Back in February, we wrote about how some independent promotions unwillingness to embrace digital distribution could become a negative in the long run. This past weekend underscored that, with two opposing treatments on the independent scene.
The first weekend of September saw two separate, high-profile tournaments take place: CHIKARA’s King of Trios, and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla’s Battle of Los Angeles. Historically, both of these groups had been reliant on what has become the “old” way of distributing content, releasing them on DVD. However, this weekend saw a bit of a shift for CHIKARA, as they released their shows within 24 hours. Not quite live, but extremely impressive for a small independent company whose bread and butter isn’t exactly in the form of quick-turnaround releases.
Heading over to the west coast, and PWG’s tournament drew rave reviews for all three nights, as they usually do. Problem is, unless you were one of the few hundred who were lucky enough to be in attendance, you’ll be waiting for several weeks for the DVDs to be produced and then sent out.
Now, granted, it’s not quite the “we’ll not see this until 2017” levels of waiting that became the running joke over the weekend, but it still sticks out as archaic, especially given how high-profile PWG has become.
This week, we’ll be reviewing one of England’s smaller promotions: NORTH Wrestling. They managed to get their debut show online around a month after it took place – considering the size of the group, that’s not a bad effort. Elsewhere, you’ve got the likes of Rev Pro who put their main shows online within 48 hours of the card ending, or PROGRESS’ week-long turnaround for their chapter shows, whilst Stateside, you’ve got the WWN stable of promotions that offer live iPPVs and then get the shows on-demand typically within 24 hours.
So, in this digital world, what are the benefits of avoiding digital downloads? Right now, all three nights of last weekend’s BOLA tournament are available to purchase for $20 per night (on Blu-ray), or $15-20 per night on DVD, which translates into a spend of between $50-$60 for the entire weekend of shows, plus shipping and handling (for the UK, you’re looking at $16 shipping, so as much as $76/£57). Whilst I’m not doubting the quality of the matches on display… sixty pounds for three shows seems awfully steep in this day and age.
Yes, we’ve all been spoiled by the WWE Network’s $9.99 giving us access to their entire library, as well as similar subscription and a la carte offerings from HighSpots, PROGRESS and the like, but in this day and age, can a promotion truly thrive on sticking to their guns like PWG? Throughout the weekend, as the BOLA results trickled in, there was a mixture of happiness and consternation from fans who were getting increasingly annoyed at how the only way to see these shows in any timely way, was to break into the hardcore group of fans, and try and luck your way into getting a ticket before the “SOLD OUT” tweets surfaced.
PWG are wise to not even contemplate the technological hell that is iPPVs, and whilst PWG probably wouldn’t want to try an “all you can eat” model, an a la carte system with per-show purchases surely couldn’t hurt. Of course, offering the shows to “rent” may put off more fans than it gains, as would charging the same price as a physical release… but surely releasing a legitimate digital copy whilst the physical copies are being made would reduce some of the backlash that they’re receiving.
If anything, sticking to the old model is counter-intuitive. It doesn’t prevent piracy – if anything, it encourages it, with a section of fans seeking out a way to view online by any means necessary. I don’t, nor will I ever condone piracy, especially as it ultimately affects the product you’re trying to watch (less money in = fewer wrestlers booked = lower quality product = ultimately, no more product)… but that being said, I do wonder whether PWG are too risk-averse and would rather keep the safe bet of “guaranteed” DVD income, than risk splitting it into digital and physical distribution.
Then again, I would dare say that CHIKARA have gotten something of a spike by having their King of Trios shows available so quickly this weekend, capitalising on reviews from the shows. Had PWG been able to do the same, I wonder how much extra business they’d have generated?
In the meantime, I’ll be waiting for the discs to actually be released before making my order… and will probably be one of the many whose impulse purchase has gone down the drain. For now!