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December 11, 2015

WWE to start online streaming in Japan

World Wrestling Entertainment, the U.S.'s largest pro wrestling and entertainment company, on Jan. 5 will start a streaming service in Japan.

WWE Network will allow Japanese Internet users to view unlimited hours of professional wrestling, including live matches, for $9.99 a month.

Until now, WWE fans in the country have had to subscribe to satellite or cable TV services to catch matches.

Even events that are billed as pay-per-view elsewhere will be available at no additional cost.

Subscribers will also have on-demand access to more than 4,000 hours of past and current WWE footage as well as to video of events put on by now defunct wrestling organizations. The library includes matches involving legendary stars.

The streaming service will be offered in English. But, George Barrios, the WWE's chief strategy and financial officer, said, "over time we will decide if it makes sense for us to translate some of the content" into Japanese.

The WWE Network will also feature matches from the NXT circuit, a stable of up-and-coming athletes that includes Japanese wrestlers Hideo Itami and Asuka, a female wrestler.

The network started streaming in the U.S. in February 2014, then began expanding abroad that summer. The WWE Network currently has some 1.3 million subscribers, around 20% of whom live outside the U.S., according to Barrios.

The WWE Network ranks fifth among U.S. online streaming services, after Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and Major League Baseball's MLB.TV, according to Parks Associates, a market research and consulting company.

Barrios is upbeat about the service's potential in Japan. "Japan has a long wrestling tradition," he said. "We have a very loyal and passionate fan base. Japan is very, very important for our global strategy."

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