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WWE set to lay the smack down 24/7 with launch of own network before WrestleMania

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WWE is moving outside the ring to mesh the best of Hulk Hogan, The Rock and John Cena all in one place — its own network.

It's time to lay the smack down 24/7.

The WWE Network launches Feb. 24 as a streaming service for $9.99 per month with a six-month commitment and will include all 12 pay-per-view events.

The network is available on desktops and laptops via WWE.com. WWE Network will also be available through the WWE App on: Amazon's Kindle Fire devices; Android devices such as Samsung Galaxy; iOS devices such as Apple iPad and iPhone; Roku streaming devices; PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4; and Xbox 360.

"WWE Network will provide transformative growth for our company and unprecedented value for our fans," WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon said Wednesday.

WWE joins the NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB as the latest sports-based organization that has its own around-the-clock network. The network will air original content, including pregame and postgame shows for its flagship "Raw" on Monday nights, classic events, reality shows, documentaries and other forms of smashmouth programming. The on-demand content is the main selling point for an older audience looking to reconnect with the product.

"We believe that is the future," WWE chief revenue and marketing officer Michelle Wilson said.

Fans can relive matches from the Attitude Era or simply catch up on today's franchise players like Daniel Bryan and C.M. Punk.

From their own home or parts unknown, WWE believes it has the loyal fan base needed to support the project.

Up against the BCS national championship game, Monday's "Raw" averaged a sturdy 4.537 million viewers on USA Network for the three-hour show.

WWE has aired some of its biggest events on PPV dating to The Wrestling Classic on Nov. 7, 1985. WWE's signature WrestleMania show in April drew 1,039,000 buys on pay-per-view, though numbers for the other 11 cards are nowhere near that gaudy number, in part because of the steep price.

The Royal Rumble on Jan. 26 goes for about $50 on PPV.

George Barrios, WWE's chief strategy and financial officer, said about 800,000 to 1 million homes buy an average of two to three PPVs a year. About 1 million subscribers would allow the network to break even. Barrios said research showed "it's within the realm of possibility" that WWE could have between 2 million and 4 million subscribers.

WWE said it planned to hold the price at $9.99 even after the initial six-month commitment.

The PPVs are still available in their current format through cable or satellite providers.

"I'm just not convinced the pay-per-view platform is in it for the long term," Wilson said. "It's not the best consumer experience."

"Raw" and "Smackdown" will remain on cable television. "RAW" airs on USA Network and "Friday Night Smackdown" is on SyFy. WWE's TV rights will soon be up for grabs and new deals are expected to be in place by March 4. Encores of those shows, however, will air on the network.

WWE has teased its fans with a network announcement since promotional spots aired in 2011, but nothing ever happened until now, though some programming aired on Hulu and Netflix. Wilson said WWE considered running on an ad-supported network station or as a premium pay channel in a model like HBO before deciding the economic and distribution package it wanted was best suited as a streaming network.

"Most people don't think fond things of cable or satellite providers," Wilson said. "We think we can overdeliver like we always have."

More than 1,500 hours of archived programming, that includes the WCW and ECW video libraries, will air uncut and uncensored, so references to the World Wrestling Federation, old logos, or matches involving former wrestler Chris Benoit or former announcer Jesse Ventura will no longer be scrubbed from history.

Parental controls for content rated TV-14 or TV-MA will be available.

Fans can subscribe to the network at 9 a.m. Feb. 24 and live programming begins at 11:06 p.m. with a 30-minute "Raw" postgame show. WWE collaborated with MLB Advanced Media to for technology services, including operational support for reliable cross-platform distribution.

The WWE Network is scheduled to launch abroad by the end of 2014 or early 2015.

"It's going to change the way we do business around the world," Barrios said.

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