So last night, the much touted WWE Network was due to launch in the UK after seemingly an age of waiting. For the unfamiliar – WWE Network is a bit like Netflix but for Professional Wrestling. It’s a massive array of content from the early 80’s featuring WWE’s massive tape library (which includes WCW, ECW & others), as well as original content and all Pay Per Views for a monthly subscription fee. It’s been in the US for ages, but with figures dropping, the UK was all set to get it on November 3rd, with a month free trial.
I should point out, at this point, that I’m a massive wrestling fan, and would’ve snapped this up pretty much straight away.
Well, 20 minutes before launch, this was tweeted on the @WWENetwork twitter account.
That’s it. No further words, beyond an extra line of text on a press statement – with comments disabled as well (which wasn’t originally present). Needless to say many people were annoyed.
Whilst I get issues happen, the way in which this has been handled by WWE (which is a large US corporation) could’ve been handled better. Here is how I would’ve done it to alieviate some of the people who are disappointed.
Underpromise and Overdeliver
So the original announcement was late last week saying it was launched for November 3rd, most of the announcement was through emails that were distributed on social media channels mainly. However it didn’t feel official, in fact it felt a bit rushed.
If there was technical issues in rolling it out before November 3rd, then why was it made a deadline the week before? Even on projects I can easily do in a week, I stretch it out to a fortnight. Why? Because things can ultimately crop up. By managing expectations, they wouldn’t be in such a mess right now, because if there were technical problems, it was likely you would’ve known that they weren’t going to be fixed more than twenty minutes before the service was to go live.
Of course, that is if there is technical issues. We don’t know that, because reasons haven’t been forthcoming.
You see, wrestling’s a weird business as somebody who’s been on both sides of the curtain. It stemmed from an act – a Magic Circle esque clique that things were hidden away and not talked about. Stories of people getting beaten with an inch of their life if they dare question the fact that it is all an act. A technically strong, acrobatic, talented act that can be incredibly dangerous, but an act nonetheless.
Thankfully it isn’t like that anymore, but the WWE – despite all their corporate shilling – haven’t been able to completely rid themselves of their carny roots. The lack of transparency with their release has been startling, though it’s something I rarely come across in my line of work, as WordPress is incredibly transparent (the email before the WWE Network Launch issues was from WordPress, detailing another disappointment – why people cannot join the plugin review team – but doing it in a fantastically open way that nobody can complain about).
By not being transparent, the WWE has left people guessing as to what went wrong.
Adequately Prepare For Your Launch
One suggestion is a run in with Sky.
Sky is a massive broadcaster over here, and they run WWE shows on their Sports channels for an obscene amount of money per month. As well as that, they also run the Pay Per Views. The WWE would take a large amount of their chunk and – rightfully so – they are probably a bit miffed.
The latest rumours suggest this is the case. This leads to two possible avenues that the WWE took:-
- One avenue was that the WWE didn’t think Sky would mind and launched without their blessing. This seems daft as there is previous track record where satellite/cable providers have negotiated with WWE on the launch of their network (like in Canada). Furthermore, if this wasn’t the case, why has it taken 8 months to launch?
- Another avenue which could have happened was that there was some sort of verbal agreement in place with Sky, but nothing signed officially. Sky then negated the deal at the 11th hour, and refused to sign anything, meaning they couldn’t launch and the WWE could be seen as breach of contract. Again, it sounds a bit far fetched but WWE has a history of taking people at their word but not at what they launch (see Lex Luger in the mid 1990’s).
One, both, or a combination of these could’ve happened, which lead to Sky negating the deal so close to being on air. Again, was just a suggestion.
The (Apparent) Result
All this has lead to a social media shitstorm. The UK is WWE’s second biggest market, and the fans are quite loyal. However, in recent years, they’ve lost market share to TNA as well as British firms – ICW in particular ironically launched their own ICW on Demand yesterday as well and had no such issues. So whilst still the biggest player in the world, they’re not the only one. Both TNA and British independents do seem to cater for the UK audience better than the WWE, and – eventually – people will switch away from a firm who – as I write this – doesn’t seem to care about one of it’s largest markets.
It isn’t helped as next Monday the WWE will begin it’s UK and European tour, with it’s flagship programme airing from Liverpool, and there has been talk of a “hijack” movement, where fans in attendance will voice their displeasure vocally at this seemingly slap the face.
I know nothing is likely to happen. In all likelihood WWE will edit the sounds so it doesn’t make it to air, and the show will be unspectacular as UK tours usually are. More than likely I’ll still get the WWE Network whenever it launches, and everything maintains the status quo. However, it has caused an embarrassment for the WWE, and people are beginning to wise up.
Update: So WWE have uploaded an apology from the chairman, but again it doesn’t appear to answer any of the questions. In particular the transparency issue – nobody really knows why there is a delay.