Is The Pay-Per-View Era In WWE Almost Over?

By Dan Marsiglia
Vince McMahon
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The wrestling side of WWE has been on quite the roll as of late, but news coming in from the business front is a decidedly mixed bag.

It could also spell the end of WWE on pay-per-view.

When WWE released their initial number of WWE Network subscribers, the total was less than they had hoped for. Wall Street felt the same way, and WWE stock that was once worth more than $30 per share has dropped as low as $19.99 as of yesterday.

The initial stock increase was due to high expectations over the launch of the network as well as speculation that the company might sell. The latter could be a sign that Wall Street doesn’t quite understand wrestling or the McMahon Family, but there were more than a few media outlets discussing the possibility.

WWE tried putting a positive spin on the numbers, claiming they were well on their way to reaching their goal of one million subscribers. They’ll eventually meet this goal when the network is launched globally and people grow accustomed to the new technology, but truth be told they expected one million for WrestleMania alone.

While the Network number was below expectation, the PPV buys for WrestleMania XXX far exceeded expectations. WWE’s initial estimate hovers around 400,000, which would be outstanding. However, WWE usually errs on the side of optimism and the final numbers are almost always lower. Still, even if the show drew a number closer to 350,000 buys, that’s reason enough to be ecstatic.

The numbers seem to indicate that PPV isn’t dead at all, but rather a viable money-maker even with the WWE Network snatching away buyers. Unfortunately for WWE, it might be too little too late.

DirecTV has decided not to continue airing WWE PPVs, despite the surprisingly strong number for WrestleMania. DirecTV understands that WrestleMania is different from any other pro wrestling show, and most PPVs WWE runs from this point out will garner significantly fewer buys. When you figure in people who watch on the Network, buys for upcoming shows such as Extreme Rules on May 4 could be as low as 30,000 – 70,000.

This is precisely what WWE expected, and they budgeted themselves accordingly. In fact, the front office fully expects PPV to be a thing of the past in the next two to three years. Unfortunately, they may have made a mistake in assuming that their PPVs would be available for such a period of time.

As of right now, Dish Network doesn’t plan on carrying Extreme Rules either, which likely means they don’t figure on carrying any WWE PPVs moving forward. With both of these providers putting their foot down, it’s presumable that inDemand will be next. WWE won’t lose their shirt in the short-term without both DirecTV (around 20 million homes) and Dish Network (14 million), but losing inDemand (everyone else) would totally annihilate their PPV business in the United States.

Even though WWE expected this to happen eventually, this is years earlier than they wanted. If the cards don’t fall their way, and it doesn’t look like they will, they stand to lose quite a bit of money.

Owning the Network will eventually be the only way to see WWE’s “Special Events.” Are you surprised they offered up another free trial on Monday?

It’s clear that this is a transition period for the company; a period Vince McMahon and Co. may not have been completely ready for.

Dan Marsiglia is a Pro Wrestling columnist for Follow him on Twitter or add him to your network on Google. Read more here.

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