Pay-Per-View: An Industry in Decline

Over the past decade technology has advanced at an incredible rate and professional wrestling has always remained at the forefront of that technology. One of the first things to be broadcast on television was pro wrestling and Gorgeous George’s first appearance has been ranked among the top 100 television events of the 20th century. Nearly 70 years after this event took place and the WWE is still on the cutting edge of technology; Vince has been has been advancing his product with technology from cable and PPV’s, HDTV or Twitter and the new WWE app. This is smart, by being the brand searching and applying the latest technologies WWE is able to get their product seen by more people, in a variety of different ways as well as create more discussion among their fans and the public with creative advertising; like the new social media kick.


The problem then however becomes that while it is great to bring in the latest technologies, there also has to come a time when the company has to eliminate technologies that no longer work in the modern world. When Superstations, television stations broadcasting across the nation, were being created, Vince McMahon knew he had to get his product on a Superstation and off of local stations. During the Monday Night Wars Eric Bischoff upped the Pay-Per-View business from 4 to 6 to 8 to once a month, WWE had to follow suit and during a booming time for the business, much of that money came from these frequent PPV’s. In 2002 TNA started their wrestling company doing weekly PPV’s, and WWE upped their calendar and began producing 14 events a year.

While there was a lot of profits to be had for the multiple show buys, this model has begun showing signs of cracks in the foundation. PPV buys have been going down steadily over the past several years and while some blame this on the product, I believe it’s because the PPV system simply no longer makes any sense. We live in a world of outrageous convenience and we will do exactly what we want, when we want and however we want to do these things. Having to buy through a satellite or cable provider isn’t enough anymore, and accordingly WWE has made it possible to watch on any and all mobile devices. But if you’re watching these events on the internet in the first place, why would you pay when it’s easier to watch for free?

One good answer to that would be that you’re a real fan, that you care about the product and you want to spend your money on it to support what you love. While I completely agree, not everybody has the money to afford these events every month, sometimes twice a month, with WrestleMania costing $70 this year. To get even the most loyal fan to pay that sort of price when it sitting there for free is an incredible hurdle to attempt to overcome, and slowly WWE is losing this battle as more people realize the simplicity of doing these things. The ability to stream from a computer onto a television in High Definition is becoming easier and easier and with that there is increasingly less reason to pay to see these PPV’s. By watching for free you are stealing, but there is less hassle to see the video, the quality is increasingly becoming equal and are able to watch it anywhere, the argument is certainly convincing.

There is of course always the point that less and less are things being done of PPV’s that feel special, that feel like they wouldn’t happen on a Raw, on free TV. Regardless, what to take away from this article is that the current system of producing and releasing Pay-Per-Views no longer works in the current environment. One of the obvious solutions to this problem would be WWE acquiring the legal rights and abilities to have their own television network, making WrestleMania the only thing to be purchased separately from the network. With the price of the network compared to the price of the PPV’s, plus all the classic and original content supposed to be on the WWE Network the option seems attractive. While this is obviously the solution WWE is working on, it’s not going great as of the moment, so what will come of the WWE schedule and events? The WWE universe will just have to wait and see what the future holds for the superstars and divas.

  • wrestlingscoops2323

    u still need ppvs for feuds to end and for stuff to play out and get your pay off for the feud.ppv are still a big thing and u need them.

  • Elto Alexandrov

    I think WWE have taken crucial steps in order to tweak the PPV system and make it work. I got pretty excited when I heard WrestleMania 29 would be available on Xbox Live. With the birth of so many platforms over the past few years, including tablets, smartphones, consoles and whatnot, the most convenient way to offer PPVs would be through applications rather than cable providers. I think WrestleMania 29's buyrate would not have been as high if the WWE app had not allowed the show to be streamed on iPhone, iPad and Android. I don't think the PPV system is broken, because it evolves with time.

    • Elto Alexandrov

      But yes, I do agree that the price is ridiculous. Profiting from WrestleMania is not all about PPV buys. If you strive for the constant expansion of your fanbase and ensure as many people have access to your product as possible, profit will come one way or another.