While the pay-per-view boxing genre kept floundering, the
World Wrestling Federation continued to establish itself as the leader in the PPV-events
The organization's Jan. 24 Royal Rumble event
generated about 700,000 buys, according to the WWF. The number rivaled -- and, in many
markets, surpassed -- buys for Showtime Event Television's highly anticipated but
somewhat disappointing Jan. 16 Mike Tyson-Francois Botha boxing event.
After a stellar 1998 performance, which lacked competition
from any major PPV-boxing events, the WWF showed that it is a formidable challenger to
boxing's long-standing PPV-event title.
"The Royal Rumble outperformed all of our
buy-rate expectations and, to our surprise, we found that the event outperformed the Tyson
fight in major markets," said Bonnie Werth, president and CEO of Team Services, which
handles the WWF's marketing efforts.
The Tyson-Botha fight generated between 650,000 and 750,000
buys. While it was the most lucrative bout in 18 months, industry observers had expected
it to reach 1 million buys.
Royal Rumble easily beat the 380,000-buy total for its
1997 version, and it continues a string of strong PPV-wrestling performances over the past
13 months -- in particular from the WWF.
Eric Lardy, marketing assistant at Cable One of Fargo,
N.D., reported that the system's buy-rates for Royal Rumble were nearly four
times those for Tyson-Botha.
"The 1999 Royal Rumble is the second-highest
buy total that we've received, WrestleMania XIV being the highest," he
But Marty Youngman, senior product manager for Cox
Communications Inc. in San Diego, said while Royal Rumble beat last year's WrestleMania
event, which featured Tyson, it did not surpass the system's Tyson-Botha numbers,
although he declined to be more specific.
Werth attributed the event's success to the marketing
commitment from operators, which continued to aggressively push the event despite their
heavy promotional requirements for the Tyson fight.
"The operators actually marketed this event more than
they have in the past," Werth said. "We were constantly reminding them that the
WWF right now is the No. 1 provider in the business, so don't abandon us."
She added that the WWF, through its story lines and
characters, is providing entertaining programming that consumers want to pay for.
"The WWF is providing a strong entertainment value for
the consumer's money," Werth said. "The fans have such a strong affinity
toward the characters that they're willing to buy the monthly events."
Werth would not predict how the WWF's Feb. 14 In
Your House event will perform, although she did say that the story line, featuring WWF
chairman Vince McMahon and popular wrestler "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, will
carry the show. But the event will once again have to battle a major PPV-boxing event.
Unlike the one-week difference between Royal Rumble
and the Tyson fight date, the WWF's Valentine's Day Massacre: In Your
House show will run one day after TVKO's Feb. 13 Oscar De La Hoya-Ike Quartey
Werth added that she expects the WWF's March WrestleMania
event to break all company records and to possibly approach the 1 million-buy mark.