Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Week of The Network

It's been a rough first week for The Network
Last Monday, I ordered WWE Network. I didn't even sign up for the free week. I did the paid version right away. I was so excited to have every pay-per-view at my fingers, to watch pre-and-postgame shows, to have something to watch that was more than Food Network or background noise when nothing else was on. A week later, I still am excited to have it. I finished watching Starrcade '83 yesterday, and as I type these words right now, I have the first WrestleMania on my live stream. However, that first week hasn't been without headache.

As a Roku user, I experienced the hiccups that plagued the app through the early going. I couldn't load any of the video on demand content, and the live stream had several outages and changes between standard and high definition. The first apparent nadir took place during NXT ArRIVAL, when the stream ducked out for nearly everybody, causing most viewers to miss out on the beginning of the main event. However, rock bottom could be described as The Network's inability to work on X-Box.

Then again, online streaming is still in its infancy as a medium, and The Network itself is one of the first "over the top" ventures to pop up of any sort. Chris Harrington crunched numbers and found that 130,000 or so people signed up within the first eight hours of availability. The demand was overwhelming, even more so than what the Major League Baseball servers (the company that is working on technical support for The Network) couldn't handle the load initially. So reasons exist for why the service stumbled out of the blocks that the failures are almost understandable.

Then again, WWE is a financial juggernaut, and they had this Network in the planning for years. I struggle to put together sympathy or make excuses for a multinational corporation with as much reach and technical savvy that WWE has. I don't know what the company could have done. Even if these problems were inevitable, I'm paying WWE money in order to get a good or service. I expect it to deliver, especially with the resources behind it.

Still, for as much static as The Network has produced in its first week, the awesome potential is already starting to show. The library is already impressive, and it's only going to grow. The expediency with which WWE and the app deliverers are getting to fix problems is encouraging. Of course, the big test will be WrestleMania. Many among the wrestling Twitterati joke or make remarks about how the booking might turn fans off to the event, but widespread streaming outages might end up being disastrous on levels that would make the InVasion's flop look like a slightly below-average month in the Attitude Era.

No matter what the future holds for the venture, one week is a small sample size. However, in the crucible of the time it took place, dealing with it has been a bit too frustrating for comfort. Hopefully, the viewing public will get the fruits of their purchase sooner rather than later, because The Network is too awesome a concept to be mired in technical problems.