Tech Review: WWE Network Impresses With Deep Video Archive, Live Programming
After spending the past week with the WWE Network -- a two-week old 24/7 veritable ocean of digital video -- I found nothing but highly engaging, non-stop programming and a deep VOD library. Developed by WWE in conjunction with MLBAM, this digital network has the potential to keep fans on the edge of their seats ... well, indefinitely. The WWE Network experience is broken into scheduled programming and VOD. Logging in is like turning on the television. You might find yourself picking up from the middle of a classic "WrestleMania" or a "Raw Flashback." For select live shows and events including all Pay Per Views, the network provides instant access. Below the main viewing screen are archived Shows, Pay Per Views and Recommended video. These can be filtered by year or sorted by most or least recent. Hovering over the schedule button displays the next three shows, and clicking into the schedule section reveals a full programming lineup for the current and next calendar day. Users also can jump to a specific date in the calendar where there is presently one full week of scheduled programming available. A Shows section houses a massive collection of VOD content including every WWE, WCW and ECW Pay Per View event. Other on-demand shows are categorized as In Ring, Originals or Vault. The WWE Network also provides a searchable database of content. Users can type in the name of a superstar or show and find related video. A one-week free trial of the WWE Network is currently being offered, with the product converting to paid prior to "WrestleMania 30" on April 6. Paying fans can tune in to the network for a six-month commitment of $9.99 per month, which will auto-renew unless the opt-in box is un-checked during registration. I conducted this review on a MacBook Air OS X version 10.9.1. The WWE Network is an advertising free, paid service. It is available on PC, Mac, PlayStation, Roku, Xbox, Amazon, Android and iOS devices.
HEAVYWEIGHT TITLES: The WWE Network's VOD library extends back to "WrestleMania 1" in '85. That is 30 years of archived content! Older video renders like new. Because there is no advertising, scheduled programming is completely uninterrupted, and during my time with the product, there were no technical hiccups. Socially speaking, users can register with their Facebook, Twitter or Google+ account, and each video on the WWE Network includes sharing features. Posting to Facebook and Twitter is simple, and quality thumbnail images are included along with accurate content titles and subtext.
FALLS: While the social integration is easy for users, WWE Network could take its social media a step further here. Adding an integrated Twitter or Facebook feed would bring live chatter into the experience and potentially increase fan engagement with the product. With all of the classic matches available, I am sure WWE fans will have a lot to discuss.
BOTTOM LINE: While consumption data will not be released until after "WrestleMania 30," I would not be surprised to see big numbers for the WWE Network. This experience is both addicting and disruptive. Digital access to live programming like the Monday Night Raw Backstage Pass is great, but the strategically selected line-up of archival programming is what really drew me in. With "The Epic Journey of Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson" playing on my laptop Saturday night, I nearly forgot I had a hockey game on television.
Amie Sheridan (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freelance writer in Philadelphia.
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