Monday 3 October 2011

PPV: What are we paying for? By Shaun Nichols

In 2008 WWE Summerslam attracted over 300,000 Domestic buys (North America) and three years later they failed to secure 175,000 PPV buys which is less than 60% in the same markets than a mere three years earlier. Why as PPV business fallen so quickly? An easy answer would be to blame the economy, people all over the world simply don't have the same amount of disposable income. This is undoubtedly true but it is also true to say that if you promote a big event and portray it as something special then people will find a way. If a 5 or 6 friends chip in to pay for the event then they are basically paying about $10 each so there as to be something else.
If we look back at Summerslam in 2008 and the card that the WWE offered, in the main event we had the Undertaker defeating Edge in a HITC match. This worked as a draw due to the fact that they had been feuding over a number of months that year and this would be the final blow off. HITC could still theoretically work as a PPV attraction if there is a match that warrants it. Putting two matches into the cage with hardly any build and just because its that time of year won't. Which is why the HITC PPV from 2010 and 2011 will be seen as big disappointments due to the fact that the structure alone will not draw, you have to put wrestlers in the cage that have been feuding over several months and book the HITC match as the final chapter not a mere calling point along the way.
Also on the show was the first John Cena vs Batista PPV singles match and so had a little bit of mystique of it. The WWE were giving the fans something they had not seen before on PPV at the 'biggest event of the summer' and it worked. On top of this we had two decidedly average world title matches pitting Triple H vs Great Khali and CM Punk vs JBL. Whle those matches weren't anything to be excited about, Triple H has been a PPV draw for several years so he doesn't hurt the card but he's kept away from the top two matches. The fans are given reasons to go out and buy this show and they did.
Fast forward three years and these simple rules have all been ignored. This year's Summerslam followed a mere 4 weeks after the MITB PPV where CM Punk had left the arena with the WWE Title, in the following two weeks Summerslam was hardly mentioned at all. We did get Rey winning the vacant title but losing it shockingly to John Cena later on in the show and we also saw Triple H becoming the COO and replacing Vince as the on-screen boss. CM Punk returns 13 days after the MITB PPV to pose with Cena to end the show. What this means is that we are less than 2 weeks away from Summerslam and we know nothing of an event that evidently the company would like us to pay for.
In the last two weeks the WWE do finally get around to promoting the show, the main event of Cena vs Punk is probably made less important when they decide to add Triple H as a special referee. We also get Christian vs Randy Orton for the 5th time, and although they do have good matches it's difficult to see why this match would make one person order the show that wasn't already doing so. Yes Edge made an appearance, but he wasn't advertised and so the WWE didn't see him make any difference at all.
We have seen the Miz & R-Truth given plenty of TV time but we were not told specifically that they would be on the show. They were in an opener which featured four other men including one of the biggest babyfaces in company history in Rey Mysterio and also Alberto Del Rio who won the Raw MITB briefcase on the last show and would leave the event as WWE champion. After the final Raw before Summerslam did we know we would see Kofi, Rey & John Morrison vs Miz, Truth & Del Rio? No we didn't, but we certainly should have done. The WWE cannot expect all their fans to go to their website to get full details of the card on the day of the show, they should use their TV shows to clearly tell their viewers what matches they will be showing.
Did you know that on the Summerslam card was Daniel Bryan vs Wade Barrett? Do you know the storyline behind that match? Of course not. And that's the problem the card only featured 6 matches if you don't count Del Rio cashing in the case at the end. So you would think that all matches would mean something, have storylines that the fans are aware of and can relate to. I think Sheamus vs Mark Henry had a bit of a build to it and the Diva's matches count for very little.
Two days before the HITC PPV, Stu put up a post for the prediction league which featured five matches but didn't include Air Boom vs Dolph & Swagger or Cody Rhodes defending the I-C title against John Morrison. That's not his fault but it is the fault of the WWE who seemingly fail to grasp how to promote a PPV with the exceptions of the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania.
TNA are hardly any better and often get to the final week of TV before announcing anything like a full PPV card. And surely that plays a role in why they often fail to attract 10,000 PPV buys. Instead we know that PPV is not quite the dying business that some people would have you believe, the recent Floyd Mayweather boxing match against Victor Ortiz earned well over a million buys. That despite the fact Ortiz had previously meant very little on PPV but the likes of Mayweather and Pacquiao do mean giant buyrates to the cable companies. UFC although not having its best year knows the importance of advertising and using countdown specials to convince potential viewers to make the call. And when they have a really big fight they are rarely disappointed when the numbers come in.
WWE especially will continue to struggle on PPV if they continue to neglect the need to build up strong storylines and tell the fans what matches they will be seeing on the next PPV because at the moment it seems that they have forgot what the TV shows are actually for and it's costing them big time.

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