Tuesday 7 June 2011
What is ROH's Future?? By Shaun Nichols
As most wrestling fans now know, Ring of Honor was recently sold by Cary Silkin to Sinclair Broadcasting in which he sold his full 100% ownership of the group. It also is not a secret that ROH was losing some money, obviously not necessarily a lot of money or Cary would have sold earlier or pulled the plug on ROH. There was a feeling within the group that could have been a possibility but happily the sale to Sinclair will allow ROH to continue, the main question though is in what form.
The purchase by Sinclair will once again allow ROH to have TV coverage something that they have not had since the end of the HDNet deal which saw the final show air in April. The major complaint of the TV show on HDNet was that the production did not look good and often did a poor job in relaying the ROH product to the fans watching at home especially those that may have been more general wrestling fans. On the plus side HDNet ran ROH on Monday nights and they also put the show on in ROH's main markets such as New York, Chicago and Philadelphia.
Jim Cornette has noted that he feels the main difference between the TV shows will be the improved TV productions that will be able to better get across the messages that ROH want to use their TV shows to convey. The feeling was that under HDNet the TV show came across as fairly low rent but also the fans attending the tapings did not particularly like the shorter matches that television demands compared to the the usual ROH product.
Sinclair themselves are said to be worth $800 million and they made approx $75 million in profit in 2010 however they made substantial losses in both 2008 & 2009, they are also well known for running their businesses as cheaply as possible which also as the knock on effect of not paying well. That being said if they didn't think that they could not make money through the purchase of ROH then they would not bought the company. ROH works on pretty low overheads, this includes in-ring talent, minimal front office, the cost of running buildings and so forth. ROH as never had a lot of money to spend so are used to working with a minimal budget. On the other side of the coin this means that things do not have to improve greatly for the company to become profitable. Even with the loss of the HDNet television house shows have not seen big drop offs in attendances and the company seems to be hopeful that iPPV's will stay around 1600-1800 buys per show.
Sinclair will be providing funding for the product but will not be paying a licence fee to ROH, like Spike does for TNA as an example. What that means is that they will probably not be overly concerned if there are small losses on the wrestling end of the deal. The first TV tapings will be in Chicago Ridge on August 13th and as far as introducing ROH to a new television audience this is likely to be seen as a re-launch for the company. For the markets that ROH will be airing in are not markets that are familiar to ROH and its product. It will take time to slowly get the wrestlers who many viewers may not have seen before and to make them stars. Cornette as also said that he thinks that the current roster is perfect as a group of wrestlers to introduce a new wrestling TV show although in his position he can hardly say anything else.
Among the markets that ROH will be airing are Tampa, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Buffalo, Nashville, San Antonio, Raleigh, Birmingham, Las Vegas and Oklahoma City. What you ROH fans may have noticed is that a number of those cities have not witnessed a live ROH event before. Never one to miss an opportunity to have his say, Eric Bischoff poured cold water on the sale that saying having 22% market penetration then you do not exist from an advertising point of view and that by not running in the major markets of New York, Chicago or Los Angeles your not going to make any major advertising income. He may be right but you'd think he would have other things to worry about. To say that ROH will not be successful with the new TV deal would be jumping to conclusions but it would be a fair assessment to say it will take time and as a result the first few months of TV will not neccessarily be very enjoyable to the hardcore ROH fans who do not need to be introduced to the stars of the group.
As far as how ROH will continue to operate, they will continue to build up to around 5 iPPV's a year including the now traditional double shot at Wrestlemania weekend. They will also continue to have every house show as a unique event which they will then hope to sell on DVD. That's okay if your running about 30-40 shows a year at the most but if the plan is to take the wrestlers on the road more than that would be something that would no longer be viable. It's not known at the moment if ROH are targeted to hit a particular number of viewers, when they had the HDNet deal rating numbers were never an issue however with Sinclair it very easily could be. If they are targeted and don't meet them what happens at the point? They are also scheduled to have the TV show air on a Saturday night which is going to be far harder proposition to attract viewers compared to a Monday night.
When the Wrestling Observer website put up a poll asking their subscribers thought the ROH sale was good, bad or not sure. The general feeling was that people just didn't know how this will play out and I find myself in that camp. I've read blogs and heard podcasts from both those who think it is the greatest thing ever and also those that think ROH as ended as a wrestling company that we've enjoyed since 2002. I personally don't see enough evidence to be convinced by either view and will merely hope that ROH continues to progress and present good wrestling shows and I think most fans can agree with that sentiment.