The origins of the WWE Network can trace back to 2000 when USA Network filed the lawsuit against the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now known as the WWE) due to breach of contract which saw most of its programming moved to Viacom-owned TNN and MTV. The Delaware Chancery Court ruled in favor of the WWF in June 2000. Then CEO Linda McMahon revealed that WWF wanted its own cable network and testified that before WWF signed a rights deal with Viacom, the company had floated the idea of acquiring USA's Sci-Fi Channel, and reformatting it as a dedicated wrestling network. USA executives rejected the idea, and McMahon said that former USA Networks President Barry Baker encouraged her to talk to other programmers about potential deals. "I can tell you right now, Linda, you're not going to get anybody to give you a network," McMahon testified. In 2005, USA Network re-acquired the rights to all WWE programming.
As the result of an online poll, WrestleMania Recap was chosen as a name for a new WWE Network show on October 17, 2011. The original launch date was set for April 1, 2012, which would have coincided with WrestleMania XXVIII, and WWE's official website featured a countdown clock that would have expired on April 1. The clock was quietly removed, and the network did not launch as advertised. WWE chief marketing officer Michelle Wilson allayed fears about the future of the WWE Network, saying "There will be a WWE network in some shape or form. We are in late-stage negotiations with distributors", and confirmed that WWE Legends' House had been filmed. In April 2013, WWE had switched plans and aimed to release the WWE Network as a premium pay-TV outlet, with a potential price of $15 a month.
On Old School Raw in January 2014, WWE ran teasers promoting an announcement on January 8 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, later confirming that the announcement concerned the WWE Network. At the Consumer Electronics Show, WWE revealed a comprehensive plan which would see a launch date of February 24, 2014 in the United States.WWE Classics on Demand closed on January 31, 2014 to make way for the WWE Network. A free trial period was offered during the week of the launch. The logo initially used for the WWE Network eventually became the standard logo used by the WWE corporation in August 2014.
In April 2014, ahead of WrestleMania XXX, the Network received acclaim, with The New York Times saying that WWE had "positioned themselves on the cutting edge of Internet television." Later that month, the company announced that the network had 667,000 subscribers, short of the one million subscribers they needed to break even. As WWE's stock fell 50% the following month, Forbes described low subscription numbers as being of "additional concern" for investors after WWE's underwhelming NBCUniversal renewal deal. WWE offered a second free preview week of the WWE Network, which started July 7, in an attempt to sign new subscribers. A second report released at the end of July indicated that the network had reached 700,000 subscribers. WWE's goal was to reach one million subscribers by the end of 2014.
On July 31, 2014, the company announced a 10-year, Canadian distribution deal for WWE content with Rogers Media which will see the company distribute WWE Network as a premium television service. Also on that date, it was announced that the WWE Network would launch in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mexico, Spain, and the Nordics, among others on August 12, with Italian, Arab, German, Japanese, Indian, Chinese, Thai, and Malaysian launches planned for a later date. On October 30, 2014, in an attempt to increase subscription numbers from an announced figure of 731,000, the 6-month subscription requirement was dropped, allowing subscribers the option to cancel at any time. WWE had originally planned to launch the network on October 1 in the United Kingdom, but was delayed for a further month. The launch was confirmed to be taking place at 8 p.m. on November 3; however, 20 minutes prior to the launch, WWE announced that it had been indefinitely delayed. Vince McMahon publicly apologized for the delay. It was announced on January 4, 2015, that the WWE Network would be launching in the UK and Ireland on January 19, 2015, priced at £9.99 and EUR12.99 respectively, although some customers managed to register as early as January 13.
On January 27, 2015, WWE announced that the WWE Network had reached 1 million subscribers, with Vince McMahon saying that WWE would "remain focused on delivering an outstanding value proposition for ours fans by adding new content and new features in the coming year." On February 12, 2015, WWE announced a five-year partnership with television provider OSN to bring the WWE Network to the Middle East and North Africa as a premium service.
On July 30, 2015, WWE revealed the amount of subscribers for the Network at 1.156 million. This was announced as a part of WWE's financial reporting on the second quarter of the year, which had resulted in their stock price rising past $20.00 after closing on the previous day at $16.48. The total of 1.156 million paid subscribers marked a 13% decrease from the 1.315 million paid subscribers that was stated in the reports for the first quarter of 2015. WWE also revealed, including trial subscribers, they had 1.227 million Network users at the end of the second quarter, and over the entire lifespan of the Network, there have been over 2 million unique subscribers.
The WWE Network launched in India on November 2, 2015. On November 19, a report by market research and consulting firm Park Associates announced that the WWE Network had broken into the top five streaming services and trailed only MLB.tv in the sports category. The WWE announced the network would launch in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Japan on January 5, 2016, followed by Thailand and the Philippines on February 29, 2016.
In April 2017, WWE announced a total of 1.949 million subscribers to the WWE Network, of which 1.661 million were paid subscribers. At the end of the third quarter of 2017, the number had dropped to 1.5 million paid users. In April 2018, WWE announced subscriber growth had reached 2.1 million, with 1.8 million paid. At the end of the third quarter of 2018 the number had dropped to 1.6 million paid users.
Switch to Endeavor, redesign
In January 2019, WWE Network signed with Endeavor Streaming to replace BAMTech as its operating partner. WWE's decision was motivated by the acquisition of BAMTech by Disney. Co-president George Barrios cited concerns over how BAMTech's relationships with third-party partners would be impacted by the sale, while WWE also sought greater control over the service and its operations, intending to partner with another vendor or take the service entirely in-house. The company decided to partner with Endeavor Streaming (formed primarily from the assets of NeuLion) to provide infrastructure and billing services, and Massive Interactive to develop a new front-end and mobile apps.
The new WWE Network platform launched in July 2019, ahead of SummerSlam. It includes a revamped user experience, support for 1080p streams, new browsing tools (such as a new "Superstars" interface for filtering content by performers), and plans to add a download feature for offline viewing in the future. Support for certain legacy devices, such as PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and certain older smart TVs, was discontinued with the changeover. In an interview with The Verge, Barrios revealed that there were ongoing plans for WWE.com's existing video content to be integrated into the WWE Network platform as a "free" tier (possibly also including previews of WWE Network's premium content), and that WWE was also considering the development of a premium tier with additional features (such as benefits for other WWE operations).
In late 2017, Liechtenstein and PRC-controlled Mainland China were added to the list of non-available countries, however the WWE Network is still available in the Chinese special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau as well as ROC-controlled Taiwan and Fujian.WWE Network contents are no longer available to Indian fans "in its current form." The company has sold its rights in India to SONY, their television provider in the country. Hence, the contents will be available on SONY's own app where other WWE programming can also be seen. In 2020 Malta was removed from countries available, no reason was provided.
WWE Story Time - An animated series featuring WWE wrestlers and managers telling stories from the past. Gene Okerlund hosted and narrated the series in seasons 1-3 until his death in 2019. Jerry Lawler took over as host and narrator for season 4.
WWE Break It Down - The stories behind some of the biggest matches and moments in WWE history are discussed by the Superstars and legends who lived them.
WWE Ruthless Aggression - The WWE Ruthless Aggression docuseries picks up where WWE Network's Monday Night War series left off, detailing the years that followed the Attitude Era, after WWE absorbed its-then top rival, WCW.
Undertaker: The Last Ride - The unprecedented limited-series event chronicling over three years in the career of The Phenom
In addition to previous editions of the original programs listed above, the network includes many other previously aired events.
Although the United States parental guidelines rating system rates most weekly WWE television programs TV-PG, the WWE Network broadcasts a wider range of content. A parental controls block is available and content rated TV-14 and TV-MA are preceded by an advisory warning. The network airs footage featuring Chris Benoit; it marks the first major airing of Benoit footage or even mention of Benoit in said footage since his murder-suicide in 2007. However, the Benoit tribute episode of Raw is replaced with the episode that aired internationally, a recap of championship matches. Also, Vengeance: Night of Champions in 2007 removes all references to Benoit during the ECW World Championship match. Over the Edge 1999, infamous for Owen Hart's death at the event, is also available for the first time since its original air date; however, some portions of the event have been edited out of respect to the Hart family. Matches called with Jesse Ventura on commentary, which had previously been dubbed over due to a 1991 lawsuit, are available with the original commentary.
While the network promoted on-demand airings as being unedited, some instances of expletives, gestures, and all nudity are censored. Many programs were digitized for WWE 24/7 prior to the 2012 settlement with the World Wide Fund for Nature, and thus the "WWF" and the "WWF scratch" logo are censored in some instances. Some original music has been dubbed over with alternate tracks such as the original intro music to Saturday Night's Main Event (May 1985 - January 1988 episodes) which originally played "Obsession" by Animotion.
At launch, all but one of New Jack's matches were removed from ECW pay-per-views, as was his surprise return at Heat Wave 1998, due to a combination of musical rights issues over his entrance music and the inability to remove the music without losing the original commentary audio. The deleted matches were eventually reinstated with replacement music and newly recorded Joey Styles commentary. Several pay-per-views are copies of their condensed home video releases, rather than the live versions, and so are missing matches.
As Seen on YouTube - The best of WWE's YouTube content.
WWE Quick Hits - A monthly show with extra short clips from various DVDs & WWE Network shows.
Mick Foley Stand Up Special - A stand up special by Mick Foley.
Floyd Mayweather and Big Show documentary from 2014.
Impact on pay-per-view industry
In an interview with Time, Michelle D. Wilson, chief revenue and marketing officer for WWE, stated their reason for bypassing cable companies and instead only offering the WWE Network online: "Digital over-the-top offerings represent the future, and given that our passionate fans consume five times more online video content than non-WWE viewers and over-index for purchasing online subscriptions such as Netflix and Hulu, we believe the time is now for a WWE Network."
In response to the announcement, DirecTV issued a statement saying that they are re-evaluating whether to continue carrying WWE's pay-per-view events. Due to the fact that these events would also be available on the WWE Network once it launches, it might reduce the number of pay-per-view purchases via cable and satellite providers. Vince McMahon suggested that pay-TV operators would ultimately decide to continue to carry WWE's pay-per-view events, given that providers keep a significant share of each purchase, and incur minimal costs (apart from WWE's share of the fee for each purchase) to carry the events: "It's found money for them." DirecTV later quietly dropped carriage of WWE PPVs. In response, WWE said, "Yes, DIRECTV has decided to stop offering our PPV's residentially and commercially. The only other option would be to work through the local cable provider." 
On February 19, 2014, Dish Network announced that they would carry WWE pay-per-views on an event by event basis, beginning with Elimination Chamber. Dish Network later released a statement saying, "Dish will not offer the 'WWE Elimination Chamber' PPV on 2/23. WWE is not willing to adjust their PPV costs to satellite and cable companies, which is unfair to their customers. We need to re-focus our efforts to support partners that better serve Dish customers." Dish later made a decision to air WrestleMania XXX. Dish declined to offer WrestleMania 31 and 32 but did offer WrestleMania 33 in 2017.
In October 2014, it was reported Mattel, Kmart, and Pepsi would begin advertising on the network starting the week of October 13. Wilson stated that although no commercial breaks will occur during scheduled programming, 30 second adverts would run in between shows, and that one 15 or 30-second advert would be shown prior to every fourth stream of on-demand content.
^The steel cage match from No Holds Barred: The Match/The Movie is available on the home video Supertape, which is available on the WWE Network.