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WWE 'Netflix for wrestling fans' cancelled at eleventh hour

Tuesday, November 4th 2014 by Dean Reilly

The launch of a streaming video service described as Netflix for wrestling fans was cancelled last night – just twenty minutes before launch.

The WWE Network, an around the clock subscription service showing live events and on-demand content, was due to launch for UK audiences at 8pm on Monday 3rd of November.

However, at 7.39pm GMT, 21 minutes before the launch, the official Twitter account of the WWE Network announced that: “The launch of @WWENetwork in the U.K. has been delayed until further notice.”

Disappointed fans immediately took to social media to express their frustration at the decision, and sought answers from the company over the last-minute reversal. However, a statement posted on the official WWE site failed to provide further details, adding: “WWE would like to thank our fans in the United Kingdom for bearing with us.”

The decision to postpone the launch comes just three days before the start of a 14 date UK tour by the company. As previously reported, it was originally scheduled to launch in the UK in October.

John Canton, a wrestling journalist for WhatCulture.com who has been writing about the sport since 2000, told Cable.co.uk that it had been a “crazy day” for UK wrestling fans.

He said: “I’ve been doing this a long time and I know the UK fans are very passionate about the product. It’s the second biggest market, I think, for the WWE. It’s something like 25 to 30% of the WWE’s audience is in the UK. The US is like 60%, where I am in Canada is like 10%. Those are the three biggest.

“The Network came out in February in the US, and then people were saying it’s coming out in October in the UK. Then October goes by. Then it was going to be November. Then they announced specifically November 3rd. I actually was on my Facebook account, and was like: ‘OK, UK-ers, are you trying out the network?’ then I see on Twitter the WWE Network account posted ‘Delayed indefinitely’.”

He added: “I think what’s very concerning is they’re going to be in the UK next week, so if you go to that Raw, I don’t know what kind of reaction you’re going to get once you turn the cameras on.

“I know how passionate British fans can be: they love their sport, they love their football. The WWE is just like that. It draws that kind of reaction from the fans. If you go there and you don’t have the network ready to launch when you said multiple times it would be there, I don’t know the reaction they’ll get.”

When asked about the possible reason behind the cancellation, Mr Canton said: “I don’t think it’s technical because they’ve launched it in other countries. Personally, I’ve got the US version. I’m sure there’s some UK-ers have got it too.

“I think it’s a Sky Sports thing, because the WWE has the technology. I think it’s a Sky Sports thing, where Sky have said ‘look, you signed this contract’ and I think that’s probably what happened.

“Because if the WWE puts Pay Per Views on the Network, that’s a big deal. But then again they knew the Network was coming, so I think it’s just a legal matter, but I hope it gets worked out.”

The wrestling company signed a five-year deal with BSkyB in January this year that allowed the broadcaster to continue to screen WWE shows in the UK and Ireland.

In addition, BSkyB confirmed all 12 Pay-Per-View events will continue to be available on Sky Sports Box Office.

WWE declined to comment.

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