WWE has decided to axe an arm of its distribution that has been slowly dying ever since they announced the WWE Network over two years ago. The sad thing is, before the first announcement of the Network in October 2011, WWE Classics on Demand was a great service. For what I believed was a reasonable monthly fee ($10 per month), you received roughly 30 hours of top quality, opt-in, curated content each month. Some of it was even new, including excellent panel shows and retrospectives with today's context. And while, sure, Raw's and Nitro's from the 90s could be found anywhere else, good luck finding MSG or Maple Leaf Gardens shows from the 70s on torrent sites.
But the second the Network was announced, WWE Classics on Demand has been a dead brand walking. We knew it would go away the Network ever became close to really existing, and so I'm surprised it lasted as long as it did (due, naturally, to interminable delays regarding the Network's launch). WWE stopped advertising for Classics, instead hyping their Network, which very quickly segued into advertising for Youtube, Hulu, Tout, and, of course, WWE.com. This lead me to believe that the new home was not any TV show or even channel, but the website itself.
I don't think Classics was a hit. It offered a niche product (old wrestling) at a premium price (it costs more than a subscription to Netflix or Hulu), and it did so using technology that not everyone was accustomed to using (or liked). But if you were fine with these constraints, I don't think it disappointed. At the very least, it certainly gave you what was written on the tin.
I could see a WWE producer listing bullet points about what not to do with the new Network: tie it to clunky, on demand tech; make people have to choose what to watch every time; have no freshly broadcast stuff from this decade or even the last; broadcast in standard definition; have Michael Cole host everything. These are things Classics on Demand did. I can't imagine the Network will be structured as such (with the exception of Cole. There's just no getting rid of him).
But, you know, out with the old, in with the presumably new. I can't be the only one who think the timing is perfect: Classics dies on January 31, 2014, and the big rumours are that the Network will launch only a few weeks after (though these rumours, curiously enough, were personally debunked by Stephanie McMahon). For those who know the date, that's less than three months away, and we still don't know anything concrete about the Network. We don't know if it'll be a pay channel or be provided with a cable package; what it will cost; if it will have new programming or be simply old content; if it will air PPVs; if it will have reality tv shows (I've always felt that Total Divas was originally meant for the Network); if it will make any money; and if people will actually want it.
If the Network is successful, it will change how WWE operates. It will change how fans perceive the product, as well as the platform itself. If it isn't, it will be another Classics on Demand: a nice piece of the whole, but enjoyed only by the most devout.