Even if you're not a pro wrestling fanatic, you might be impressed by the insane deal the people behind World Wrestling Entertainment just announced since it's yet another sign that the old way that TV worked is dying fast.
Starting on February 24, wrestling fans are going to be able to sign up for the WWE Network, an online 24/7 channel that will stream all of the company's 12 monthly pay-per-views, including Wrestlemania, and offer all of those, some original programing, "years" of old Raw and Smackdown episodes and... every single PPV show from WWF/E, WCW and ECW history. And NXT and Superstars. And live pre and post-shows for Raw and Smackdown. All of that for just $10 a month, with a six month commitment. That puts the initial bill at $60.
The Network will be available online and through apps running on Android and iOS devices as well as on Xbox 360, PS3 and Ps4, with Xbox One to follow in the summer, all according to the raft of info WWE just put out about the new network. (Curiously, there's no mention of Wii U support, but hopefully they'll add that, too).
If you follow pro wrestling, you know that this is an insane, extremely consumer-friendly deal. Ordering Wrestlemania on pay-per-view alone costs upwards of $60. Order two more PPVs in a year and you've already spent more than the WWE Network will charge you to watch all 12 and all the thousands of hours of other content being offered.
Back before wrestling was big on TV, it was a business based on people going to live events, a la the circus. As wrestling got bigger on TV, it was still used to push people to live venues until weekly TV then began to push people toward ordering pay-per-views. WWE began to make more and more money for its shows on cable, but pay-per-view was where the biggest matches happened. To see that stuff, you had to have cable and then you had to pay extra. This has been the model for more than two decades. And now—just like that—it's over.
WWE will still offer their 12 big shows through PPV, if people are interested, but the forecast here is pretty clear: PPV is the fool's option going forward. WWE does still broadcast its two big weekly shows, Raw and Smackdown, on cable. It will continue to for the foreseeable future. But everything else? It's online now and it's just made the gaming consoles and handheld devices of wrestling fanatics like myself much more likely to be the main portals through which we get our fix. Screw the cable box.