After reading Sam's article on Vince creating a media empire, I started thinking about how much pro wrestling has changed in the last twenty years or so. The most glaring difference between then and now is obviously the downfall of the territories and the emergence of the WWE as the only real game in town. Sam made a point that stuck with me when he said that at this stage in the game, the WWE has enough invested in DVD sales, PPV buyrates, their book endeavors, their "best of" anthology DVD sets, their CD sales, and everything else to stay at the top even without direct competition and even during a pro wrestling "drought" when the product isn't as popular anymore. I never thought of it that way, but avoiding overexposure is something that was mentioned several times and I feel it deserves a second look.
When I think of WWE producing 12 PPVs a year priced at almost $40 each, the first word that comes to mind is overkill. Seeing as how we're a math and science based school, let's crunch some numbers. $39.95 x 16 = $479.4. That number might be a little off since WrestleMania is around $10 more expensive than your regular PPV, so let's say it comes out to around $490. This is how much money an "avid" fan would spend in a given year on wrestling. This is theoretical of course, since I'd say a small fraction of the fans care enough about both shows to cough up so much money. Let's say a fan orders the "big four" (Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam, and Survivor Series) and for argument's sake, orders another two Joe-Schmoe pay-per-views like Backlash and No Way Out or something like that. That comes out to about $250, give or take. That's still a lot of money...
I know that PPV is the WWE's bread and butter and that a huge part of their revenue is based on how many buys they get, but when is it too much? A pay-per-view each month alternating with Raw and Smackdown will only appeal to the fans that watch that respective brand, and that almost hinders how much money the WWE can actually make. Imagine for a moment that the brand extension was ended and that both rosters were combined. Now all of a sudden, you take the fans that watch Raw and the fans that watch Smackdown, and you have your full audience tuning into both shows and (cha-ching) caring about all of the PPVs that come out each month. It's not as if this formula wouldn't be successful - they were using it before the brand extension when pro wrestling was at its highest popularity, and it worked.
The problem I see in WWE's approach is that it's unrealistic to expect their fans to pay the amount for PPVs each month, especially when Sam's noted that it pays to just wait another month or so to get said PPV on DVD for around $20. Their approach is making them money, yes, but altering that approach might bring them the same amount of success with a little creativity. If the amount of PPVs were cut from 12 down to 6, that alone would make the PPVs worth so much more. They'd be more of a rarity and the anticipation for them would be huge, much more than they are now. It's like Mick Foley said in his book - the only reason WrestleMania is deemed special is because of all the hype, when in all actuality, the following month they have to go out there again and appeal to a PPV-paying audience.
Cutting the PPVs down would in fact knock out several birds with one stone. First of all, it would be a lot more realistic for fans to invest and pay for all the PPVs than it is now. Combining rosters would help because that alone would increase the audience size, which would no doubt result in more buys as well. Also, by NOT overexposing their product so much on PPV, the WWE could relax their pace and build meaningful storylines and characters, instead of rushing one rivalry one month for this PPV, and then rushing into another one for the next PPV while forgetting what just happened last month. And well, theoretically, better storylines + better and more developed characters = better ratings. Better ratings = more fans = more PPV $$$. And everyone knows that more PPV revenue = happy Vince (which is all that matters these days!).
Moving aside from the PPV point, though, I don't get why they don't just combine the rosters. When they did the roster split, they were overloaded with talent, and it made sense. But now with so many "stars" gone, both shows (Smackdown in particular) would benefit from a combined roster. It would make for fresh storylines and renewed interest, and would probably result in more revenue at the actual shows (because now, you can see them ALL). ECW though, well, I don't really know about them. I'd keep them separate, and create "competition" between Raw/Smackdown and ECW. But anyways, these are just some observations I made while reading Sam's piece and while watching the shows in general on how to make more money but avoid the overexposure at the same time. Thoughts?