It may not have broken the magical 1 million-buy mark, but
the World Wrestling Federation's March 28 Wrestlemania XV pay-per-view event
certainly continued the company's string of record-breaking wrestling events.
Both Wrestlemania's850,000 to 900,000
PPV buys and its more than $30 million in revenue set PPV-wrestling records and
emphatically closed what was an enormously successful first quarter for PPV events.
Indeed, three boxing and six wrestling events thus far have
generated nearly $200 million in PPV revenue during the first three months of 1999 alone.
In 1998 the PPV-event genre mustered a total of $241 million, but the industry only had
one major PPV-boxing event last year.
Wrestlemania XV bested the nonboxing PPV-revenue and
buy-rate record that the WWF set this past January with its Royal Rumble event, and
it easily outdistanced the 700,000 buys generated by last year's Wrestlemania
event. That event was propelled by the appearance of former heavyweight champion Mike
"We had Mike Tyson last year, but this year, the [WWF]
attraction was the celebrity," said Jim Byrne, senior vice president of TitanSports
Inc., which owns the WWF. "From the fan response and from the PPV buys, the
culmination of our story lines at Wrestlemania XV was successful. This was our
For many operators, Wrestlemania XV was certainly
the biggest wrestling event of the quarter, and for some, the event performed better than
the three major boxing shows that were held over the past three months.
Cable One of Fargo, N.D., drew 336 buys for Wrestlemania
XV -- its best showing ever for a PPV event -- said Eric Lardy, marketing assistant
for the nearly 15,000-subscriber system. "We doubled our average monthly wrestling
buys and even generated more buys than [the March 13 Lennox] Lewis-[Evander] Holyfield
[fight]," he added.
Triax Telecommunications Co. L.L.C.'s Triax
Cablevision generated a 3.5 percent buy-rate for the event -- well above its normal
monthly wrestling average of 2 percent, and a point higher than last January's
Royal Rumble -- said Daryl Boyd, PPV manager for the 47,000-subscriber MSO.
Meanwhile, Media General Cable of Fairfax County, Va.,
pulled 2,800 orders for Wrestlemania XV -- its best wrestling performance ever.
Greater Media Cable of Philadelphia doubled last
year's Wrestlemania buys with this year's version, although it would not
provide specific details.
The event, however, was the second-best event for the
80,000-subscriber system this year, falling slightly below the March 13 Holyfield-Lewis
"In the past, wrestling hasn't been able to hold
a candle to a big fight, but Wrestlemania nearly beat out Lewis-Holyfield,"
said John Disanto, PPV manager for the system. "Regardless, we've had three
strong months of events, which has really helped our PPV business."
Due to the incredibly lucrative quarter, several operators
said they've already met their yearly budget projections.
"In some of our systems, we've blown out our
entire [PPV] revenue budget for the year," said Terri Carpenter, PPV and digital
manager for Rifkin and Associates Inc. "Wrestling has been a consistent performer for
a while, but boxing certainly helped nicely this year."
"[The PPV-event category] has been great for us so
far, especially when compared with last year," said Pam Burton, director of marketing
for Prime Cable.
On the national side, TVN Entertainment Corp. reported that
its first-quarter PPV revenues are four times greater than last year's first-quarter
numbers, although it would not reveal specific figures.
Viewer's Choice also would not reveal specific
first-quarter revenue numbers, but it said the performance of at least the wrestling genre
should continue to push PPV revenues upward for the rest of the year.
"Wrestling has consistently increased its performance
over the past couple of years, and each event seems to outperform the prior year's
showing," said Michael Klein, senior vice president of programming for Viewer's
Boxing, however, is a different matter. At this point, a
September Oscar De La Hoya fight is the only major PPV-boxing event scheduled for the rest
of the year.
The industry is hoping that a rematch of the
Holyfield-Lewis fight can be worked out for the fall and anticipating the return of Tyson
later this year, once he's released from prison.