Well, the WWE's fiscal year (in regards to pay-per-views) is over (since Backlash this year is in May), which gives us a full couple years numbers to check out. Sure, the WWE's average PPV is being bought by fewer fans...but they're doing MORE shows, so it should theoretically balance, right?
Let's find out. All numbers are culled from the WWE's Corporate website and the various numbers provided there. Any vagueness in the numbers is because of the vague scaling of the WWE's graphs, which divide things up in increments of 75,000.
2004 Fiscal: Judgment Day 2003 [Both]: Around 325,000 Bad Blood 2003 [RAW]: Around 400,000 Vengeance 2003 [Smackdown]: 375,000 SummerSlam 2003 [Both]: Around 470,000 Unforgiven 2003 [RAW]: Around 360,000 No Mercy 2003 [Smackdown]: Around 280,000 Survivor Series 2003 [Both]: Slightly more than 450,000 Armageddon 2003 [RAW]: Around 250,000 Royal Rumble 2004 [Both]: Around 580,000 No Way Out 2004 [Smackdown]: Around 265,000 WrestleMania XX [Both]: Around 885,000 Backlash 2004 [RAW]: Slightly less than 300,000
BUYS OF NON-MANIA PPVs: Around 4,055,000, grossing around $141.72225 million. BUYS OF MANIA: 885,000, grossing around $44.20575 million. (The WWE reports 885,000 buys with their cut being $20.6 million ["...the highest PPV revenue ever"] in the March 2005 investor primer). AVG. BUYS FOR RAW/SMACKDOWN/BIG 4: 327.5K/306.6K/$596.3K TOTALS: 4,940,000 buys, grossing around $185.928 million (The WWE reports 5.6 million buys for fiscal 2004 in their March 2005 investor primer. Those 5.6 million buys are later defined as 0.9M for WrestleMania, 0.6 million as Royal Rumble/SummerSlam/Survivor Series combined, and 4.2M as the 8 remaining PPVs. Not entirely sure where the hell those numbers are coming from, especially Rumble et al as my figures peg the trio as 1.5M).
2005 Fiscal: Judgment Day 2004 [Smackdown]: Around 250,000 Bad Blood 2004 [RAW]: Slightly less than 300,000 Great American Bash 2004 [Smackdown]: Around 240,000 Vengeance 2004 [RAW]: Around 250,000 SummerSlam 2004 [Both]: Around 410,000 Unforgiven 2004 [RAW]: Around 260,000 No Mercy 2004 [Smackdown]: 225,000 Taboo Tuesday 2004 [RAW]: Around 180,000 Survivor Series 2004 [Both]: Around 400,000 Armageddon 2004 [Smackdown]: Around 265,000 New Year's Revolution 2005 [RAW]: 300,000 Royal Rumble 2005 [Both]: Around 465,000 No Way Out 2005 [Smackdown]: 225,000 WrestleMania 21 [Both]: Initial estimates of 950,000, probably closer to 1,000,000
BUYS OF NON-MANIA PPVs: Around 3,770,000, grossing in the neighborhood of $131.7615 million [at $34.95 a pop] BUYS OF MANIA: I'll use 950,000, grossing in the vicinity of $47.4525 million [at $49.95 a pop] AVG. BUYS FOR RAW/SMACKDOWN/BIG 4: 258K/241K/556.3K TOTALS: 4,720,000 grossing around $179.214 million.
Notes Based On Fact-Checking: -WWE's March 2005 Primer reports $95.3 million of Diversified Revenue Streams attributed to PPVs in Fiscal 2004, which represents 25% of the year's revenue. -Said investor primer reports 5.6 million PPV buys worldwide in fiscal 2004. -Said investor primer cites $95.3 million later as PPV Revenue and in same section cites $59.4 million as Profit Contributions from PPVs. -April 2005 investor presentation sez that the WWE has a 50/50 PPV revenue split with cable & satellite providers.
Conclusion: The WWE put on 12 pay-per-views during fiscal 2004 and 14 during fiscal 2005. Fiscal 2004 saw the beginning of the brand extension and WWE fans were asked to pay the same amount [$34.95] for what some described as a diluted show with half of the roster that was paid to see beforehand. Average buys for the individual branded PPVs are noticably down...but they are doing more of them and they end up making nearly the same amount of money because of it. My estimates have the grosses from the PPVs are down a whopping $5 million compared to last fiscal year. That's it. $5 million. Granted that's before the revenue sharing with the cable companies and before paying for the production of the shows and paying the wrestlers (which explains how WrestleMania XX's $44M gross turned into $20.6M into the company coffers). Still, the reports themselves are unclear as to where these PPV buys are from (i.e. whether or not international buys are included) so if my estimated 4.9M buys for fiscal 2004 turned into 5.6M buys reported by the company, then my estimated 4.7M for fiscal 2005 could jump similarly (to around 5.3 or 5.4M).
In summation, the plan's actually working. More shows drawing smaller on average has managed to garner them about the same about of money. Some industry folk (and armchair reporters, like myself) have said that business is in a slump (similar to the mid-1990s) and that once business gets booming again the WWE's brand extension will make them look like geniuses as PPV buys increase. But has business bottomed out yet, or will the company be forced to add more shows to make up for a gradual lessening of average PPV buys? Tentatively WWE's fiscal 2006 sees 15 PPV events (perhaps even 16, depending on whether or not Backlash 2006 occurs during April of that year or not).
I sometimes ask myself. "Self, Can I go back to watching a jobber vs. midcard shows like I did when I was a kid watching Superstars of Wrestling?". And I'd probably say no. UNTIL TONIGHT, I will watch anything with these two commentating.