The success of Showtime Event Television's Jan. 17
Spice Girls pay-per-view concert has industry executives wondering whether it's time
to reach out to pre-Generation X viewers.
With a surprising 130,000 to 140,000 buys for the trendy
Spice Girls -- mostly from teen-age girls -- and with concerts from more established
groups that attract an older audience consistently failing to break the 100,000-buy mark,
some executives believe that PPV should begin to look more at events that attract a
'[The Spice Girls concert] its the most successful
concert since 1990,' said Jay Larkin, vice president of Showtime Sports and Event
Programming. 'There's a huge pre-teen adolescent group that we should look
Unlike boxing, wrestling and movies, the concert business
has struggled to make its mark in the PPV arena. Very few concerts have elicited more than
100,000 buys, with most falling short of 50,000 purchases. Many of the big-name performers
-- The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Tina Turner, to name a few -- appeal to a mostly
older, male demographic that traditionally uses PPV.
Part of the problem for concerts has been that most events
are developed after the group has already been overexposed during a lengthy concert tour,
thereby hurting the uniqueness of the PPV event.
But some of the most successful concerts have appealed to a
teen-age audience. In 1990, for example, then-teen-sensation New Kids on the Block drew
241,000 buys and generated $4.8 million.
The Spice Girls also appeal to that same female teen-age
audience, and they remain popular, as their second album has risen on the charts. Other
factors helped: The event aired prior to the group's national tour, and the new Spice
World film has generated a massive amount of promotion for the group.
In contrast, November's Rolling Stones PPV concert --
which drew only 60,000 buys -- came in the middle of the group's well-publicized
national tour. The group also performed live on MTV: Music Television several weeks before
the PPV concert.
'One of our concerns is that the demographic of
traditional PPV buyers doesn't include 14- to 18-year-old girls,' Larkin said.
'It's usually the adult male, who is accustomed to buying sports product.'
Larkin also said that with a new set of PPV buyers,
it's 'possible' that the industry did not experience the same high level of
theft that occurs for major boxing matches. Showtime has argued that for every buy that it
receives for major Tyson fights, at least one household is pirating the event.
'These are occasional viewers who might not have gone
out to buy a black box,' Larkin said.
While industry executives acknowledged the positive
performance of the Spice Girls, they're not quite ready to drop the curtain on older
'We look at all groups to determine which ones merit
PPV distribution,' said Michael Klein, senior vice president of programming for
Viewer's Choice. 'We rode the coattails of the Spice Girls movie.'
'The concert surprised a lot of people because most
people thought that the buzz had died out for the group,' said Hugh Panero, president
of Request Television. 'But I don't think that it means that every concert will
be successful, and that we have to only put shows on for 13-year-old girls. PPV is trying
to find that right combination of business where the cost structure is right for everyone
Showtime may offer additional runs of the concert to
maximize revenues. Larkin noted that while the event performed well overall,
direct-broadcast satellite systems 'dramatically' outperformed cable systems.
'We had one MSO tell us,'Had we known that the
show would have been so popular, we would have promoted it,'' Larkin said.
'Unfortunately, the industry suffered from a self-fulfilling prophecy; because they
believe that music doesn't work, they didn't promote the event.'