Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Too Many Pay Per Views

On February 1, the US government seized several websites that streamed live sporting events. Those events included wrestling and UFC pay per views.  While I can understand why the government shut down the websites, the big question I am curious to see answered is, how will it affect future pay per view buy rates? 

Kevin and I have mentioned it before, right now there are too many pay per views and the oversaturation is hurting the overall product. Both WWE and TNA have 12 pay per views a year.  I’m not sure about UFC, but judging from the calendar on their website it looks like they do 12 PPVs a year as well.  Thirty-six PPVs at roughly $40 each comes out to $1,440 a year.  How many fans are going to spend that much money to watch something they can buy on DVD six weeks later for half that PPV price? Or, why spend money on a show when there will most likely be rematches from the PPV on Raw, Smackdown and Impact.

 In addition to the consumer’s wallet, the number of PPVs takes its toll on the ability to craft a compelling storyline fans can get emotionally invested in before the match takes place.  Probably the most compelling story line over the past year was the Wrestlemania match between Shawn Michaels and Undertaker. You can look at the match and say, well it only had 4-5 weeks from the time the match was announced until it happened at Wrestlemania so how is it different than all the other matches taking place on pay per view?  True, the time from announcement to happening was the standard amount of time, but the difference is it was built off the back of a previous meeting between the two 12 months prior. Twelve months in which neither man had any contact with the other so them being in the same ring was something different. It was also built on a legacy 18 years in the making.  So it wasn’t a typical feud/match.  

Maybe it’s because as a kid I didn’t have as much going on in my life as I do now that I’m an adult, but I can remember pretty much all the major angles from Wrestlemania 1 through 14. After that my mind gets a bit hazy and I have to really think about what happened on the show and why it happened.  Even with having attended 4 of the last 5 Wrestlemanias, I have a hard time remembering who fought on the show. And don’t even bring up the “B” level pay per views. Ever since WWE stopped calling their shows, In Your House:  Title Related to Main Event, I have no idea what matches took place on a specific show. If something isn’t memorable a week after it happened, where’s the interest before the show happens that is going to make me feel like I need to see the show?

When there is only 3 weeks between pay per views (or 2 as has been the case in the past with some WWE shows) how do you build up a feud that fans will care about?  Most of the time there are several rematches from one show to the next. Last year, Kane and the Undertaker fought on three straight pay per views. As a fan, why would I want to pay $45 three times to see the same match up?  Think back to 1987 (assuming you’re old enough to think back that far) when Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant had their historic match at Wrestlemania 3. After that match it was seven months until they were in the same ring again at the Survivor Series. And then it was three months until their title rematch at The Main Event.  In today’s environment, the two would have fought 25 times and had 6 title changes in the same time span.

Maybe it’s the ADD riddled world we leave in today, but there is too much going on in the wrestling and very little of it leaves an impression.  This past week on Raw, CM Punk brought up Randy Orton and Legacy costing him the world title in 2008 as his motivation for attacking Orton. I have no recollection of that event. With the same wrestlers fighting week after week and titles changing hands every other month, I need to keep a written log of what’s going on. Very little leaves an indelible impression anymore.  I wonder what it is like to be a young wrestling fan that has only been a fan for a few years. Will they look back on in 20 years and remember what is was like the first time The Miz won the WWE title? Or will the formation of Nexus be a landmark occasion or a simple footnote in that year that was 2010?

I don’t know if WWE and TNA are contractually obligated to have 12 shows a year by the pay per view distributors, but I feel reducing the number of ppvs will allow for better stories to be told and could lead to more fans buying the shows. I know I’d be more inclined to buy 4 to 6 shows that felt special and had good build up than to buy 12 shows that feel thrown together.  I especially think TNA could benefit from fewer shows. Especially if fewer shows mean less pay per views in the Impact Zone, which in turn gives the shows a big time, show feel.

While I don’t see a reduction of pay per views coming anytime soon, I guess I’ll just sit back and try to remember what happened last month and prepare for the inevitable rematch between John Cena and Randy Orton.



  1. I wish WWE management would adapt their "less is more" philosophy to the company's overall exposure instead of the quality of wrestling.

    This isn't meant to badmouth wrestling fans as I am one myself, but it's really amazing how strong the fanbase is for a company that abuses them so much. We're talking about an entertainment outlet that only offers infomercials and mediocre matches on television, its sole purpose to try and sell you on pay-per-view events that offer more promos and slightly better matches. In other words, the entire product revolves around the pay-per-views, which makes it a pretty exclusive club. Imagine if baseball fans, hockey fans or basketball fans had to put up with this sort of thing. That would be the end of western civilization as we know it.

    Yet the wrestling fans stay loyal. Even through all the false finishes, bait and switches, and downright embarrassing storylines that beg for mockery from the mainstream media, the fans give their time and their money to see more.

    So how does WWE repay their loyalty? By adding more yearly pay-per-views and jacking up the prices. It's frustrating beyond words.

    Perhaps I wouldn't be so against this type of business practice if the product was more inviting and there was a special reason to pay money for it. The problem is not television rematches (most of them are crap and riddled with commercials anyway), piracy or lack of buildup. It's the novelty factor that made all those classic Wrestlemania shows so memorable to begin with. Pay-per-view events should feel special and the television exposure should be there to promote the company, not slap the fans in the face. Far too many episodes of Raw and Smackdown have been missing that "can't miss" flare. It's not even necessary to watch the shows anymore. The production crew does all the work for you with their highlight packages.

    So although I disagree with some of your supporting arguments, I strongly agree that there are way too many pay-per-view events, very few of which are worth caring about. Television product quality needs to be stepped up too, which will draw more outside interest, which means more potential pay-per-view buyers. And while they're at it, reduce the amount of television exposure so that too has a chance to feel special

    It's too bad Vinnny Mac won't make any kind of change until his pocketbook starts hurting, and I don't see that happening anytime soon.

  2. Great post. I've thought for years that they spit out too many PPV in a year and most of them aren't worth watching.

  3. I do believe that both companies are contractually held to 12 PPVs a year. I remember reading a Q&A with Dixie Carter where she did say moving to 4-6 PPVs was an option they would consider once their 12-per-year deal is up.

    Nonetheless, I definitely agree. Way too much going on, and really it just leads to nothing going on.

  4. The UFC do more than 12 a year. At times, they do two a month. They also do many free PPV quality nights on Spike and Versus. You have to pick and choose.

  5. Ian, as I mentioned in my review of Rope Opera, I think wrestling fans accept the abuse because they're fans of the actual wrestlers and want to see them perform. The atrocious story lines are something fans have to accept as long as their favorite wrestlers are a part of WWE or TNA. If fans tune out to spite the creative decisions being made, management in turn takes that as a sign of whoever the heavily promoted wrester is at the time as not being a draw and then quickly goes back to whoever was on top previously. Vince Russo mentioned in the book the worst thing Vince McMahon ever did was put Stephanie in charge of the creative department because he can never fire her.

    Thanks for the feedback.