Another View: Ops Need to Use Replay Safety Net


Some operators were still feeling the effects of the
ghoulish Halloween Havoc World Championship Wrestling debacle weeks after the
pay-per-view event inexplicably ran over by an extra 15 minutes.

Operators could still be heard cursing the organization
last week for running into overtime and for airing the lost PPV main event on its Monday
Nitro basic-cable telecast on Turner Network Television.

But while WCW should shoulder most of the blame for the
fiasco, operators could have prevented the whole mishap. If operators had opened Havoc's
immediate replay to event purchasers, it would have alleviated any overrun problems.

The live event would have cut into the replay time, but at
least subscribers paying $30 would have gotten their money's worth, and operators
wouldn't have had to dish out partial or full refunds.

Given the headaches that operators have gone through in the
past, it's amazing that so many of them don't open the replay signal. A similar
problem with an Ultimate Fighting Championship event several years ago cost
operators thousands of dollars in refunds and, more important, it created ill will among
PPV users.

Although operators could not offer an immediate replay for
the UFC event, some of them -- trying to protect themselves from future timing
problems -- realized the advantages of opening up the replay feed as part of
subscribers' purchases. Those operators didn't get angry subscribers' phone
calls during Halloween week.

And it's not like the operators are losing revenue:
They can still charge latecomers for viewing the replay. Further, offering the replay
actually provides a perceived added value for those watching the live event. If viewers
like what they see, or if they miss something during the live show, they have the
opportunity to see the replay in its entirety, free-of-charge.

The concept apparently works for PPV movies. The
"All-Day Movie Ticket" promotion, in which subscribers can watch a movie at any
time that it is shown that day, generates monthly buy-rates 15 percent higher than those
for standard PPV titles.

The convenience factor is popular with cable subscribers,
who think that they're getting a good deal. For events, the move provides all of
those benefits, as well as insurance for timing mishaps.

Not that PPV distributors should be let off the hook: While
anything can happen during a live event, it is the distributor's ultimate
responsibility to keep its show within its allotted time frame. Wrestling, due to its
prescripted nature, really has no excuse for going beyond its normal three-hour limit.

For the industry's sake, debacles like Halloween
should never happen again.

But if for some reason they do, operators should at least
have a safety net ready for their customers.