pass, a digital network that allows fans to watch the mixed martial arts company’s entire library of fights, along with live prelims of U.S.-based shows and international events.
The announcement came off as somewhat of a cool addition to the UFC’s already existing core offerings: monthly PPVs, quarterly shows on FOX and live shows on its cable networks. Essentially, fans could pay $9.99 a month to watch a lot of old UFC, Strikeforce, PRIDE, WEC, Elite XC and other old programming, along with some bonus and international events.
But then the WWE came along this week and one-upped the UFC. The WWE has been talking for years about launching its own network and its revelation was a shocker.
Unlike the UFC, the WWE for $9.99 a month has decided to offer all of its monthly PPVs on the network, along with its hundreds of hours of historical programming. The WWE will also offer pre- and post-game show coverage for Monday Night Raw, Smackdown and other live events that air on its cable television outlets. The WWE will also air a “Real World”-type show featuring WWE legends living in a house and having their lives taped.
The company might also offer a daily talk show down the road.
For the WWE, the the network is about creating a way to redistribute most of its content. It’s a revolutionary idea that could take the company to a whole new level, or one that could tank it.
The UFC essentially wants its fans to keep watching the UFC product the way they currently do, but also make some time to watch content from its Fight Pass. The service is free through Feb. 24, then costs $9.99 on a monthly basis.
The WWE network is asking you to watch its primary shows — PPVs — on the new network, essentially paying $9.99 a month to watch a show that cost $50 bucks on PPV. The difference, of course, is trusting an online stream vs. a cable. Although the WWE must share its PPV revenue with cable companies, if fans order through the WWE Network, the WWE keeps the money directly.
The WWE isn’t trying to add to its fan experience; it’s trying to change the way fans experience the product overall.
The WWE is taking a huge risk by offering its PPVs for essentially only $9.99 a month. Already, Direct TV has hinted that it will consider cutting ties with the WWE over the online network.
“Clearly we need to quickly re-evaluate the economics and viability of their business with us, as it now appears the WWE feels they do not need their PPV distributors,” DirecTV said in a statement.
WWE chairman Vince McMahon has always sought to turn the WWE into a Disney-like empire. McMahon purchased the then-WWF from his father in the early 1980s and quickly turned the organization into the most successful pro wrestling promotion of all-time and into a prominent prong in the pop culture machine. McMahon used cable companies and PPV distributors in the 1980s to bring the WWE to the masses and earn millions of dollars for both the company and PPV entities.
The WWE is now a household name, the WWE is a publicly traded company, and stars created by the WWE such as The Rock, John Cena, Stone Cold Steve Austin, CM Punk, Hulk Hogan, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and others are names forever rooted in our culture.
The WWE is hoping that its huge, loyal fan base will follow it to its WWE network.
The UFC so far isn’t willing to take the same risk. The UFC will still rely heavily on PPV as its primary source of revenue. The two companies will likely learn from each other and its different distribution models and 2014 may be the year of the WWE vs. UFC network wars.