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When Will Wrestling Fully Embrace Youtube?

Wrestling Youtube

Something that has always baffled me as a wrestling fan is the constant failure of promotions to utilize free video sites – specifically the largest of the bunch Youtube – to get their product out there to the widest possible audience. Now I’m not talking about promo videos, or snippets from shows, or web series – I’m talking about REAL content, a proper pro wrestling production of the quality of a TV broadcast, that demonstrates to the world why they should be watching that particular promotion. There’s simply no reason why this shouldn’t be happening.

Most Indy promotions are too small to sell a significant amount of DVDs, yet despite this many are not providing quality content online. TV has always been the holy grail for wrestling promoters. Once you get TV you can promote live events, and if the audience is significant enough PPVs are next. In 2013 TV doesn’t just have to be on a television, the same principals can be applied to a Youtube show. If the product is something fans can get in to, there’s no reason why it couldn’t go viral and make a fledgling independent, a new contender in a regional or national market.

Though WWE, TNA and ROH, all use online video to some degree, the content they provide is either sub-par filler or advertisements, or its hidden behind annoying subscription services, when Youtube would make much more sense.

Ring of Honor for example currently have a weekly one hour TV show that airs across the US through Sinclair Broadcasting – a conglomerate of local stations. It has somewhat of a national reach, hitting 27% of American household, but is still not on the scale of Spike TV or the USA Network that air TNA and WWE. You’d think being the smallest of the so called “big three” with a hardcore internet fan-base that ROH would have embraced online content a decade ago, however they’re still failing to offer an easily accessible and widely available online show.

To Watch ROH TV you can’t just pop on to Youtube and get on with it, you have to go to the Ring of Honor website, click on the TV tab (confusing since it’s not technically TV), register an account and bother to check your emails, so you can come back and watch it on their website. The short question here is why? Why hide your show away behind all these annoying steps? It should be featured prominently on the homepage as an embedded Youtube video, with no registering and no nonsense, and accessible by multiple media devices.

Youtube is used by everyone. It’s reliable, you can use it on mobile devices and TVs and is an open platform that allows new people to discover the product organically through searching and “related” videos. It also costs you nothing in web-hosting fees and provides tonnes of statistics for internal analysis, such as Geographical area (something important for knowing where your product is over). It’s frankly a no brainer, and should be a fundamental aspect of Indy wrestling promoting. Some smaller promotions like Championship Wrestling From Hollywood realize this and do put full shows on Youtube, but most do not, and ROH whether through ignorance, arrogance, or issues with Sinclair, prefer their own more limited delivery platform.

Personally if I ran an Indy promotion and did shows regularly, at the very least I’d have a monthly one hour Youtube show full of matches and content from live events. Hell my ring apron would advertise the channel, and I’d hand out leaflets to all those in attendance telling them to check it out when they get home. It is through this hook that you can advertise DVDs of special shows, tickets to upcoming events and iPPVs.

The iPPV concept itself is a bizarre one that has been executed extremely poorly. The logic appears to be that because WWE have dominated the PPV market for so long, that PPV is now synonymous with wrestling fans, and that by default promotions should be striving in some way to run PPVs.

I’ve never bought an iPPV in my life and that’s for two reasons. They’re always ridiculously overpriced (anything more than $10 is just wishful thinking), or in WWN Live’s case, they don’t even list prices until you’re half-way to paying for it. And secondly it seems every single time there’s a PPV worth watching it messes up and people are asking for refunds.

It’s 2013 for Christ’s sake! I could live stream a show through my iPhone – why is this so difficult?

It seems once again instead of going to the tried and tested live streaming providers like Justin.TV, Livestream, Ustream and now Youtube itself, promotions have been suckered in to some obscure wrestling themed platform or attempted to do everything themselves. Of course there are a lot of different factors that go in to executing high-quality multi-camera live streaming, but if it is such a problem why are promotions even bothering to do it live? Just because WWE do PPVs, doesn’t mean you have to try and force a cheap imitation. Record the show and upload it the next day to Youtube, and make people pay $5 for a few months before you list it for free. Why incur higher expenses for a poorer quality system that provides less exposure, than a free and more reliable outlet like Youtube?

This Summer ROH announced that they will indeed now only be sticking to Video On Demand, though they’re still using an internal platform instead of one that is already widely connected to the public. It’s the same logic as if WWE chose to put RAW on a local station instead of USA, they’re just cutting off potential viewers.

TNA could be considered an innovator in online wrestling video. They used to offer their Wednesday night PPVs on VOD 10 years ago, and today they utilize iTunes, Youtube and similar platforms to sell archived content at reasonable prices and to promote current storylines. They even upload the most important moments from Impact each week regardless of whether it discourages fans from tuning in live.

However they still haven’t taken the plunge in to uploading a full TV quality show for free each week. They could easily upload their distant B Show Xplosion, which only airs internationally on to Youtube. Or better yet, why not produce a completely new show and present it as a fundamental part of the product? There are numerous benefits for doing this, and costs are minimal as everything can be taped during the Impact shows, similar to how WWE do their multi-show tapings.

In having a free show online it gives something to fans that have no option to watch the product, whether this be because they’re overseas where TNA doesn’t have a TV deal, or they can’t currently afford or for whatever reason don’t have basic cable (about 50% of US households don’t).

This can be seen as a potential investment, where you hook these fans for the future when they might then have more access to the product, or to sell them extras such as video games or live event tickets. It would also help general brand awareness. Simply put, the more people that see and talk about your product the better. I was quite amused that during a recent trip to Greece the likeness of Christopher Daniels and Velvet Sky were being used on a banner for a gym.

Meanwhile for fans that are already immersed in the product it provides a second avenue to promote Impact on Spike TV, sell tickets, hype PPVs and hammer home storylines.

Because it’s an online show there’s no added pressure, so they could use it as an experimental ground for new concepts and productions methods. They could also test out rookie wrestlers and build them up before debuting on television. Equally it could be used to give lower card talent more ring time.

WWE cannot really be compared to ROH or TNA because they are so huge they can reap profitable deals with platforms such as Hulu without worrying too much about closing off their content to the likes of Youtube users. WWE don’t really need to give access to a free online show, because they’re product is already so saturated and they’re not exactly clambering for extra exposure. However just to give something back to the fans there’s no reason why they can’t but NXT on Youtube or offer something beyond their short and snappy online only content.

There’s no doubt that the PG product has turned away a certain amount of older fans. Why not offer a one hour more adult themed show, that isn’t integral to storylines, and is tucked away somewhere online with an age restriction?

Something WWE have offered for a number of years is PPV streamed online. It used to be available to anyone with Windows Media player and a credit card, however I’ve made attempts in recent months to purchase an event, and it seems those outside of the US are now excluded. That’s a problem for obvious reasons, they’re cutting off potential sales. Regardless of whether regular PPV is available to UK fans for free and through Sky Box Office, some people have access to neither and wouldn’t mind buying the odd event to watch online when they have some spare cash.

My main gripe with WWE’s online PPVs is that they’re always exactly the same price or even higher than regular PPV. Of course streaming has come along way in recent years, but it’s never going to be as reliable as TV and is not worth the same price. A cheaper online version would be a good option for those that can’t get the events any other way.

Conclusion:

Lots of wrestling fans are itching for more content, especially from the smaller promotions. So why not give it to them and potentially create new consumers? Youtube is right there, so get on with it!


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