The end of civilization as we know it? Nope.
The end of television as we know it? Nope.
What am I talking about? Nope.
Oh, sorry. Got caught up in the flow there. I’m talking about the WWE’s announcement of its upcoming 24/7 streaming service. Yup, that’s wrestling around the clock and around the calendar.
And yes, it has seriously be called both the end of civilization and the end of television. Even in the modern age of hype, that’s pushing the bar to a new low.
Come on, folks. Professional wrestling in all of its cartoonish, scripted splendor has been with us for nearly a century (Wikipedia dates it to 1929). Its popularity has cycled up and down and, let’s face it, right now it’s well below the levels it reached in the 1980s, or even the late 1990s. This new venture is expected to break even at 1,000,000 subscribers and WWE’s own research doesn’t think it will crack 4,000,000. That’s a small enough number that even if the entire viewership went outside and started jumping up and down while making obscene gestures at baseball, apple pie, and mother, civilization wouldn’t even notice the threat. Phooey to the end of civilization.
As for the end of television, again phooey. Most of the content will be re-runs of shows already aired on TV. The only actual potential conflict here is for WWE’s pay-per-view events. They’re included with the subscription to the new channel, so it seems likely that the channel will cut into the audience who would previously have bought individual events.
Lucrative though they may be, PPV events are not what keeps TV in business. What does? Selling commercial space and carriage fees. All the WWE is doing here is cutting out the middle-man and getting their money directly from the viewers instead of indirectly from the cable and satellite providers.
Let me make one thing clear: I don’t watch professional wrestling and don’t really understand its appeal. I don’t have anything against it or its viewers. To the extent that I think about it, which isn’t much, I wish the WWE well with its venture. I just ask them, and the media that’s promoting their announcement, to tone down the hype just a smidgeon. I know over-the-top hype is part of the wrestling package. Very meta to make it part of the channel announcement. But it just doesn’t fly. Sorry.