Transcribed from my original post at PWPonderings.com
With the major announcement that the WWE have created an on demand service, the WWE Network, the internet instantly began to buzz about the impact this is going to have on their wrestling consumption and their wallets. Two very decisive subjects that many have found hard to balance, what is worthwhile to purchase, at what price, and how much entertainment does it provide the viewer. We all know about pirating and the accessibility the internet allows to garnering content legally and illegally. Here at PWP it has been bantered about for years and the multitude of ways independent wrestling has tried to mitigate its effects on their bottom line. While it can be debated whether or not some of the arguments made for which mix promotions chose are sound or really fixing-the-dam so to speak, is one that I don’t see ending any time soon. What I can say is that there is always going to be the two opposing sides, the consumer experience and the creator’s response.
The WWE Network follows a similar layout to that of Netflix combined with WWE’s choice to cannibalize their PPV platform in hopes that it will garner more interest and more subscriptions. There will be original content (Legend’s House which at this point is anyone really looking at this as anything other than a complete mess?), there will be the vast library of media from the properties WWE bought such as WCW, WCCW, AWA, and others. Every independent wrestling promotion also has a vast library of content from their respective past that generally decline in value as the years move forward because content is constantly being created. Month after month, every wrestling promotion creates another DVD/MP4/VOD based on a live event while those outside of a four to six month window (in my opinion) decline in value because of the significance to he present. There are a few websites out there that provide a subscription based service. WSU/Beyond Wrestling has http://StreamWSU.com, Highspots has http://Highspots.TV, and CHIKARA events are shown at http://shop.wrestlingis.com/ though they do not give you access to a complete library to my knowledge.
There may be more but those are the three that come to mind instantly. The prices range from $7.99 – $9.99, coincidentally the WWE Network also will cost $9.99 per month with a 6 month subscription, but for me those prices are very reasonable for the amount of content that is put up on a sometimes daily basis.
Where we see the rift in from the consumer experience and content provider/creator’s response is in this area of price. The return on investment for the content providers is based on many factors which are loosely:
- House attendance
- DVD/MP4/VOD purchases
- Merchandise sold at live event
All of which have to be calculated with the payment to talent, rent, insurance, traveling expenses…I think you get my point. On the flip side, you have the consumer who factor in entertainment value, time, traveling & food expense along with the live/viewing experience. Those two viewpoints may sometimes differ and honestly, both are always right. It’s a hugely subjective formula. What entertains one person will not entertain another, and what a promoter pays for one talent may not translate into higher amounts of purchases. It’s a wonder the business world doesn’t come crashing down upon itself more often than it does.
Allow me to put out some food for thought while I use ROH as an example. Based on my own consumption habits, I have bought less ROH shows this year than in any year previous and that includes compilations. Having to pay between $20 – $25 per DVD(s) along with about $5 for shipping has become a thing of the past. VOD access is generally granted at $15, though that is based on location and internet strength which I have found more limiting than easy to use (first world problem, I know). I can fully understand how ROH comes to that price. At 500 purchases of a VOD they make $7500 and that probably pays for quite a bit of talent while the rest could be paid from the house attendance and merchandise sold. Give or take each event and you can easily see the formula. But that is the promoters view. The consumer will see this:
- $20- $35 for a ticket
- $20 for travel (give or take)
- $15 – $30 for the VOD/VOD for only about 3 hours of entertainment
Now that the WWE Network has essentially given us an almost eternal amount of content (at least that’s the idea) for only $10, that $15 for only 3 hours, like it or not, could seem meager. I’ve seen some say that this is an unfair comparison. That’s just not true. Consumers do not always take into account the business model of the person they are buying from, they just want the end result. Entertainment for money, and generally they want to know how much will it cost and what will I get. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. So what can independent wrestling industry learn from this? While I fully understand that these are independent operations without huge monetary backings *cough* maybe ROH wasn’t a great example *cough* and that most of us fans appreciate all the hard work that promoters and talents provide, there is no denying fans will look at what they are spending.
Granted, for the honest fans who are buying WWE PPVs, this just means we will have more discretionary income to spend on the indie scene. Hooray. But I would suggest that some independent promoters look at their library of content and possibly re-access what can be done with it and at what cost. I’m not suggesting EVERYONE go out and create the Netflix of independent wrestling. But companies like Beyond Wrestling/WSU and Highspots I think are already doing it right. I think it’s time some independent promotions out there take a look at the meta conversation this WWE Network as spurned with wrestling fans and try to re-think the creator’s response.