Talk-show host Jay Leno wasn't the pay-per-view draw
that Dennis Rodman was, but he was good enough for cable operators.
Leno's wrestling debut during World Championship
Wrestling's Aug. 8 Road Wild PPV event drew nearly 400,000 buys, more than
doubling the performance of last year's event. Moreover, Leno and Rodman, the latter
of whom wrestled in WCW's July PPV show, brought nearly 1 million viewers to the
beleaguered PPV-event category.
"The event did extremely well ... It's a
tremendous success in the eyes of WCW," said Jay Hassman, director of PPV for WCW.
Leno, host of TheTonight Show with Jay Leno,
and his musical director, Kevin Eubanks, battled "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan and WCW
executive producer Eric Bischoff during the event, which also featured a 30-minute concert
by country-music star Travis Tritt.
While operators applauded the event's performance,
most said it didn't match the approximately 600,000 buys pulled by WCW's July Bash
at the Beach event, which featured professional-basketball stars Rodman and Karl
Road Wild performed well for Sacramento (Calif.) Cable,
although not nearly as well as Bash at the Beach, said Cindy Caverly, PPV-product
manager for the system. She would not reveal specific buy-rates.
"I didn't see the dramatic increase that Jay Leno
was going to provide for the event," Caverly said. "It performed as well as we
would have done with most WCW PPV events."
Cable One of Fargo, N.D., pulled about 160 buys for the
event, besting Bash and doubling buy-rates from the same event last year, said Eric
Lardy, PPV manager for the system.
"We're a wrestling town," Lardy said, adding
that Fargo has hosted two WCW events in the past four months.
But some operators were forced to provide partial refunds
for the event after cutting it off 20 to 30 minutes before its conclusion. WCW was granted
an extra 30 minutes beyond its usual three-hour time limit to compensate for the Tritt
concert. Viewer's Choice notified its affiliates about the extension several times
before the event's debut.
"Unfortunately, some cable operators did not make the
change as reported by Viewer's Choice," Hassman said. "WCW, however, did
provide the signal, and Viewer's Choice did uplink the signal."
While nonwrestling personalities have spiced up WCW's
buy-rates recently, Hassman said the company doesn't have any celebrity guests on tap
for its Sept.13 Fall Brawl show. Nevertheless, Hassman said, such
appearances do bring more awareness of PPV and of wrestling.
"It brings [PPV] more mainstream press, which
translates to additional buys. There's no monetary value that you can place on that
type of advertising," Hassman said. "The mainstream press reminds consumers that
we have an event."