Wrestling's ROH leans toward Internet PPV

Owner Cary Silkin says online PPV is more economical

NEW YORK -- Small wrestling promotion Ring of Honor believes Internet pay-per-views rather than traditional cable PPVs are the way to go for it.

"The Internet-style PPV is a much more economical way to do things for us at this stage," said ROH owner Cary Silkin, whose outfit has been around for eight years.

In 2007, the third-largest U.S. wrestling promotion (behind market leader World Wrestling Entertainment and TNA) started cable PPVs with In Demand and Dish. Silkin cites middlemen that take a cut out of the TV PPV proceeds, the lack of huge PPV buy rates for ROH along with at times tedious negotiations of various contracts and other costs that made cable PPVs only "moderately successful" financially. "Plus, Internet PPVs are worldwide, and we have a lot of fans overseas we can now reach," he added.

ROH's second Web PPV, "The Big Bang," takes place this Saturday in Charlotte, NC, which fans can once again buy for $14.95 on the site of fight Web broadcaster GoFightLive.tv.

ROH was encouraged by the economics of its first Internet PPV "Final Battle" in Manhattan in December, even though one of the commentator microphones caused problems.

According to ROH, about 1,200 people paid $14.95 each to view that first show online, equating to nearly $18,000 in additional revenue, which gets split with GoFightLive.tv. That revenue comes on top of the live event's ticket and merchandise sales. And the incremental costs to make the event available as a Web PPV amounted only to $1,200-$1,500, estimates Silkin. While much larger WWE gets hundreds of thousands of buys for its TV PPVs, including around 1 million for its biggest annual extravaganza WrestleMania, ROH's smaller buy rates make the Web financially more appealing, he said. And an eye on the bottom line is key for an organization that is in an all-out effort to garner sponsorships to boost its financials.

The organization, which has a weekly show on HDNet, plans to hold four to six Internet PPVs per year. Silkin hopes to maybe double the buy rate of the second Web PPV this weekend to 2,400. "People are getting acclimated to this proposition," he argued.

Why do PPVs at all? Head booker Adam Pearce explained that big events are a tradition in wrestling. "PPVs add a sense of importance to an event, making it a spectacle and driving fans outside the market where it takes place to be a part of it in their homes," he said. "Not to mention the need for us to maintain our national -- and international -- visibility and presence."
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