Wednesday 1 August 2012

View Counters Are the New Ratings Figures

I have written before about the lack of British wrestling on British television (see here). Turn on Sky Sports and you’ll find over seven hours of new WWE programming each week. Flick on Challenge on a Sunday and you’ll see the previous week’s episode of IMPACT. You can’t turn on a channel and find a TV show for a British wrestling promotion though because no TV channel wishes to air the product.

Actually that statement is only partially correct. What UK TV channels want are programmes that will get them the best ratings possible (or in the BBC’s case something that will appeal to a large enough demographic to justify airing it). That is not pro wrestling in 2012.

While there is an audience out there for a weekly wrestling programme showcasing British talent it’s not large enough to convince a TV network to take a chance on such a venture. I’d watch such a show. Chances are that if you’re reading this then you would too. But how many casual or lapsed WWE or TNA fans would such a show attract? Not a big enough number to make it worth a TV channel’s time.
El Ligero could help attract a YouTube audience

But in 2012 TV is not the only option open to wrestling promoters. YouTube is the perfect way for any wrestling promotion to present a weekly product to prospective fans. With that simple piece of information it’s not too much of a stretch to envisage an enterprising wrestling league using the site to reach a wider audience.

How’s this for an idea? A new British promotion is formed, headed up by a booker with some experience, fresh ideas and a clear vision of where he wants to take his product. He hires out a venue and records four or five episodes worth of content in a night, with each episode running between forty-five and sixty minutes. That gets edited into four or five videos for YouTube, uploaded on a weekly basis with short backstage interviews and vignettes spliced in.

A campaign is launched two or three weeks before the first upload. This could easily be pulled off for very little cost online. Ad space could be purchased in Power Slam and FSM and flyers could be handed out at wrestling events around the country. That’s a little cheeky, sure, but perhaps some sort of working relationship could be reached amongst Britain’s larger federations.

The biggest cost involved in this would be hiring the venue and paying the talent, but that’s key to any wrestling business anyway. They would be incurring an extra cost by taping their event and editing it, but that’s not as complex a process as it was five years ago and larger indies already do this so it’s not out of the ordinary. Perhaps they could take the WWE-Full Sail route and find a university to work with to get the show edited semi-professionally.

Four or five episodes in a night is enough for a month’s worth of uploading. The company could even consider doing two consecutive nights of taping and get two months of footage in the can, which would help to keep costs down a bit and encourage regular attendance. Using the same venue for every recording, as TNA does with IMPACT, would help to attract a loyal fanbase who support the group and want to see it grow.

The good thing about this idea is that it opens up a British wrestling product to a worldwide audience. That helps when it comes to view counters, and if those attract big enough numbers then long-term this hypothetical promotion could sell advertising spots, either on the YouTube page or within the show itself (have the commentators give a quick plug to a product, for example).

If this promotion was booked well enough and was given a sustained marketing push then I think it could be enormously successful. Long term the company would have the option of producing house shows around the country and maybe even trying live internet pay-per-views. This would require a brand name known for high quality wrestling to be built first, but it could be done.

Will it be? That’s really up to the British wrestling community. Utilising the internet to market wrestling is something that has really taken off in the last year or two. Making use of a site such as YouTube, as well as the talented but unseen wrestlers working in Britain, to produce a worthwhile weekly show is the next logical step.

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