Saturday Was Super for PPV

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Super Sunday is always an exciting day for the broadcast network that's lucky enough to have the Super Bowl-unless you're CBS, and the New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens are playing.

Yet despite generating the lowest Super Bowl ratings in nearly a decade, CBS isn't shedding any tears. The network easily won the evening's rating race against its broadcast competitors. Further, it was able to build a substantial audience for its second season of Survivor, which should help propel ratings for future shows.

The pay-per-view industry had a similar experience with an event the night before the Super Bowl. Showtime Event Television's comedy event-featuring top TV comedian Drew Carey-held its own in a PPV event environment that has not been friendly to anything except boxing, wrestling and the occasional pop-music concert.

The event, in which Carey and a group of his comedic friends offered improvisational skits and comedy reviews, drew around 40,000 buys.

While 40,000 paid viewers is a drop in the bucket compared to the approximately 520,000 buys for PPV's last big event-the Dec. 2, 2000, Felix Trinidad-Fernando Vargas fight-it is impressive for a category that doesn't get a lot of respect or support within the PPV universe.

At the very least, it undoubtedly brought new or infrequent users to PPV. Hopefully, the positive experience of purchasing Carey's event will encourage non-users to make future buys and extend the industry's base beyond its traditional, depressing formula: 20 percent of users equals 80 percent of PPV purchases.

It could also help show the entertainment industry that it can make a few dollars by offering differentiated product via PPV. It's not a stretch to believe that many of today's biggest stars are looking for avenues through which to distribute interesting, quality projects that may not grab the attention of broadcast or basic cable-executives because of the subject matter or because it applies only to niche audiences.

If Carey feels his PPV experience was positive-and it seems the event's performance either met or surpassed expectations-his pro-PPV message could resonate much more loudly among Hollywood's elite than the voice of an MSO or In Demand executive could.

Then, maybe PPV could begin to draw more top-notch events and shows that were expected as part of the new technology's promise in the late 1980s and 1990s.

Such shows could today help propel the launch of PPV's evolution into video-on-demand.

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