Compared to the number of viewers who tune into weekly WWE programming, very few actually purchase WWE’s 12 pay-per-view events each year. While this trend is partly because of illegal online streaming, it is even more due to simple consumer economics.
For most people having to fork out the cash each month for a three-to-four hour event is simply not worth it; especially considering how poorly the WWE builds up their pay-per-views today.
With such a crammed schedule, only a small number of pay-per-views actually deliver while the rest disappoint. When you purchase a WWE event, you never quite know what you’re going to get, and so for many viewers, it is rare to feel that you got your money’s worth when it’s all over.
It should come as no surprise that even some of the most dedicated WWE fans will only doll out the cash for several of each year’s 12 events. This is no longer the "Attitude Era" or even the "Ruthless Aggression Era" where storylines and feuds sold events.
Times have changed with the "PG Era" and so has the company’s target audience. Families don’t want their budgets overloaded with pay-per-views, especially in the current economy. That is the simple reason as to why WWE events undersell their potential.
It is becoming increasingly evident that the WWE needs to cut its pay-per-view schedule down from 12 events to significantly less. Cutting back to the "Big Four" in the Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam and Survivor Series would be the wisest decision. In fact, reducing their schedule to four big events is exactly the step that TNA have taken heading into 2013.
Throughout 2012, TNA followed the WWE’s trend of providing 12 pay-per-views, and akin to the WWE, some of those events delivered and others fell short. With an event each month, not every pay-per-view can live up to what it should be.
As of this year, TNA has cut back to its four major events. Genesis kicked off the year this past Monday, while Lockdown, Slammiversary and Bound for Glory are all scheduled to follow throughout the year.
TNA President Dixie Carter stated, “The pay-per-view industry has changed so much in the last decade. The traditional pay-per-view wrestling model needed to evolve.” TNA is both adapting to and driving that change by giving focus to four events per year, but by also keeping a more minor “One Night Only” pay-per-view special the first Friday of every other month.
How successful this model will be remains to be seen. Giving focus to four major events and cutting out the other eight is a smart move, especially for the more casual viewers.
More hardcore viewers still have the choice of monthly pay-per-views that will feature specific themes such as tag tournaments and X-Division action in the “One Night Only” program. While “One Night Only” may prove to be unnecessary in time, TNA has taken a step in the right direction by promoting only four major events.
For larger companies like WWE, it is a much harder decision to cut down on events when they still remain profitable overall. However, fewer events would lead to higher profit margins per event and an all-around superior product for the consumer.
With an event every month, booking merely becomes a habit. Matches are tossed together and many pay-per-views are merely placeholders to tide feuds over until the next big event.
Only four events each year means there is an ample three months to properly build feuds and plot lines. WWE and TNA can take their time to focus on promoting and selling their events. What we saw in 2012 was an industry that was too confident that people would purchase its product even when they made no true effort to sell them.
Three months gives creative-writing teams time to flesh-out rivalries and build a solid card that doesn’t end up involving inconsequential filler matches. With fewer events, they become something much more special, something that WWE and TNA can go all out for.
By making every pay-per-view event bigger like WrestleMania, they will become something that we anticipate and look forward to. They will become something that is worth the price every few months. They become something that the family doesn’t frown upon in their budgets.
Fewer pay-per-views will help to dramatically increase buy rates and long-term interest in the wrestling product from consumers. For a hobby that is merely watching television, wrestling can very quickly become quite expensive.
Four pay-per-views a year is ideal, but even cutting back to six or eight would be a smart move for the WWE, at least as a beginning. As far as pay-per-view schedules go, TNA is currently leading the industry by taking experimental and potentially risky moves that the WWE is too afraid to attempt.
The WWE must once again be faced with competition for it to begin to take the risks necessary to improve on what it currently offers to its fans.