How often, my friends, does a company, or a corporation, that you interact with make you an offer, or tweak their service or product in such a way that you end up being mightily impressed, and acknowledge the value of that service or product you pay for?
Not that often, right?
Well, when wrasslin' impresario Vince McMahon announced a month ago that his WWE would be going all in digitally, and on Feb. 24, would be offering their library to their pay-per-view events on a website, for the price of $10 a month, the reaction was swift and nearly unanimous.
Damn, Vince is hooking us up.
Fans who'd been ponying up for a PPV a month, adding that $50 to their already bloated cable bill, sang a hallelujah chorus, and thanked the mogul for bowing to the times, and giving their wallets a break.That move left me wondering if a similar sort of deal could be formed in the boxing sphere.
Could one of the promoters pull a Vince, and put their library, and their contemporary bouts, and their PPV-level fare, on their websites, for the cost of a fancy hamburger dinner, per month?
OK, right off the bat we can all realize that McMahon's product and business structure isn't totally akin to what we see in boxing. In our realm, two cable giants, HBO and Showtime, are the primary bankrollers, basically, who pay beaucoup to the promoters, who put together, with varying degrees of input, fights for our amusement. The fans, of course, who faithfully buy the PPV shows, are vital bankrollers as well, adding to the bottom line of the power brokers what they can't siphon from advertising dollars, or promotional deals with over-the-air networks. The promoters then take the chunks of cash, and distribute them down the chain, to the fighters. McMahon's business depends more on his sturdy revenue stream of live shows–he runs almost one a day, year in, year out–and he has longer term deals in place with the television platforms which showcase his product.
Further, McMahon sells more merch in a week than the top five boxing superstars do in a month, by far, I'd guess…So, no one is saying that this thing of ours, and McMahon's sports entertainment empire are identical twins, and that whatever model he's employing will or should be copied by us.
But still, I was left thinking on Jan. 9 that McMahon is ahead of the curve in this instance, and that he is telling the world that the future is now, that all content will be streamed or beamed through cables or wirelessly, and be watched on phones and computers and tablets and probably watches which will give you the option of beaming a larger image onto any wall-screen within three years.
So, the 68-year-old wrestling lifer is cutting to the chase, and to a model where less revenue will be flowing to him now, perhaps, but more eyeballs will gravitate to his company, because the monetary barrier to sample is so minute, and he won't have to let the cable and satellite companies keep such a heavy chunk of the take, simply for owning the infrastructure, staging platform and advertising muscle to show his athletes doing their thing. The jury is and will still be out on McMahon's move for three, or six months, or more, but for now, I'm inclined to say his boldness is impressive and I tip my cap to him for giving the customers more bang for their buck.
And, I admit, I'm hoping, maybe, his plan works, because I think the “growing-the-eyeballs” tactic is something our sport needs to do, as it is hidden behind the premium cable and PPV pay-walls, which are among the longish list of reasons our fan base numbers are semi-anemic.
While I had boxing promoter Bob Arum a captive audience on Thursday, I referenced the McMahon move. What did he think of it? And will any boxing dealmakers try to pull off something similar?
“Todd DuBoef had a plan that was somewhat similar,” Arum said, speaking of his wife's son, who is second in command at Top Rank. “Maybe because of the nature of the wrestling, it can be implemented. But boxing, the fights are legitimate, and all that, so it's difficult. But I think Vince may be on to something.
“If you charge ten bucks for a boxing channel, you're still going to have some middlemen,” he continued. “For example, how are you going to collect the money? Credit cards? A percentage goes to the credit card company.”
But that's a few percent, right, versus about half to the cable/satellite company when the PPV pie cuts sliced, right? “Yeah, OK,” he said. “It's interesting to see how that develops. I wouldn't sell Vince short on anything. But then again, I'm not convinced that it works.”
Readers, offer your insight and wisdom and POV. Could we or should we or will we see this “McMahon Shift” coming to boxing, or other sports? Weigh in, in our fabulous Forum.
Follow Woods on Twitter.