UFC overtakes WWE in PPV buys
October 6, 2010
Barron’s featured former WWE CEO/Senatorial Candidate Linda McMahon and the decline in finances of World Wrestling Entertainment. As McMahon’s political career heats up, the WWE business is cooling.
The article points out that the past three years; WWE popularity has taken a nose dive whereas the UFC has taken over in PPV dominance.
Revenues began to slip at WWE well before Linda [McMahon] left and eventually won the Republican nomination to face Democrat Richard Blumenthal in what looks like a tight contest. In 2009, total sales of $475 million were down 10%. But [WWE] Chief Financial Officer George Barrios proudly notes that profit margins have generally improved since he arrived in 2008. He says WWE earnings should rise when the company finds new performers that connect with its fans. “We are actually pretty happy with the way we’re doing,” says the financial chief.
A reason for the decline in the WWE PPV buys has to do with the poor economy and the frequency of PPVs. Not only does the WWE compete with the UFC for PPV dollars, it is being challenged by rival wrestling organization, TNA, a league that includes Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and Cactus Jack – notable wrestling figures albeit older. As Barrios indicates, the WWE needs to find a new performer to connect with fans. Although John Cena is a viable candidate, he cannot carry both its Raw brand on USA and Smackdown on the SyFy network. If you do tune in, there are many younger wrestlers that have been given the chance to become the next big thing. But, they have not found the popularity or gimmick that will sell them to the fans.
PPV fatigue can be another reason for the WWE decline in numbers. As mentioned, the lack of recognizable stars along with the saturation (WWE has 3 or 4 original programs on per week) on TV plus the tightening of discretionary income may equal the decline of WWE PPV buys.
The UFC rise in popularity the past couple years is another reason for the decline of the WWE PPV numbers. With the slowed economy, many fans are choosing the UFC over the WWE when it comes to spending their discretionary income on PPVs.
It will be interesting to see how the UFC PPV numbers will be for UFC 121 as the UFC seems to be heavily promoting this show hoping for a big gate and PPV buys. Also, after UFC 121, Zuffa will have done 4 live shows in the past 30 days. The lukewarm reviews of UFC 119 were a red flag for many UFC fans that usually made the monthly PPV purchase. Bloody Elbow notes how some have criticized the UFC for possible PPV-fatigue which has shown through lack of production innovation and a failure to stock its monthly cards with marketable stars. Certainly, the WWE decline in PPV buys could happen to the UFC down the road. It will be up to the UFC to see how it can sustain its market of PPV buys.