Three months ago I discussed the feasability of split-PPVs in this column, with the first one of these coming this weekend (WWE Bad Blood), it is time to revisit the issue.
This is not the first time WWE has attempted to go head-strong with an idea to market “A” and “B” shows. The last time was with the invention of “In Your House” in 1995. The idea was to capitalize on the conveniences of PPV and run “B” shows that would cost 10 dollars less and would have a dumbed-down card but still have good talent. When WWE was extremely successful in the 1980s they increased their house show touring schedule tremendously and found success with “A,” “B,” “C,” and “D” shows. Recently, before the brand split, WWE ran “A” teams through big cities and “B” teams in smaller cities. Then with the brand split, they ran two “half-A” shows. That would make one think that this idea would be successful as well. Well, not quite. To make a long story short, even as the company grew, the “In Your House” concept was a disaster. PPV buyrates fell far before estimates and the shows drew less than half of usual supercard shows live.
1995 – 1998 Regular PPV Avg. Buyrate (0.96)
1995 – 1998 IYH-branded PPV Avg. Buyrate (0.60)
Changes in PPV were never quelled, the IYH concept soon developed into a full-blown 12-PPV schedule for the company. After the split, ideas were tossed around to keep Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, King of the Ring, SummerSlam, and the Survivor Series and then offer 14 other PPVs a year (two a month for each brand). As I have said numerous times before, and keep in mind that I am not a business major so this is common sense, you don’t expand companies unless you are enjoying tremendous success, which is obviously not the case. Even then, you have to determine if the extension is going to be a help to the company or hinder it. With ideas like this, the result is the latter.
WWE, strangely, is aware that there is ambivalence heading into this new experiment but if they had examined why, then they would not have gone through with it. When they appeared long-side UFC and NWA: Total Nonstop Action at the PPV industry fair early this year they hyped WrestleMania XX from New York, Bill Goldberg, The Rock, Brock Lesnar, and HHH but stayed away from any discussion or hype of the split PPV idea. While discussion within the jaded PPV industry has been minimal, naysayers are plentiful when it comes to the PPV split. WWE even tried to ignore the split on TV until it was absolutely necessary to broach the subject on RAW. They tried to sell that idea by offering Hell in the Cell with Mick Foley (not officially announced), having Austin attach his name to it, adding a “redneck triathalon”, and a legends match. While this could be passed by as simple promotion of a PPV, WWE is aware of the problems, but not enough the not go through with the idea. The fact is: the brand extension has already been a business failure and this is going to make it worse, lest divine intervention… intervene.
What makes this decision even more questionable is the fact that WWE has maintained strong business, in great part due to the strength of their PPV sector. It is obvious that numbers are down, but the company has remained successful because of solid buyrates that have buoyed it. Vince Russo did the same thing in WCW (in a completely different way, but the connection to PPV still exists) and totally killed that source of revenue for that company. Vince Russo’s style of booking is now considered a joke by insiders and perhaps by everyone not a loyalist.
I would not be surprised if WWE scores an average buyrate because the promotion has been above average for this first show, but they are putting themselves in a situation that they cannot handle and will backfire. Unfortunately, they also have decided that they will not terminate the project if it fails initially.
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