WCPW’s announcement to cancel – at least for now – their weekly web series “Loaded” is perhaps the biggest casualty of YouTube’s recent knee-jerk reaction to advertising.
Brought on after some advertisers threatened to withdraw their advertising from Google after not wanting their brands to be linked to unsavoury content, Google decided to make some blanket changes to the way they allow content to be monetized… and instead of opting out certain titles (and then withdrawing “earned” revenue after the fact, which they have done on other products), YouTube has deemed certain content “non-advertiser friendly”.
One such area was professional wrestling, which had brought on backlash from companies in America such as Beyond and AIW, who claimed that the loss of monetisation from their videos meant that they’d have to sell “hundreds of extra copies” of their shows per month to make up for that shortfall.
At the time, one rather notable promotion was keeping quiet: WhatCulture Pro Wrestling. A promotion founded on a weekly YouTube show, that drew impressive numbers for live streams and on-demand content… but it was that content that seems to have been the tipping point for them.
At time of writing, the video with the highest number of hits on their channel was a match from the Pro Wrestling World Cup Mexican Qualifiers, between Rey Mysterio and Alberto El Patron, racking up just under 2.3m views in a fortnight. Granted, after that there’s a big drop-off to their second most watched “live action” video – Kurt Angle vs. Cody Rhodes from last October’s True Legacy event (with 552,000 views in six months), but those numbers are still sizable enough to prove a point.
In their statement earlier on Monday, that Mysterio/Alberto match drew an audience of 1.1m viewers… around half of what it was when we checked. Nevertheless, WCPW claimed that that video only earned them $44 in advertising revenue, “a reduction of around 98% in what would have been Loaded’s main source of revenue.” Using our best “on a napkin” maths, and at the current view count, we’re looking at less than $100 at present, versus around $4,000 under the old system. Even if there is a zero missing somewhere, that’s a pretty shocking drop in income – and one that any company would find hard to swallow.
As such, WCPW felt that they were in no position to go back to their old format of weekly shows plus monthly specials… so they’re going to be sticking with their current schedule of running monthly-ish specials in addition to their World Cup shows.
Right now, WCPW has dates booked until the end of August, with this weekend’s Edinburgh show, “Hendrymania” being followed up a week later with what would have been the first Loaded taping in Manchester. That’s been rebranded as a special called “Fight Back”, curiously based off of the YouTube logo, before their second annual Built to Destroy card two weeks later.
From there, it’s all Pro Wrestling World Cup qualifiers, with July 2nd in Berlin being the date for the German leg, whilst Japan, USA and the Rest of the World qualifiers take place on July 7, 21st and 22nd respectively. Curiously, the previously-announced semis and finals which were to have been in Newcastle are now being spread out across three different venues: Milton Keynes on Wednesday August 23, Manchester on August 24, before the Newcastle finals on August 26.
After then, who knows? Certainly part of the charm of WCPW was their attempt at a weekly show, giving fans a free alternative to Raw and SmackDown every week… but if YouTube retains their current policy on advertising, then WhatCulture have made it clear: Loaded won’t be returning. Even if they maintain sell-outs, the cost of hiring a venue, big name talent along with the equipment and personnel needed to produce a live show just don’t add up.
You could question the business plan in starting a product like this when there was so much reliance on unpredictable outcome (versus, say, ticket sales, which usually would be mitigated by the quality of the product). You could also question whether WhatCulture would be able or indeed willing to find a sponsor to try and make up some of the short-fall. However, the change of format does remove what was perhaps their unique selling point.
On the surface, staying with a monthly-ish show puts WCPW in the same bracket as promotions like PROGRESS and Rev Pro that also run a regular schedule. Although they aim for, and get a largely different audience to those, one thing is clear: the bubble of free wrestling on the internet is bursting… unless Google either reverts back, or another viable alternative can be found to foot the bill.