This one, I feel it’s worth venting a bit about the WWE Network. Some of what I will say is just general comments, but what is spurring this on is the experiences I had during Fastlane. And I was not alone.
I watched our live play by play thread, and a number of readers were complaining. Personally, I had a ton of issues during the first couple matches, and sporadically throughout the rest of the evening. My most common issues were the stream freezing, getting audio only, or having the audio and video out of sync. I always get the occasional blocky/blurry picture, but I see that on other streaming feeds as well from time to time, so I can’t say it’s unique to WWE.
And before anyone opines that perhaps it’s my home network, I can assure you it’s not. I know a thing or two about network engineering (it happens to be another job for me). So I know that’s solid. That, and I can and do stream other network feeds with few issues.
So what gives? Why WWE Network, and more important, why now? This isn’t the Network’s first feed, after all. And, according to numbers released, it seems as though subscribers may have dipped slightly. To put it another way: if this happened for Fastlane, what will we experience when it’s WrestleMania, and it’s reasonable to suspect that there will both me a spike in subscribers for the month, and a surge in viewers of that specific PPV.
In short, its somewhat concerning. And I don’t think I’d want to be on the engineering side of things for the Network right now, as I am sure they are under pressure to resolve things.
So, outside of the most recent shortcomings, what other issues do I have with WWE’s over the top model?
Admittedly, there are some, but nothing worse than the streaming issues. Coming up on my 3rd WrestleMania in a row, I am most pleased that the Network has made PPV more accessible for me, and for others. (See folks, not all negative!)
What I would love to see? The library to expand even more, and to be less edited. I haven’t personally experienced it all, but I’ve heard instances where some matches may either not be available, or have parts edited due to content. I hope that isn’t the case, and perhaps I’ve gotten bad info.
Also, I would love to see the matches of Chris Benoit. Yes, I dare utter his name. But until he went off and snapped, the guy was one crazy good wrestler. I am not asking WWE to promote him in any way, but there are people watching wrestling today who have never gotten to see him work. Take his mental state out of the equation, and he was an amazing talent.
I would love to get the ability to download local copies to my tablet/phone/laptop, for offline viewing. Keep it on the device, in a file format that only the Network app can read and play, but this would be an awesome addition. I do fly for business, and a few times a week I find myself on trains and ferries. I either read or watch movies and shows during this time. If I had the ability to watch Network content offline? I’d happily catch up on Swerved, or the new Edge and Christian show, or a litany of old matches. Make that happen, WWE, and I bet a lot of people would be thrilled.
My only other knock on the Network is that it seems to prefer being viewed on certain devices over others. I’ve compared experiences with other WNZ writers, and we seem to have similar experiences. I started watching it via the network app on the last generation Apple TV. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it was terrible. It was then I had it suggested to me to watch it on my iPad, and amazingly enough, when it was locking up on the AppleTV, it was fine on the iPad. I have not yet tried my XBox One, though I would imagine it may do better than the older AppleTV. I was just frustrated that the different devices, which it’s supposed to work on, would have varying degrees of success. It’s not like any of the devices in question are archaic, after all. And the AppleTV? It streams plenty of other content with no issues. It’s not unreasonable to want a fairly consistent experience across platforms.
In general, though? I hope WWE fixes whatever issues plagued them during Fastlane. And it wasn’t just me, or our readers. One of the foremost wrestling sites also had a large number of their users reporting issues during the event. So clearly, WWE needs to figure things out-either there is a need for more hardware, or a need for more bandwidth. I just hope it gets figured out, as I don’t feel like writing that the lowlight of WrestleMania came from the Network feed.