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WWE Network not quite ready yet

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MUMBAI: So, WWE finally offered wrestling fans a trial of its much-hyped over the top platform, WWE Network for a week starting last Monday. At an offer price of $9.99 for a period of six months, avid followers of the sport readily lapped up the opportunity.



 

I happened to be one such and though my experience was enjoyable on the whole, I’d say a lot of things can be improved before this beta graduates into the full-fledged video streaming service it is expected to be.



 

To begin with, the network got off to a shaky start and though that was expected somewhat, users got a better feel of the service only towards the second half of last week.



 

The good news is you can put on the 24x7 stream in the background and continue working or doing whatever it is you are doing. If talk of a particular match crops up during the conversation, you can quickly turn it on and watch it, friends in tow.



 

In many ways, the WWE Network could be the beginning of a new era in both WWE and pay-per-view (PPV) television.



 

However, while every PPV event has been included live on the network, the first such event i.e. Wrestle Mania 30, is still five weeks away. So, apart from the fact that you’d be paying a lot less for PPV shows, there isn’t much else to say.  

 



Repetition of content is a major issue, especially with recent PPV events. Of all the shows WWE could pick, why does Survivor Series 2012 pop up so many times? While it’s good entertainment, there are only a few PPVs in rotation and that does not make sense. When WWE can plug in a wealth of PPVs, including a six-year-old library of high-definition shows, at a moment’s notice, why is it being so stingy with the content on offer on the network?



 

In case of exclusive content, shows like Beyond the Ring have just two episodes so far. One can understand it being created as a weekly series but given that WWE isn’t doing much beyond recycling existing DVD documentaries, replication of shows makes watching the network stream a boring experience.



 

Coming to home video content, what happened to the announcement made by WWE chief revenue and marketing officer, Michelle Wilson, in Las Vegas that the network’s on-demand archive would include their complete home video library? Where is it? Even if WWE dug into its archives and managed to offer on the network only its DVD era or everything it has released since 1985, it would give the network a more substantial and diverse on-demand library than the current one.

 



Yes. The WWE Network is easily the most marketable content the company has but a hard-core wrestling fan would certainly want to see more of rare or off-beat content.



 

Technically speaking, not all shows in the on-demand library have chapter marks added but wherever they have been, it’s a good thing. You can link anyone with a subscription to a specific match or even the match finish, which is great. 

 



However, the biggest limitation is that only app and Web versions have a fully-featured search functionality which lets users look for specific shows and moves. On gaming consoles and dedicated streaming devices, users still require the app to auto-complete the performer name being searched, else there will be no results.

 



At this stage, there’s not much to say about what’s good or bad about the WWE Network. Having access to old and new PPVs at a price tag of $9.99 for six months is pretty neat in itself. Overall, it’s an enjoyable product though a lot of things can be improved - some major, others minor.

 



In my opinion, WWE Network has a lot of potential but isn’t completely ready. It feels like a product that needs quite a few months in beta testing mode though the company is comfortable charging for it now. The content line-up is great but has the potential to become brilliant. Hopefully, WWE will be able to make the network the service it has aspired for.

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