PPVs Rare Opportunity

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The first quarter of 2001 is shaping up to be an important period for the pay-per-view event business. And for the first time in years, neither boxing nor wrestling is the reason why.

Instead, the industry will keep its eyes on the performance of several non-traditional PPV events that, if successful, could finally help the industry expand its revenue options and become less dependent on the unpredictable and cyclical boxing and wrestling categories that have dominated the industry since the 1980s.

The emergence of at least three unique PPV events have industry executives excited that the entertainment industry has finally recognized PPV as a legitimate and potentially profitable outlet for their programming-and not totally defined by Mike Tyson or The Rock.

Popular comedian/actor Drew Carey, rap artist Eminem and production company Hallmark Entertainment are all giving PPV a chance to prove itself as not only a source of significant revenue, but as an economically viable means to reach viewers with product that may not work as well through other alternative distribution outlets.

Though Carey hosts two successful broadcast network series, his Showtime Event Television-distributed PPV event will give him and his comedy troupe a chance to flex their creative muscles and offer content that's not restricted by broadcast television's editing constraints. The Jan. 27 improvisational event will also provide the PPV category with a rare comedy show to lure new viewers that may not be interested in ordering a Lennox Lewis or Tyson bout.

Hallmark and In Demand will attempt to draw families to PPV with the worldwide debut of the movie
The Prince and the Pauper
in February. For years, the industry has talked about premiering top-flight films on PPV.

The Prince and the Pauper
is not on the level of Gladiator. But if it's successful, the movie-the first of what could be several premieres from the PPV network and Hallmark-could make some of the larger studios take notice.

Also bowing in February is a music event from controversial rap star Eminem. Rarely has the industry been able to attract as hot a commodity as "Slim Shady" is in today's music world.

His PPV event is sure to draw attention, particularly given the positive and negative press he's generated. It also helps that the concert premieres one week before the Grammy Awards. The rapper has been nominated for four Grammies, including album of the year.

The three events provide the industry with a rare opportunity to move itself beyond the ring. It's imperative to take advantage of this chance with aggressive marketing and promotional efforts.

Even if all three events combined draw fewer buys than a Wrestlemania
exhibition, a strong marketing and promotional effort will go along way toward showing the entertainment industry that PPV is serious about offering and supporting quality non-sports event programming.

There're aren't any major boxing matches to siphon away marketing dollars, so there's no reason operators shouldn't maximize promotional opportunities for all of these events.