POLLOCK'S NEWS UPDATE: Pro Wrestling's place in a declining TV/streaming climate

Originally published at POLLOCK'S NEWS UPDATE: Pro Wrestling's place in a declining TV/streaming climate


**Rewind-A-Raw is live tonight at 11 p.m. ET with a review of WWE Raw from Des Moines, a discussion of all the news, and a tee-up of our schedule coming up this week. We will be streaming live at YouTube.com/POSTwrestling.

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**Brandon Thurston & Chris Gullo made their 2023 predictions on Wrestlenomics Radio and reviewed their list from the past year and how they fared. Brandon is working on an audio documentary on the fall of Vince McMahon in 2022, which is set to be released this Sunday.

**Scrump is the latest guest on POSTmarks with David Meyers & Bruce Lord.


Tonight: Rewind-A-Raw with John Pollock & Wai Ting (11 p.m. ET)
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Tuesday: upNXT with Braden Herrington & Davie Portman
Wednesday: Rewind-A-Dynamite with John & Wai
Thursday: The Wellness Policy with Wai Ting, Jordan Goodman & Neal Flanagan
Friday: The POST Wrestling Christmas Show (Premieres at 11 p.m.)
Sunday: Wrestlenomics Radio – Vince McMahon audio documentary


The New York Times has a story on the state of original programming on both linear and streaming platforms that has been a large downturn over the second half of 2022. The story cites a study by Ampere Analysis that found that adult scripted series ordered by networks and streaming companies for U.S. audiences declined 24% during the second half of the year compared to the same period in 2021 and down by 40% from the second half of 2019. It contrasts with 325 series that were ordered during the first six months this year.

This is a larger story for the state of television/streaming but the trickle-down effect on professional wrestling is there. One week after the news that Ring of Honor would opt to stream through Honor Club, provided an indication of the lack of viable options for that product despite being attached to Tony Khan, who is producing one of the highest-performing cable properties weekly with Dynamite. The chips could fall in many ways next year with WWE and AEW vying for their largest media rights deals ever and how the products are viewed by those in power. In its favor, is cheaper programming than its comparable live sports programming with the guarantee of the weekly programs, and zero threat of being impacted by a potential writer’s strike next year. AEW getting a multiple-time increase over its average annual value of $44 million for 104-156 hours of first-run programming between Dynamite & Rampage is still a steal, especially when compared to the cost per viewer with its WWE cable counterpart that regularly competes with the NBA on Wednesdays. The negative is that Warner Bros. Discovery has a massive overhaul of expenses and is AEW anywhere in the proximity of “must have” programming compared to the larger fish, securing its NBA rights in a few years?

A big question specific to this industry is the details of the Power Slap deal between Dana White and TBS. One could have easily seen Ring of Honor in that same slot on Wednesday nights following Dynamite, but TBS is going with Power Slap. It is unknown if TBS is paying a lot, a little, or nothing for the season as White looks to recreate his magic touch from 2006 with TUF and its impact on Spike TV. While Power Slap is an unproven concept, AEW is not and while Rampage has fallen, Dynamite has established itself as a top cable property in a fractured marketplace that has additional revenue potential for WBD through the streaming of its pay-per-view content.

WWE seems to be in a strong position for its renewal talks given the stabilization of its core linear programming, an expert in the field in Nick Khan to spearhead talks and the expectation of a big lead-up to WrestleMania where WWE should be commanding a lot of buzz with the names rumored for the big show. Last week, they were hit with the Wall Street Journal report on yet another allegation against disgraced ex-chairman Vince McMahon with the added note of McMahon’s desire to stage a return to the company. It could make it tougher for Nick Khan to increase the ceiling of value for its rights when having to combat potential skepticism from major network execs over the threat of a McMahon comeback and how they would view such an association given his multiple allegations and tainted image looming.

Most of the oxygen on this subject is rightly applied to WWE & AEW but it harkens to the invisibility of the also-rans in the industry and the realization that the “golden ticket” of landing a major streaming deal seems slim.

IMPACT Wrestling & NJPW have a home on AXS TV with a small and loyal audience but not enough to generate widespread interest even when you have a spectacular match (Josh Alexander vs. Speedball) or an angle that would have WWE/AEW fans screaming online for days over (Eric Young being stabbed).

STARDOM saw legitimate growth this year and if packaged correctly, could find an audience here but it’s hard to imagine a broadcaster above the scope of an AXS TV taking a chance on it when a Tony Khan-owned product is, in theory, available (pending Tony Khan’s reluctance to strike a deal outside of WBD, which isn’t worth it if that type of deal would ever jeopardize the larger priority that is AEW).

MLW has been on the cusp of getting bigger deals but the Tubi deal has been well documented and sued over, its one airing on Vice TV did not command a big audience and never saw a follow-up, and the current distribution on beIN Sports and Pro Wrestling TV is a small window.

Women of Wrestling has actually performed very well with complete coverage across the U.S. (stronger syndication than Ring of Honor had) and yet, no one talks about this show. It skews high with females and is a product that is not going to be confused with any other promotions. That said, I cannot imagine WOW generating any success through touring or staging a pay-per-view and that begs the question if national advertising with a syndicated network can be viable and taking those audiences and turning them into revenue for Jeannie Buss’ project.

Game Changer Wrestling seemed to hit its popularity peak in the lead-up to its January 2022 pay-per-view at the Hammerstein Ballroom and has not been able to recapture that level of interest since then. The financial aspect of its deal with Fite+ is probably very beneficial to the company as a “must-have” group for Fite to launch its streaming service around. For a fan, the Fite+ deal is incredible given the savings if you were a regular buyer of its a la carte shows.

There are many arguments that would support AAA as the most viable given the popularity of Lucha and how easily it translates to newer audiences with several notable names, high-fliers, and an ability to stage its big shows in front of major-league-looking crowds and stadiums that would be equipped to draw in strategic markets of the U.S. with the right distribution and marketing behind it.

2023 should tell us how valuable AEW is seen by networks and the ceiling for non-WWE wrestling content. Beyond AEW, it is hard to imagine any player striking a rights deal that truly transforms its fortunes to create a solid third brand in the U.S. But given the state of WBD and what the lack of an ROH deal could signify, you must ask what even AEW means despite a three-year track record but not being the synonymous brand in its field.


**WWE Raw takes place from Des Moines, Iowa tonight and will feature the ladder match between The Miz and Dexter Lumis will all the money on the line. Last week’s show was a terrible number, which was more notable due to the first hour being the lowest in the show’s history. The Monday Night Football game features the Green Bay Packers against the L.A. Rams, which is airing on both ABC & ESPN tonight and will be a larger viewership due to the simulcast. Below are the matches announced for the show:
*Ladder Match: The Miz vs. Dexter Lumis
*Becky Lynch vs. Bayley
*The Street Profits vs. Finn Balor & Damian Priest

**WrestleTix reports that nearly 5,700 tickets are out for Des Moines tonight.

**WWE is only taping one show tonight in Des Moines, Iowa with next week’s edition of Raw expected to be some sort of “best of” show. Next Monday, WWE has two live events that night in Columbus, Ohio, and the other at Madison Square Garden with no Raw taping scheduled.  

**The WWE stock fell over 4% on Monday closing at $70.43. The stock has fallen almost 11% over the past month.

**Below are the matches streaming on AEW Dark Elevation at 7 p.m. ET tonight:
*Ethan Page, Matt Hardy, Isiah Kassidy, Konosuke Takeshita & Top Flight vs. Sonny Kiss, Slim J, Jeeves Kay, Ryan Nemeth, Peter Avalon & Cezar Bononi
*Claudio Castagnoli & Wheeler Yuta vs. JD Drake & Anthony Henry
*ROH Women’s Championship: Athena (champion) vs. Vertvixen
*Emi Sakura & The Bunny vs. Lady Bird Monroe & Gigi Rey
*Eddie Kingston & Ortiz vs. Hagane Shinno & Steven Andrews
*Marina Shafir vs. Jazmin Allure

**IMPACT Wrestling averaged 86,000 viewers and 0.01 (18,000) in the 18-49 demographic and finished outside of the top 150 cable originals on Thursday. (Courtesy: Wrestlenomics)

**The WWE Network has added ten episodes of Championship Wrestling from early 1980. The episodes begin with the 1/12 edition through 4/12 that year, which is during Bob Backlund’s several-year run as WWWF champion, which began in 1978 and would last until the end of 1983. Championship Wrestling was the company’s flagship show taped out of Allentown, Pennsylvania by 1980, and was syndicated in numerous markets with the major one being its slot on WOR-TV in New York on Saturday nights at Midnight and building to the monthly cards at The Garden.

**Publishers Weekly has a short review of Abe Reisman’s upcoming biography on Vince McMahon, which will be released next March. Riesman states her thesis of the book after studying McMahon and professional wrestling is that “There is no art form more intrinsically and blatantly American—in its casual violence, its bombastic braggadocio, its virulent jingoism, its populist defiance of respectability, and its intermittently awe-inspiring beauty—than professional wrestling.”

**John Muse, who would have been part of the writing team if Fusient Media purchased WCW in 2001, has written a long-term booking plan for The Bloodline leading into, and coming out of, WrestleMania 39 for the Fight Game Media site. Muse has tremendous booking acumen and not only does he have a great lead-up to ‘Mania including tying up loose ends, but also sets the table for months of matches after WrestleMania instead of peaking for April and falling into a malaise after the big show.

**The NITRO book by Guy Evans is now available in its expanded edition on Amazon Kindle. The updated edition has a new foreword by Eric Bischoff and over 100 footnotes from the original. The book was first released in 2018 and is an incredible documentation of the history of the company with many key executives interviewed by Evans and attempting to dissect the collapse of the company that went from the highs of 1997/98 to its demise three years later and being purchased for a fraction by the WWF.

**The former Jack Gallagher (Jack Claffey) lost in his MMA debut on Saturday night at Full Contact Contender 32, which aired on Fight Pass. Claffey was stopped by Marlon Jones in the first round of their fight. Claffey has two amateur fights prior to joining WWE in 2016, which he won and won a bare-knuckle fight this past May for BKFC. Claffey was released by WWE in 2020 following a sexual assault allegation during the Speaking Out Movement.

**Being the Elite Ep. 327: 27 Hours in Dallas.


**The California State Athletic Commission has issued a new rule that prevents judges and referees from traveling across the country to adjudicate fights on back-to-back days. This comes after last weekend’s controversy where judge Doug Crosby turned in a widely panned scorecard of 50-45 for Danny Sabatello in Sabatello’s loss to Raufeon Stots. Crosby flew from Uncasville to Las Vegas and the following night, gave a score of 29-28 for Paddy Pimblett against Jared Gordon and gave the first two rounds to Pimblett. The CSAC rule will only allow judges and refs to work in the state of Nevada that close to a fight in California and would risk losing their assignment in California if they travel further than Nevada.

While it shows the commission taking some type of action after last week’s poor scorecards from Crosby, the fact is, plenty of judges and referees make these trips without issue. John McCarthy spoke out against this new CSAC rule mentioning his own history of doing so many shows per week and that the most controversial card that Crosby turned in, was the 50-45 for Sabatello before he traveled across the country and should have been well rested for. For many that have complained, it is a Doug Crosby issue rather than a universal one and this rule will impact all judges and referees that make little money to begin with and could eliminate income if they want to take an assignment in California.

Mike Mazzulli of the Mohegan Athletic Department of Athletics has stated the Stots vs. Sabatello fight will be reviewed with the three judges, which would include Crosby with the potential of imposing sanctions and labeled it “a very serious situation”.

**Rafa Garcia, who defeated Maheshate by unanimous decision at the UFC Fight Night card on Saturday suffered a terrible cut with enormous blood loss. After Garcia’s win, his cornerman Cub Swanson shared the information that the elbow sustained by Garcia cut an artery on his head and officials needed nearly two hours to stop the bleeding. Garcia spoke on the UFC post-fight show and said that he was told he lost 20 percent of his blood due to the cut.

**Bellator and RIZIN are holding a press conference on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET to promote its upcoming New Year’s Eve card from the Saitama Super Arena. The card will include five Bellator vs. Rizin fights with Bellator president Scott Coker and RIZIN president Nobuyuki Sakakibara speaking at the press conference. The card will stream live on 12/31 at 5 a.m. ET and air on tape delay that night at 8 p.m. on Showtime in the U.S.

Brandon Thurston and Chris Gullo make 2023 predictions and look back at their prognostications from last year. They’ll revisit some of the biggest moments in a pivotal year for the wrestling business, and look ahead at what will surely be an influential year in 2023 as major TV deals are negotiated.
On this episode of the Long & Winding Royal Road, WH Park welcomes Fucked Up’s Damian Abraham to discuss Atsushi Onita vs. Hector Guerrero from April 20, 1983.
John Pollock & Wai Ting are back to review Friday Night SmackDown featuring Gunther vs. Ricochet, plus Jon Moxley faces Sammy Guevara on AEW Rampage.
Martin Bushby puts a panel of the extended POST family to the test as they battle to see who can remember the most about the wrestling events of 2022.
REWIND-A-DYNAMITE & Vince McMahon doc review
John Pollock & Wai Ting review AEW Winter is Coming with MJF defending the AEW Championship against Ricky Starks and Match #4 between Death Triangle and The Elite.

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Very nice write up about the state of the TV industry, contextualized in Wrestling landscape. I had listened to The Watch (Ringer Podcast Network) over the weekend and was stunned by the doom-and-gloom they had spoke about the scripted TV industry with. A reckoning not seen in some time. I think the realization is setting in than in the new landscape that is Cable-Streaming hybrid, it is all going to come down to moving the needle materially. Or what is “cheap”.

There was also reports out last week about Netflix potentially needing to refund advertisers (potentially make-goods) related to what is has been able to deliver on its Ad supported tier.

I think two major questions challenging the space in the coming 12-24 months:

  1. How elastic is pricing on streaming for the consumer (how much can they raise prices); likewise, how much will consumers keep spending - which is also relevant to Wrestling.
  2. What is Advertisers appetite for unproven (streaming) or declining (cable) eyeballs if we are in fact headed into a recession.

Once the recession smoke clears, the question will be how far away is profitability on the streaming investments and what does that do to the legacy cable landscape. If Disney continues to show major losses on Disney+, what does that do to ESPN? Ditto, Peacock/NBCU/Comcast. Consolidation feels inevitable which limits the # of realistic buyers and then they can control price, or need inventory. In a weird way, I rather be a promotion trying to GROW somewhere today, than a promotion trying to hang on to my billion dollar contracts.

Question: Can any promotion show the ability to grow, putting it in position to be opportunistic in the next 12-24 months.