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PAY PER PHEW: Streaming could force cable and dish to rethink pay per view concept

Posted: 04/24/14 by Tim Bean

Even if you consider professional wrestling, their characters and outlandish soap opera style stories a joke, their impact on cable and satellite in regard to the pay per view business is nothing to laugh about when you consider the revenue involved.

The average World Wrestling Entertainment pay per view is around $40, notwithstanding their yearly “Wrestlemania” offering which typically tips the scale at $70. The average “Wrestlemania” audience flirts with the one million buys mark, so that's more than just a few dollars in the pockets of pay per view providers like Comcast, Direct TV and Dish Network.

The arrival of the WWE Network in February marked the beginning of the end for pay per views at relates to wrestling. The WWE Network costs fans $10, and they've already have close to 1 million subscribers in the United States.

And here's the catch that is infuriating cable and dish: the pay per view events held by WWE on a monthly basis are included in that $10 flat fee.

It didn't take long for Dish Network and Direct TV to recently drop WWE events and inform customers that they'll no longer be carrying the company's pay per views. This isn't surprising given WWE and its newly devised network. For now, Comcast still is offering the events but that could change at a moment's notice.

The WWE and its conclusion to collectively pull together their video library and create a network was a smart one. They'll have complete control over the events and won't have to shell out a percentage to the pay per view providers.

It's up to cable and satellite to start thinking about not only the WWE and its decision but also if other events like boxing or UFC decided to, at some point, follow suit. That might not be in the imminent future but if the WWE Network model works well enough, it's not hard to imagine others at least contemplating a similar trajectory.

That potential could put a bit of a squeeze on pay per view providers and start a trend headed in the wrong direction as far as losing money as more sports move toward a future that includes independently streaming their own marquee events.

You have to wonder if pay per view, on a larger scale above and beyond movies, has to start wondering just how bright their future is going to be. It's too early to tell what pay per view might look like in the next decade but it's hard to imagine it appearing exactly as it stands today.

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