On August 12, WWE released its Network to a litany of countries. In most cases, the feature set remained identical: access to a website and tablet apps that showed not only a live curated channel but also a back catalogue of on-demand content. Whatever criticisms there are about the WWE Network itself, at least it’s the same product just about everything.
I say just about, because the WWE Network isn’t the same thing in Canada.
Since the Network launched, I’ve been accessing it using unblockme.us and a Paypal account. It’s been ludicrously easy and it works across all my devices. My Xbox 360 plays the Network just fine (at least as well as Americans, anyway). But I wanted to try out the WWE Network in Canada, to both compare differences and see if it was worth switching plans.
Due to a deal with Rogers, the WWE Network is a very different product in Canada. Instead of a website, it is available exclusively through Rogers cable. It is not, in any way, “over the top” as it is everywhere else. It is in fact, the old way of doing things: a content provider has a deal with a content distributor.
In other words, it’s not so much The WWE Network as The WWE Channel.
The WWE Network in Canada is two channels on Rogers cable. For me in Toronto, it’s channel 512 and 397. It may be different in other markets. Channel 512 is the “live” feed, which so far as I’ve seen is identical to the live stream in the US and everywhere else. Channel 397 (which is where WWE 24/7 used to reside) is the “on demand” portion. This is where the content amount really splits. Currently, the on-demand content is abysmal, with only a handful of Summerslam’s, ECW shows, and a tiny smattering of WCW PPVs. It is a smaller amount of content than any month on WWE 24/7, and it totally pitiful compared to the real WWE Network.
The sad part of this is that the website doesn’t work. We don’t get the Network and this channel. We only get this. The Canadian WWE Channel has nothing to do with your WWE Account, only your Rogers subscription. That I’m paying for the WWE Network means nothing to Rogers. Rogers has stated that content will eventually appear on Rogers Anyplace, their on-demand app, so the gap between content may shift over time. Still, this is a bad deal for the consumer overall, a move even worse than Netflix’s Canadian/US catalogue difference.
And yet I don’t hate it.
The Canadian WWE Channel has two things going for it that the WWE Network doesn’t. That’s not to say it’s better. It really, really isn’t. But I’ve been watching channel 512 far more often than I’ve been heading to the website. I haven’t launched the Xbox 360 app once since I signed up as a Canadian. It is on TV in the most literal sense, and even in 2014 that carries a weight that no internet channel can match. I turn my TV on, and wrestling is there. Even the Network can’t do that, yet.
And because it’s coming through cable and not the internet, there is no stuttering or loading. I don’t have to load up the (mostly poor) apps on game consoles to watch it. It’s literally a button press away. During the first six months of the Network, whole weeks would go by without me once hitting the bookmark on my browser, but the Network has been on every day on my TV, if only for a moment before I realize I’ve already seen what’s airing.
That’s the major downside of only seeing the live stream: boy, do they replay stuff a lot. For a Network with tens of thousands of hours of content, they seem to be working in rolling 6 hour segments. If you watch the Network live stream for 48 hours straight, you’ll likely see the same thing at least three times. You can see the schedule here. I don’t have a DVR, but I’d imagine this is where that functionality would come in handy (another thing you can’t do with the regular Network).
Canadians have a choice, then: continue to use tactics like VPN to attain access to the US WWE Network, accept the (mostly) inferior Rogers cable solution, or, if you don’t mind paying twice, do both. It likely comes down to how you like to consume wrestling. Casual viewer? Just sign up with Rogers. Hardcore? Stick with the hack solution for now.
“I believe the common character of the universe is not harmony. but hostility, chaos and murder.”
— Werner Herzog
“Everything fell apart in me. How are things with you?”
— Jack Kerouac
TH takes on one of my favorite topics on improving the show: Removing the announcers entirely:
Maybe if WWE fans at home had tranquil silence from everyone who wasn’t a fan, a wrestler, or a NPC within the story, then maybe they would get the chance to love those characters too without getting a heaping load of bullshit to go on top of the narrative they hear with their own ears.Read the whole thing. It makes me want to dust off “a month without commentary" and update it.