The first quarter of 1999 marked one of cable's mostlucrative as far as pay-per-view events.
The nearly $200 million in revenue generated from boxingand wrestling events alone during the quarter nearly eclipsed the disastrous $241 millionrevenue mark that the event category generated for all of 1998.
Yet instead of dancing in the aisles and celebratingPPV's quick and momentous start, many operators are worried about where PPV-eventrevenue will come from for the rest of the year.
Several industry executives are worried that lastyear's bad dream of a barren and unfulfilling PPV-event landscape will come back tohaunt the industry as it enters the new millenium.
The early warning signs haven't done much to stemoperator fears: With the exception of World Championship Wrestling and World WrestlingFederation monthly PPV shows, no major PPV events are currently scheduled for the rest ofthe year -- including big-ticket PPV-boxing matches.
Also, there aren't any major PPV concerts scheduled,nor are there any signs that the professional sports leagues will abandon their exclusiveDirecTV Inc. distribution deals and offer their attractive products to cable.
Yet operator panic over the event category may be a bitpremature. Unlike last year, when everything that the industry planned seemed todisintegrate, there is hope that several blockbuster PPV events can still materialize.
For example, it's a good bet that the heavyweightchampionship will finally be unified before the new millenium. Although the stench of theEvander Holyfield-Lennox Lewis decision still resides around both the sport and the PPVindustry, it will most likely clear in time for a September or November rematch.
While such a fight may not look very appealing now, asummer without a big-time heavyweight fight will leave boxing fans craving for a chance towatch the two champions settle the score.
Also, another heavyweight champion is expected to makeanother comeback from a lengthy prison sentence in an attempt to reclaim his crown as bothboxing and PPV champion. Mike Tyson could be fighting on PPV against Axel Schulz oranother recognizable, but beatable, opponent as early as September.
Meanwhile, welterweight champion Oscar De La Hoya willgrace the PPV airwaves sometime in September in what many industry observers hope is aunification fight against tough champion Felix Trinidad. De La Hoya could also fight onPPV in December.
Outside of boxing, there are rumors floating around about asummer Woodstock PPV concert, as well as a number of potentially strong PPV NewYear's Eve concerts to welcome in the year 2000.
While none of these events is set in stone -- and operatorshave certainly been burned by false expectations before -- industry insiders said theseevents certainly have a better-than-average chance of providing a healthy revenue returnto operators before the year is out.
Besides, even if only one or two of these eventsmaterialize, when combined with the performance of the unbelievable wrestling genre, theindustry will easily top last year's pitiful revenue total, and it could evenapproach the record of $400 million that it generated only two years ago.
Operators shouldn't be worried about whether therewill be any more PPV money to count this year: There should be plenty more event revenueto go around.