WWE fans got their first look at the future of the company’s streaming experience on Thursday when the WWE Network finally made its transition to NBC’s Peacock platform.
WWE and NBCUniversal announced in late January that the Network would be coming to Peacock as part of a multi-year agreement that was reportedly worth $1 billion. Viewers in the United States will continue to have access to the standalone WWE Network service until April 6. After that, the platform will only be available to international customers while U.S. viewers will have to subscribe to Peacock.
There is a lot to like about the move to Peacock. The WWE page is easily accessible and easy to navigate. On larger screens (I tried it out on my desktop, Xbox One and Google TV), the WWE tab is right at the top of the page; on the iPhone app, it takes a couple of extra steps but it’s easy to locate once you know where to look. There is a “WWE Hub,” reminiscent of the old WWE Network homepage, which features a wide range of content grouped together by theme (“The Attitude Era,” “ ’Cause Stone Cold Said So,” “PPV Specials,” etc.). And there is a full section, called “The People’s Picks,” dedicated to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson that features WWE pay-per-views he was a part of alongside other NBCUniversal content he is featured in, like movies from the Fast & Furious franchise, episodes of Saturday Night Live he’s hosted, Young Rock and Titan Games.
The primary benefit of the move for wrestling fans is the price. While the WWE Network costs $9.99 per month, viewers can purchase an ad-supported Peacock subscription for $4.99 per month and receive access to WWE content. (The new WWE Network is not included as part of Peacock’s free tier.) An ad-free Peacock subscription costs the same as the WWE Network used to ($9.99 per month), meaning, for the same price a user used to pay just for WWE programming, they now get access to all of the Peacock library. But will that value be enough to placate fans who are upset about Peacock’s various shortcomings?
The most glaring issue that the new service has is the absence of tons of content that was previously available on the WWE Network but has not yet been uploaded to Peacock. Numerous WCW and ECW pay-per-views have been added, but not WCW Monday Nitro, for example. Not even all of WWE’s relatively recent programming has made the transition. The Peacock archive of episodes of SmackDown and NXT only goes back to 2019, while old episodes of Raw are available dating back to 2008. While the catalog of main-roster WWE pay-per-views is nearly complete, only the seven most recent NXT TakeOver specials are up on Peacock. (Twitter user @kingmotivatorh has done a good job compiling a list of which shows have and have not made the transition to Peacock.) For now, fans can watch anything that hasn’t been moved over yet on the old WWE Network app, and we’ll see how the library expands before the Network app is shuttered. For its part, WWE promises to have its full archive up on Peacock by this year’s SummerSlam. But in the intermediate period between WWE Network’s shutdown and SummerSlam, fans may be without some of their favorite broadcasts.
Also: Even if a given show is available on Peacock, finding it might be difficult. The Peacock search function is far inferior to that of WWE Network. The old Network app allowed users to search for a particular wrestler, which would bring up a profile page that included every video on the platform featuring that performer. Searching “Roman Reigns” on Peacock brings up no results.
There is also an issue with how PPVs are categorized. Every recurring pay-per-view is identified as part of a single-episode “season.” For example, this year’s Royal Rumble was the 33rd edition of the event, so it’s on Peacock as Royal Rumble, Season 33, Episode 1. This makes searching for particular PPVs a bit tricky. Searching for “SummerSlam 2001” will bring up zero results. Instead, you have to search for “SummerSlam,” which brings up the SummerSlam series page, and find the 2001 edition under Season 14, Episode 1. It’s not the end of the world, but it will take some getting used to.
The thing I, personally, am most upset about is the disappearance of my favorite WWE Network feature: the ability to jump to a particular match. On the old service, you could queue up a particular show and click a single button to skip to a certain match. If I only had an hour, I could put on NXT TakeOver: New Orleans, watch the show-opening ladder match and then easily skip to the Johnny Gargano–Tommaso Ciampa unsanctioned match in the main event, without having to hunt around for the start of the match by fast-forwarding and rewinding.
On the other hand, Peacock has a feature that WWE Network users have been clamoring for: download and go. Now, viewers can save any show directly to their mobile device and watch without a WiFi connection, which will be great for commuting and traveling.
Features like that show why WWE fans should have reason to be optimistic about the Peacock move. The WWE Network is now in the hands of a company with much more experience navigating the world of streaming. NBCUniversal should, in theory, be better positioned to develop new features for the Network and improve existing ones than WWE was when working with third parties in the past. If, over the coming months, WWE could replicate more of the old WWE Network features on Peacock, the growing pains for viewers will be a lot less severe.
For the majority of fans—the ones who use the Network to watch live pay-per-views and occasionally revisit old shows—the Peacock experience seems to be pretty good. Hardcore fans will lament not being able to watch older matches like Ric Flair vs. Harley Race in a steel cage at Starrcade ’83 until the full library is transitioned over the coming months, but the other differences between Peacock and the old Network amount to minor inconveniences.
The new platform will get its first significant test on Sunday when the Fastlane pay-per-view streams live on Peacock. It will be something of a trial run before WWE’s two biggest nights of the year: WrestleMania 37 on April 9 and 10.