Wrestling TV’sf uture

Some­times, tech in­no­va­tion comes run­ning at you from its cor­ner, dressed in a leo­tard, wav­ing a ring-side chair…

Australian T3 - - OPINION -

Face facts, guys. De­spite su­per­fast broad­band and all that con­tent on de­mand, we’re still slaves to the TV com­pa­nies who in­sist we pay for stuff we don’t want, just to get what we do. An à la carte en­light­en­ment is all we crave, but the TV in­dus­try wants no pic ’n’ mix revo­lu­tion. If only there was a big com­pany will­ing to nail Amer­ica’s TV di­nosaurs with a steel chair and start a war that will some­day free us all from ca­ble’s all-ornoth­ing tyranny…

What if I told you the out­laws at World Wrestling En­ter­tain­ment (WWE) were go­ing to see to all that for us? You’d prob­a­bly laugh in my face. But if you do that, I will de­stroy you with the fol­low­ing in­sights – and a div­ing fore­arm smash. At the Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show in Las Ve­gas, the com­pany an­nounced the WWE Net­work. It’s the first 100 per cent “over the top” net­work, stream­ing pro­gram­ming 24/7/365, yet it flew un­der the radar amidst 4,626 re­ports on CES’s plethora of 100-inch 4K TVs no one will ever own.

No mat­ter. From Fe­bru­ary 24 in the US, WWE Net­work will fea­ture orig­i­nal pro­gram­ming, an ocean of ar­chive con­tent and all the com­pany’s past, present and fu­ture monthly pay-per-view events. Those events usu­ally run fans up­wards of US$40, but the net­work is priced at just US$10 per month. It’s a risk for WWE, but a stag­ger­ing value propo­si­tion for fans. Now that is how you tackle il­le­gal stream­ing.

Now, you may say, “It’s only wrestling,” but dis­miss the pos­si­ble im­pact of WWE’s plans at your peril. In 1984 the first Wrestle­Ma­nia was beamed live to the­atres via CCTV, more or less in­vent­ing pay-per-view.

On-de­mand “proper” sport is al­ready big busi­ness in the US, with base­ball and bas­ket­ball of­fer­ing live stream­ing pack­ages for view­ers around the world. This is dif­fer­ent, though: it’s an en­tire TV net­work show­ing con­tent 24 hours a day, just like HBO or ESPN. Sig­nif­i­cantly, it’s also the kind of un­bun­dled con­tent Ap­ple and In­tel are chas­ing for their IPTV projects, but have hit brick walls try­ing to pro­cure.

So, for­get that this is the home of span­dex and body slams for a minute and think of the net­work as a cat­a­lyst for a much larger shake-up that ben­e­fits us all. Soon this ap­proach could be bring­ing you your favourite sport, net­work, or event.

WWE’s global au­di­ence is huge, loyal, tech savvy and loud on so­cial me­dia. The net­work feeds a wider thirst for this free­dom of con­sump­tion that so far only WWE has been will­ing to gam­ble on. It will suc­ceed and oth­ers will fol­low. It’s time to put the Leg­drop of Doom on the greedy mid­dle­men. Con­tent providers and fans can form a for­mi­da­ble tag team of their own.

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