Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Part 3: What can Ring Of Honor do to survive?

Now it is time for the fun part of this series, where I can talk about the numerous positives the company has and some ideas to help focus on these positives. Ring Of Honor has been known as the promotion that features a lot of technical and unique styles of professional wrestling. Not every wrestler is a Bryan Danielson or Davey Richards, but I will be damned if you can name me many ROH guys who can't work. This promotion has an amazing amount of talent and it is unfortunate they are in the position where it is so easy to lose said talent, in the past 3 years they have lost Nigel McGuinness, Bryan Danielson, Tyler Black, Claudio Castagnoli and Chris Hero. Even with these losses they still have Kevin Steen, The Briscoes (The most entertaining tag team in 20+ years easy), Davey Richards, Eddie Edwards, El Generico, Jay Lethal, Christopher Daniels, Shelton Benjamin, Steve Corino and the hottest WWE Diva of all time Maria Kanellis. Now that is a stacked roster.

Not bad Ring of Honor, not bad
The most impressive thing I can say about that roster is that more guys went from ROH to WWE than went from WWE to ROH. The only Ex-WWE talent currently on the roster would be Shelton Benjamin, Charlie Haas, Maria Kanellis and Jim Cornette (if he even counts) which means a total of two active wrestlers and two non-wrestling performers. Compare that to the guys who get offers from the WWE; CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Evan Bourne (Matt Sydal in ROH), MVP (Antonio Banks in ROH), Kaval (Low-Ki in ROH), Paul London, Brian Kendrick, Claudio, Chris Hero and Tyler Black. Not to also mention the guys who went to ROH and "found themselves" before going straight back up like Eddie Guerrero, Jamie Noble, Jimmy Yang and we should add Lance Storm to that list, if it ever happens!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Part 2: What can Ring Of Honor do to survive?

The age old formula of using television to drive house show business may be long gone when it seems the two major companies generate much of their revenue through television rights fees. Ring of Honor is definitely in no position to have valuable rights fees, but they are in a situation where they could reassess the current business model and make some changes to see how they work.

Ring of Honor's biggest problem is it's television show. The weekly product suffers from low production values and difficult distribution methods in an era where either is unacceptable. I recently watched the April 7th ROH television show and noticed a few things that were terrible and came across poorly on television, so here is another one of my awesome lists of what's wrong with the show.

1.Why is it so hard to find?

I understand that Sinclair only covers 25% of the country, but the only other way for the rest to access it is by watching it on a computer with flash on the official website. Since the debut of this show no one at Sinclair or ROH has tried to find a method to get this streaming on iPads, iPhones, Android devices, Roku, Boxee and of course on Smart TVs. It seems that many at Sinclair and ROH fail to realize that you no longer need a network to get your content out to televisions around the world.

The end goal of all this is getting the product seen, which is not happening now. Something as simple as changing the video format used on ROH.com would enable many more devices to play the show. There is also the other profit generating option of creating an app that would allow access to the episodes on a mobile device, the price could be something simple like $4.99 which would likely not scare fans away and also help the product get seen more.

2. Production Changes.
Why do I feel like I'm watching an episode of 120 Minutes whenever Kevin Kelly is doing a backstage interview?
Hideous, absolutely hideous
What would make anyone in production think that using an ugly rust-looking frame around the shot would be a good idea? I feel like I'm playing an FMV Sega CD game like Sewer Shark where the screen for the full motion video takes up a small area in the middle of the screen. This effect annoys the hell out of me. The rather Attitude-Era background of askew fences seems a bit unnecessary too, although not a big deal.

How WWE Confused Priorities on Social Media

There is nothing I am sick of more than hearing about social media and how great it is, yeah it has it's uses, so shut up and use it.

That first sentence describes how World Wrestling Entertainment bungled their social media by going over the top, and by completely missing the point. With the non-stop references to Twitter, the company comes across as one that thinks "trending worldwide" will bring in revenue. The funniest part is that they focus almost all of their attention on Twitter, which seems odd considering how much larger Facebook is. The story I have heard is that Vince McMahon saw Twitter trends and flipped his shit, which is why someone needs to make sure that guy never sees Klout.

The CM Punk storyline last year was one of the few ways that WWE actually used social media correctly, and even in this circumstance it seems that it was more CM Punk's doing than WWE. The use of the comic-con video and posting pictures of him with the belt at cool places worked perfectly and didn't seem overdone.

The WWE's YouTube Channel that launched on February 1st of this year brought them in a million dollars and has been a quiet success story going unnoticed. 11 weeks into this channel and almost every video has at least 100,000 views. Seven different shows are shown weekly, with a new video added every day (Are You Serious is definitely my favorite). These shows really run the gamut from interesting (Backstage Fallout, Inbox, Outside The Ring and Are You Serious?) to character driven (Download, Santino's Foreign Exchange and Z! True Long Island Story) and they all do a decent to great job of getting their point across. The key is that the episodes are about 5 to 10 minutes long, which results in many more views than episodes of NXT or Superstars on the same channel (Although, the other two shows are also distributed on Hulu and WWE.com which should be taken into consideration).

Most interesting is that WWE spends a lot of time every Monday talking about Twitter and what is trending, they also sometimes show a single 30 second commercial for the YouTube channel. YouTube actually brings money to the company in another important way, it provides media channel full of FREE content to the 3rd largest website in the world. The problem is that they use too many on-air resources to promote what's trending worldwide when the audience that cares can see that on their Twitter feed. The extent of WWE's Twitter promotion should be showing the performer's Twitter handle under his name, using the #RAW bug on the upper left corner and possibly showing a short 30 second commercial highlighting it, it should never be mentioned in storylines.

An article on Mashable discusses the Wrestlemania social media statistics that were such a big deal to the company, it fails to mention how this will bring in revenue. It seems business websites and magazines consider using social media to be a business, it isn't it's just a tool. Business involves making money!!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Part 1: What can Ring Of Honor do to survive?

Over 6 months have passed since Sinclair Broadcasting purchased Ring Of Honor and it feels like not much has been reported about the level of success the program is having on Sinclair stations. Since the sale, Sinclair has acquired 12 television channels from various markets including:

Salt Lake City, Utah - Population: 183,102
Austin, Texas - Population: 786,386
West Palm Beach, Florida - Population: 99,504
Medford, Oregon - Population: 73,485
Providence, Rhode Island - Population: 171,909
Beaumont, Texas - Population: 110,110
Albany, New York - Population: 93,836
Chattanooga, Tennessee - Population: 171,350
Grand Rapids, Michigan - Population: 193,710
Lansing, Michigan - Population: 113,802

The important thing to note is the population of some of these markets, the fact that some aren't above 100,000 would prove disastrous if ROH decided to do a house show in those markets. Of these acquisition the only market that looks extremely promising for live shows would be Texas as Austin's high population rate along with Beaumont's relatively short distance to San Antonio (already a market with television) and Houston could lead to success.

Some of the largest markets where Ring of Honor currently has a Sinclair Affiliate:
San Antonio, Texas - 2,194,927* (This seemed high and heavily disputed)
Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point, North Carolina - Combined Metro Population: 1,599,477
Columbus, Ohio - 769,332
Baltimore, Maryland - 637,418
Nashville, Tennessee - 605,473
Milwaukee, Wisconsin - 605,013
Peoria/Bloomington, Illinois - Combined Metro Population: 585,000
Las Vegas, Nevada - 567,641
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma - 560,333
Raleigh, North Carolina - 405,612
Minneapolis, Minnesota - 385,378
Cincinnati, Ohio - 333,012
St. Louis, Missouri - 356,587

Ring of Honor did live events in these Sinclair markets since the buyout, the number next to each city is the amount of tickets sold to the event:
Baltimore, MD (800 for January 7th show - Sellout, 700 for February 4th show, 450 for March 3rd show) (It should be noted this is Sinclair Broadcasting's Corporate Headquarters)
Norfolk, WV (350)
Cincinnati, OH (500)
Greensboro, NC (375)
Spartanburg, SC (350)
Dayton, OH (450)
Collinsville, IL (325) (Considered a suburb of St. Louis, MO). 

These numbers do not look encouraging for the company's future hopes of having profitable tours that grow. Contrasting this, the only ROH show I ever attended was in November of 2010, the attendance was 665 which made the venue feel somewhat full. The bright side of this is that these cities were all in the Midwest or Mid-Atlantic area so travel expenses were somewhat lower and they managed to expose the product to new faces. Ring of Honor does have the fortune of drawing dependable houses in their major markets such as New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Detroit.

The company's biggest problem is exposure and the quality of the product. Ring of Honor is designed to tour based off of television in local markets as their primary method of generating money. If I was in a position of power that Jim Cornette or Joe Koff are currently in, I would consider the possibility that this method of business for this industry is dying.

This will lead to part two, where I discuss the company's television output and the highest hurdles it still must face. To check out Ring of Honor in your area check out their TV Listings or go to ROHWrestling.com to watch online

NOTE: The population figures used were from recent census data and some media industry resources to determine the population of a given metro area. The attendance figures were found in Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer Newsletter.

BarberShopWindow.com: Wrestling Merchandise I'd Actually Wear

In all my years of fandom, I have purchased a total of 5 shirts: NWO, NWO Wolfpac, Andre The Giant, EC F'N W and the yellow CM Punk Nexus shirt.

Am I embarassed to admit I like wrestling in public? No, although I do feel that way at times while watching something particularly horrible. The reason I never purchase wrestling t-shirts is that they are consistently some of the worst designs I have ever seen. Browse WWEShop.com sometime and it's easy to notice that most shirts had very little time put into them, with Sin Cara's famous penis shirt being a good example.

But don't fret! In a case where someone had a good idea and went with it, they made a success out of what a giant corporate entity doesn't have the business sense to even see. While I would love to go on a rant about how Corporate America ruined Professional Wrestling on a national level, this isn't about that. This is about a fantastic upstart company by the clever name of BarberShopWindow.com.

Just one look at the "Overstock Bin" section will clearly display that these guys are top notch designers. It also becomes obvious that they are actually die-hard wrestling fans as well, which makes me want these guys to succeed even more. After the jump look at some of these shirts and tell me they wouldn't sell well if sold at Hot Topic:

Saturday, April 14, 2012

iPPV: Is YouTube the future?

Ring of Honor recently had technical difficulties ruin both of their annual Wrestlemania weekend Internet Pay-Per-View events. This led them to splitting ways with their iPPV distributor GoFightLive earlier this week. The most peculiar thing about severing ties is that ROH have their Border Wars event scheduled in less than a month on May 12th.

The best possible option would be YouTube, which announced this week they are now offering live pay-per-view as an option for YouTube Partners who also offer YouTube Rentals (Which makes me wonder, why hasn't ROH already taken advantage of this service? They have an insane amount of content and utilizing YouTube would increase their search engine results too. I have a feeling ROH has never been the most forward thinking company in technology). Although I was unable to find any information about the monetization of this program, I did find YouTube's Live Stream Partner Guide which explains a bit of the program. Along with this new service, YouTube also launched WireCast, an application designed so that live  events can be produces directly from any desktop. While I question the features and level of quality used in this program, it does offer some other features that are incredibly unique including real time analytics.

YouTube is the most visited media site and third most visited site in the entire world, add to this that they are owned by the most visited website in the world. ROH has a bit of a SEO problem, as the first page of responses after searching Ring of Honor into Google contains links to the Dallas Cowboys, some fantasy RPG game about wizards or something and the Phoenix Suns. The second page doesn't get any better with more irrelevant links. Now it's obvious that a lot of sports teams have something called a "Ring of Honor" for exceptional players, but this term is generic and should not take precedence over a corporate owned BRAND in a Google search. YouTube also is trusted and well known by people, looking for an event on the site won't be difficult as many are extremely familiar with it.

Vince Russo is doing a Live YouShoot Interview

The good folks over at Kayfabe Commentaries are doing another YouShoot Live, this time with none other than Vince Russo himself. The last live YouShoot was with TNA President Dixie Carter and some of the questions that were asked were pretty brutal, although you could still tell the questions were heavily screened.

Here is a short teaser that was released to YouTube where Vince makes a point to knock Bryan Alvarez's fantastic Death of WCW book:

I predict that the Russo YouShoot will be a spectacle no matter what happens on that day. There is no one person more hated, reviled and bashed among hardcore wrestling fans than Vince Russo, so giving that same audience an open mic to ask questions will most likely be hilarious and probably awkward.

Personally, I never cared much for Russo's booking much, whenever he was the head writer of a show it just seemed to have a vibe of apathy. His reign in TNA reminded very similar to his reign in WCW, although after around 2008 I stopped watching Impact most weeks. That is my way of dealing with Vince's booking, just don't watch.

As for the Vince Russo YouShoot  WATCH!