Pay-Per-View Is a Dying Sport

Gene ZarnickCorrespondent IJune 23, 2010

Pay-per-view used to be a special thing.

I remember back in the early 90's when I was seven or eight years old and all I wanted to see was a WWF pay-per-view.  Back then, it was a privilege if you got a chance to witness one.

Those were the days when the biggest televisions most families had were 27" and if you knew someone with a big screen that was over 40" then you were in heaven.

The big screens weighed about 150 lbs. and consisted of huge wooden base about the size of a large credenza.

Fortunately for me, I not only had a friend whose grandparents had a big screen TV, but they also had the next best thing to go with it: The Black Box.

Other than a dog, the black box was a man's best friend.  You could get all the premium channels for free, unscrambled porn, and any pay-per-view event you wanted just by running your cable through this genius piece of equipment.

My first pay-per-view I ever saw was WrestleMania IX from Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nev.  I can vividly still picture the main event where Bret "The Hitman" Hart faced defended the WWF title against Yokozuna.

Bret had Yokozuna in the middle of the ring and got him in the sharpshooter and Yokozuna was about to tap.  Yokozuna's manager, Mr. Fuji, threw salt into Bret Hart's eyes and Yokozuna won the title under the bright sun of the outdoor arena.

Immediately following the victory, Hulk Hogan came out, challenged Yokozuna to a title fight and the match began.

Mr. Fuji tried to attempt the same salt throwing tactic, but messed up this time around and accidently hit Yokozuna and gave Hulk Hogan the title in a match that lasted less than 30 seconds.

From that moment since, I have always been in love with pay-per-view events.

Maybe it was just the era that we lived in and we didn't have the access like we had today to watch these events or see the results, but everyone was special.  

Maybe it was just my young age loving the WWF, Bret Hart, and Hulk Hogan like so many other kids my age.  It doesn't really matter the reason, it just matters that back then pay-per-view was viewed as a special event.

Pay-per-view continued to be special throughout the 90's decade.  It was still a rare thing to be able to watch these events.  

We didn't have the opportunities to watch them on the computer or visit a bar and see any pay-per-view we wanted, we had to find someone who was willing to drop $50 or get a group together and split the cost to be able to view these spectacles.

I guess back then, it just felt worth it.

Things have changed so much since then that pay-per-view is dying in my mind. Changes in sports, in television, and in the Internet; all these things are major factors to why pay-per-view will end within the next 10 years.

The most notable changes in sports are the lack of competitive boxing matches and the influx of the UFC.  

We all know the success of the UFC and we all know the lack of solid fights from boxing, but neither are the sole reason for the upcoming death of pay-per-view.  The actual problem with pay-per-view is the television itself.

We became a society that wanted television to change from what we get is what we see to a country that wanted 700 channels so we would be able to have a television program for every single person out there.

Not only that, but we also wanted the ability to watch whatever we wanted when we wanted.  Nothing is special to all of us anymore, it's just personalized programs that each individual can decide to enjoy.

Increases in television programs also created an increase in pay-per-view events.  The WWE no longer just focuses on WrestleMania, Summer Slam, Survivor Series, and the Royal Rumble.

Now they have 14 pay-per-views that creates an event, but not a special event.  The same is the case for the UFC and boxing is just in disarray.

I actually looked at my cable box today and Comcast is offering the boxing pay-per-view this Saturday of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. versus John Duddy in a middleweight bout in San Antonio.

If a boxing pay-per-view is happening in San Antonio, then it isn't going to be that great.

Who's buying this fight?  Julio Cesar Chavez I and Julio Cesar Chavez III?  That's about all I can think of who'd want to watch it.  

The last and most important factor to the destruction of pay-per-view is the Internet. We now finally have the black box of the new century.  Now with a couple clicks we are able to watch any pay-per-view event we want from numerous available web streams and it's all for free.  

I'm not sure if anybody will even be streaming the Chavez/Duddy fight, though, so you may have to drop the $44.99 if you really want to watch that battle.

Streams already give us decent picture quality and solid sound, but the increase in speeds and advances in technology will allow us to watch any event we want in hi-definition quality in the near future.  

Soon we will be able to all watch UFC 148.5 from our smart phones and be twittering about it at the same time.  

Our televisions will connect to these streaming services and we can instantly partake in any pay-per-view event we want from our 100" televisions that is just a wall that transforms to a TV screen.

Some people may think this is a bad thing for sports, just like downloading MP3's is a best thing for the music industry.  I think the other way.

Maybe this decade's black box technology will help these sports improve their products and go back to the time when the events were actually special.  

Maybe we will once again want to gather a crowd of people together and experience the spectacle with friends and be willing to drop the cash on the showcase.

I don't know where it will lead us, but I do know that pay-per-view is not here to stay.