Todd VanDerWerff of Vox tries to compare the WWE Network’s struggles with why there is no HBO Go:
HBO is basically in the same boat. Though it’s taking steps into making more of its programming available to more people more of the time, it still makes almost all of its money off of subscription fees that are factored into subscribers’ cable bills. HBO, in essence, needs cable companies to offer it to their subscribers for almost all of its business model to work. HBO Go is a great add-on in this situation, but as the WWE Network shows, it’s very, very hard to find enough subscribers to such a specifically tailored streaming service to make it at all profitable, to say nothing of the levels of profit HBO needs to make a show like Game of Thrones or even a smaller-budget show like Girls or John Oliver’s talk show.
This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. First HBO is a full (collection of) television channel(s) that air 24 hours of content each day. The WWE is a sports organization that airs about 5–10 hours of programming a week. HBO already operates under a subscription model. It just uses television providers as the middle man. The WWE gets money from TV networks that air their programming. HBO content is rampantly pirated, whether it’s new or old content. A great deal of WWE content is more readily available, and because of the live nature of Pay-per-view events, the value in pirating said content is not as useful.
And that doesn’t even take into account the type of content each provides. HBO Go provides access (when it’s working) to new content every week. Something in the neighborhood of 1–2 hours of new episodic content each week. The WWE network does offer replays of their weekly shows, but these shows air on USA, which is a much cheaper network to acquire than HBO. And the “best value” content, the inclusion of all PPV events, only comes to fruition 12 times per year.
Trying to compare these two scenarios is like claiming a silent movie-only streaming service would thrive because Netflix does. The WWE is very popular, but most newer (read: younger) fans have no desire to go back and watch content from the ’90s (or earlier). With HBO, there are many people who did not experience The Wire or The Sopranos who would love to go back and enjoy it.
It is a little surprising the WWE Network has struggled like it has, but it is not proof that an HBO Go-only subscription would fail.