As the venerated National Football League (NFL) is discovering, even the most diehard fans grow tired of over-exposed product. In the NFL’s endless search for market dominance, Thursday night football emerged, likewise international games at odd times. Ratings fell and fast. Of course, the over-politicizing of the League certainly did not help. (Fans turn to sports for escapism, not ideology.)
Independent wrestling is similarly staring over the edge of the cliff…yet fails to realize it. Between WWE Network, Ring of Honor, Chikara, FiteTV, FloSlam, and an array of independent wrestling promotion streaming services, there’s simply far too much content for any dedicated wrestling fan to keep up with. Let alone live events. SEVEN DAYS A WEEK.
Still, these companies continue to push subscriptions, ones expecting any and every ‘true fan’ to go ‘all in’ across the board. As do the wrestlers through social media sales pitches. The catch is, indy wrestling fans are a small number. They’ll support a slew of local promotions and the athletes/talent that jump across them. To include attending shows, buying merchandise, paying for streaming. Still, competing regions and promotions simultaneously push for eyeballs of these same individuals. At some point, both time and money run out.
It’s so bad at this stage, there are literally half dozen competing live streams on any given night. Each has a subscription cost, some with apps…others not. Supporting all is impossible, but letting one fall through the cracks completely may spell the end of a promotion entirely. Personally, I feel guilty knowing this.
Services like WWE Network provide original programming and archives intended to fend off indy options (and the rest of television, mind you) completely. But their over-zealousness is now a seven day a week affair of its own, to include PPVs, pre-and post shows. Then watching staple shows on regular television. I find it hard to believe there any loyal indy fan who catches all that…and then an independent promotion of choice…plus live events.
This is a slippery slope, of which I’m unclear the solution. I appreciate the desire and necessity to count on consistent streaming revenue. But – as usual – pro wrestling copycats versus innovates at the first opportunity for something bigger and better. (Cruiserweights, cruiserweights, and more cruiserweights.) It does so at a risk of losing any/all gains in the process. A committed fan base of the masses is simply better business than a niche one stretched too thin.
Its a fact challenging all media and entertainment genres. The fracturing of audiences and the removal of the economic concept of scarcity due to the availability of technologies with low barriers to entry. 300 TV stations are analogous to the multiple streaming venues cited by The Intercontinental Belt. The solution? Maybe there is none. Perhaps we need to wait and see what evolution has in store.
The same proliferation is straining balance sheets on live side promotions. I find it increasingly difficult to follow all the local promotions in my neck of the woods (Showcase Pro Wrestling, New England Championship Wrestling, Chaotic, Beyond Wrestling, Northeast Championship Wrestling, Lucky Pro, Northeast Championship Wrestling, House of Bricks, Top Rope, AIWF, APW, RWA….and probably others that come and go). The will is there but there’s only one of me. Where this goes I don’t claim to know.
Awesome insights, friend, and thanks again for reading! In your opinion, is content survival and failure simply a matter of social Darwinism that is to be expected and begrudgingly embraced?
I don’t know the answer. Media fragmenting may take a long time to play out. The unfortunate effect is that all the profits go to the owners of the infrastructure and less and less to artists and content creators. I suggest reading Jaron Lanier’s “Who Owns The Future” for some interesting insights. The big Internet and social media companies suck the life out of everyone and everything, including small promotions who try to do streaming. There’s a promotion here called Chaotic Wrestling that purposely focuses on live shows only and they are healthy.
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Reblogged this on The Wrestling Professor and commented:
Interesting post by our colleague “The Intercontinental Belt” down in sunny Florida. Enjoy.
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Hmm. Now we definitely need to check out Chaotic Wrestling, my good Professor. And the point on media fragmenting is very astute. (Will pick up the Lanier book, in tandem!) My hunch is the public will inevitably reject it, as that’s the natural order of marketing techniques. (Fragmenting is ironically over-saturation due to excess fragments.) Authenticity almost has to return as the backlash against social media isolation continues…?